The Future of Open Source (Allison Randal) — Inexperienced companies can cause a great deal of harm as they blunder around blindly in a collaborative project, throwing resources in ways that ultimately benefit no one, not even themselves. It is in our best interest as a community to actively engage with companies and teach them how to participate effectively, how to succeed at free software and open source. Their success feeds the success of free software and open source, which feeds the self-reinforcing cycle of accelerating software innovation.
Puppet Labs’ State of DevOps Report (PDF) — Westrum’s model gives us the language to define and measure culture. Perhaps most interesting, Westrum’s model also predicts IT performance. This shows that information flow isn’t just essential to safety, it’s also a critical success factor for rapidly building and evolving resilient systems at scale.
Web Design: The First 100 Years (Maciej Ceglowski) — There’s a William Gibson quote that Tim O’Reilly likes to repeat: “the future is here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” O’Reilly takes this to mean that if we surround ourselves with the right people, it can give us a sneak peek at coming attractions. I like to interpret this quote differently, as a call to action. Rather than waiting passively for technology to change the world, let’s see how much we can do with what we already have. Let’s reclaim the Web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.
The Scammy Underground World of Kindle eBooks — The biggest issue here isn’t that scammers are raking in cash from low-quality content; it’s that Amazon is allowing this to happen. Publisher brand value is the reliable expectation that buyers have of the book quality. Amazon’s publishing arm is spending the good brand value built by its distribution arm.
Empire — a 12-factor-compatible, Docker-based container cluster built on top of Amazon’s robust EC2 Container Service (ECS), complete with a full-featured command line interface. Open source.
ReWalk Robotics Exoskeleton — first exoskeleton for the paralyzed to receive regulatory approval; 66 bought so far, 11 with reimbursement from insurance. The software upgrades for the ReWalk 6.0 provide a smoother walking gait (with less of a soldier-like marching step), an easier stopping mechanism, and a much-improved mode for ascending and descending stairs. The user wears a wristwatch-like controller to switch the suit between sit, stand, walk, and stair modes. How long until a cheaper version hits the market, but you don’t always get to control where it takes you if there’s a sale on featuring brands you love? (via IEEE)
The Storage Tipping Point — the performance optimization technologies of the last decade – log structured file systems, coalesced writes, out-of-place updates and, soon, byte-addressable NVRAM – are conflicting with similar-but-different techniques used in SSDs and arrays. The software we use is written for dumb storage; we’re getting smart storage; but smart+smart = fragmentation, write amplification, and over-consumption.
pushpin — a reverse proxy server that makes it easy to implement WebSocket, HTTP streaming, and HTTP long-polling services. It communicates with backend web applications using regular, short-lived HTTP requests (GRIP protocol). This allows backend applications to be written in any language and use any webserver.
The Gold Standard Checklist for Web Components — This is a working draft of a checklist to define a “gold standard” for web components that aspire to be as predictable, flexible, reliable, and useful as the standard HTML elements.
WebAssembly (Luke Wagner) — new standard, WebAssembly, that defines a portable, size- and load-time-efficient format and execution model specifically designed to serve as a compilation target for the Web. Being worked on by Mozilla, Google, Microsoft, and Apple.
Inceptionism: Going Deeper into Neural Networks (Google Research) — stunningly gorgeous gallery of images made by using a deep image-classification neural net to make the picture “more.” (So, if the classifier says the pic is of a cat, randomly twiddle pixels until the image classifier says “wow, that matches `cat’ even better!”)
The Automated Workplace (Ben Brown) — What happens if this process is automated using a “bot” in an environment like Slack? — repeat for all business processes. (via Matt Webb)
Conversational UIs (Matt Webb) — a new medium needs a new grammar and conversational UIs are definitely a new medium. As someone whose wedding vows were exchanged on a TinyMUSH, conversational UIs are near and dear to my heart.
Teach Don’t Tell — what I think good documentation is and how I think you should go about writing it. Sample common sense: This is obvious when you’re working face-to-face with someone. When you tell them how to play a C major chord on the guitar and they only produce a strangled squeak, it’s clear that you need to slow down and talk about how to press down on the strings properly. As programmers, we almost never get this kind of feedback about our documentation. We don’t see that the person on the other end of the wire is hopelessly confused and blundering around because they’re missing something we thought was obvious (but wasn’t). Teaching someone in person helps you learn to anticipate this, which will pay off (for your users) when you’re writing documentation.
The Basic AI Drives (PDF) — Surely, no harm could come from building a chess-playing robot, could it? In this paper, we argue that such a robot will indeed be dangerous unless it is designed very carefully. Without special precautions, it will resist being turned off, will try to break into other machines and make copies of itself, and will try to acquire resources without regard for anyone else’s safety. These potentially harmful behaviors will occur not because they were programmed in at the start, but because of the intrinsic nature of goal-driven systems.
PreTTY — how to take a good-looking screencap of your terminal app in action.
Using Logs to Build Solid Data Infrastructure — (Martin Kleppmann) — For lack of a better term, I’m going to call this the problem of ‘data integration.’ With that, I really just mean ‘making sure that the data ends up in all the right places.’ Whenever a piece of data changes in one place, it needs to change correspondingly in all the other places where there is a copy or derivative of that data.
Project Advice (Daniel Bachhuber) — for leaders of distributed teams. Focus on clearing blockers above all else. Because you’re working on an open source project with contributors across many timezones, average time to feedback will optimistically be six hours. More likely, it will be 24-48 hours. This slow feedback cycle can kill progress on pull requests. As a project maintainer, prioritize giving feedback, clearing blockers, and making decisions.
YAGNI (Martin Fowler) — cost of build, cost of delay, cost of carry, cost of repair. Every product manager has felt these costs.
The Internet of Things That Do What You Tell Them: Cory Doctorow passionately explains how computers are already entwined in our lives, which means laws that support lock-in are much more than inconveniences.