- Dynamo and BigTable — good preso overview of two approaches to solving availability and consistency in the event of server failure or network partition.
- Goals Gone Wild (PDF) — In this article, we argue that the beneficial effects of goal setting have been overstated and that systematic harm caused by goal setting has been largely ignored. We identify specific side effects associated with goal setting, including a narrow focus that neglects non-goal areas, a rise in unethical behavior, distorted risk preferences, corrosion of organizational culture, and reduced intrinsic motivation.
- Tech Isn’t All Brogrammers (Alexis Madrigal) — a reminder that there are real scientists and engineers in Silicon Valley working on problems considerably harder than selling ads and delivering pet food to one another. (via Brian Behlendorf)
- Numbers from 90+ Gamification Case Studies — cherry-picked anecdata for your business cases.
All systems are distributed systems, and we’re starting to see how they fit into Velocity's themes.
From the beginning, the Velocity Conference has focused on web performance and operations — specifically, web operations. This focus has been fairly narrow: browser performance dominated the discussion of “web performance,” and interactions between developers and IT staff dominated operations.
That’s not to say that Velocity hasn’t looked at the rest of the application stack; there’s been an occasional glance in the direction of the database and an even more occasional glance at the middleware. But the database and middleware have, at least historically, played a bit part. And while the focus of Velocity has been front-end tuning, speakers like Baron Schwartz haven’t let us ignore the database entirely. Read more…
The tools in the Distributed Developer's Stack make development manageable in a highly distributed environment.
The shape of software development has changed radically in the last two decades. We’ve seen many changes: the Internet, the web, virtualization, and cloud computing. All of these changes point toward a fundamental new reality: all computing has become distributed computing. The age of standalone applications has disappeared, and applications that run on a single computer are almost inconceivable. Distributed is the default; and whether an application is running on Amazon Web Services (AWS), on a private cloud, or even on a desktop or a mobile phone, it depends on the behavior of other systems and services that aren’t under the developer’s control.
In the past few years, a new toolset has grown up to support the development of massively distributed applications. We call this new toolset the Distributed Developer’s Stack (DDS). It is orthogonal to the more traditional world of servers, frameworks, and operating systems; it isn’t a replacement for the aged LAMP stack, but a set of tools to make development manageable in a highly distributed environment.
The DDS is more of a meta-stack than a “stack” in the traditional sense. It’s not prescriptive; we don’t care whether you use AWS or OpenStack, whether you use Git or Mercurial. We do care that you develop for the cloud, and that you use a distributed version control system. The DDS is about the requirements for working effectively in the second decade of the 21st century. The specific tools have evolved, and will continue to evolve, and we expect you to evolve, too. Read more…
How do we manage systems that are too large to understand, too complex to control, and that fail in unpredictable ways?
“What is surprising is not that there are so many accidents. It is that there are so few. The thing that amazes you is not that your system goes down sometimes, it’s that it is up at all.”—Richard Cook
In September 2007, Jean Bookout, 76, was driving her Toyota Camry down an unfamiliar road in Oklahoma, with her friend Barbara Schwarz seated next to her on the passenger side. Suddenly, the Camry began to accelerate on its own. Bookout tried hitting the brakes, applying the emergency brake, but the car continued to accelerate. The car eventually collided with an embankment, injuring Bookout and killing Schwarz. In a subsequent legal case, lawyers for Toyota pointed to the most common of culprits in these types of accidents: human error. “Sometimes people make mistakes while driving their cars,” one of the lawyers claimed. Bookout was older, the road was unfamiliar, these tragic things happen. Read more…
Ad Triumphalism, Education Not Transformed, Bookstore Infrastructure, and Tossable Camera
- Why The Banner Ad is Heroic — enough to make Dave Eggers cry. Advertising triumphalism rampant.
- Udacity/Thrun Profile — A student taking college algebra in person was 52% more likely to pass than one taking a Udacity class, making the $150 price tag–roughly one-third the normal in-state tuition–seem like something less than a bargain. In which Udacity pivots to hiring-sponsored workforce training and the new educational revolution looks remarkably like sponsored content.
- Amazon is Building Substations (GigaOm) — the company even has firmware engineers whose job it is to rewrite the archaic code that normally runs on the switchgear designed to control the flow of power to electricity infrastructure. Pretty sure that wasn’t a line item in the pitch deck for “the first Internet bookstore”.
- Panoramic Images — throw the camera in the air, get a 360×360 image from 36 2-megapixel lenses. Not sure that throwing was previously a recognised UI gesture.
Chicago Code, 3D Smithsonian Data, AI Controlling Everything, and Game TCP
- The Virtuous Pipeline of Code (Public Resource) — Chicago partnering with Public Resource to open its legal codes for good. “This is great! What can we do to help?” Bravo Chicago, and everyone else—take note!
- Smithsonian’s 3D Data — models of 21 objects, from a gunboat to the Wright Brothers’ plane, to a wooly mammoth skeleton, to Lincoln’s life masks. I wasn’t able to find a rights statement on the site which explicitly governed the 3D models. (via Smithsonian Magazine)
- Anki’s Robot Cars (Xconomy) — The common characteristics of these future products, in Sofman’s mind: “Relatively simple and elegant hardware; incredibly complicated software; and Web and wireless connectivity to be able to continually expand the experience over time.” (via Slashdot)
- An Empirical Evaluation of TCP Performance in Online Games — We show that because TCP was originally designed for unidirectional and network-limited bulk data transfers, it cannot adapt well to MMORPG traffic. In particular, the window-based congestion control and the fast retransmit algorithm for loss recovery are ineffective. Furthermore, TCP is overkill, as not every game packet needs to be transmitted in a reliably and orderly manner. We also show that the degraded network performance did impact users’ willingness to continue a game.
Operating on the edge and real-time performance emerged as key themes at Velocity NY.
Maybe it was the hustle and bustle of Times Square just within earshot. Maybe it was the smell of that legendary pizza on every corner. Or maybe it was having a front row seat in the financial capital of the world while the drama of a possible government default played itself out like a Broadway show. Whatever it was, Velocity New York felt markedly different than its west coast cousin.
But discussions on scaling the operations of the squishy side of the organization–developing healthy team interactions, talking through the realities of the ever-elusive DevOps culture, and what it all means to scaling not just web sites but full-fledged businesses–were more present than ever.