Medium’s Stack — interesting use of Protocol Buffers: We help our people work with data by treating the schemas as the spec, rigorously documenting messages and fields and publishing generated documentation from the .proto files.
Bacterial Materials (Wired UK) — Showing a prototype worn by dancers, Yao demonstrated how bacteria-powered clothing can respond to the body’s needs. She has, in effect, created living clothes, ones that react in real time to heat and sweat mapping with tiny vents that would curl open or flatten closed as exertion levels demanded.
Robots to the Rescue (NSF) — one 20-minute drone flight generated upwards of 800 photographs, each of which took at least one minute to inspect. This article is five lessons learned in the field of disaster robotics, and they’re all doozies.
Trying to Replace Multiple Systems with One Can Lead to None (IEEE) — check out that final graph, it’s a doozy. It’s a graph of x against time, from various “this project is great, it will replace x systems with 1″ claims about a single project. Software projects should come with giant warning labels: “most fail, you are about to set your money on fire. Are you sure? [Y/N/Abort/Restart]”
Signals from Velocity New York — “If your company is creating a diversity plan and you’ve actually gone and counted people,” Liles said, “you’ve already lost.” If you’re motivated to count, then know you’ve already lost. You want to know by how much.
25 Women in Robotics You Need to Know About — The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals 2015 were similarly lacking; of the 444 robot builders representing 24 robot entrants, only 23 builders were women (though some of the most successful teams at the DRC had female team members). Given how multidisciplinary the field is, and how many different skills are required, we need to celebrate women who are achieving greatness in robotics until we are seeing more parity. Great list.
Awesome AWS — A curated list of awesome Amazon Web Services (AWS) libraries, open source repos, guides, blogs, and other resources.
The Web Authentication Arms Race — Cryptography can only be used to transfer existing trust or secrecy across time or space; if the attacker impersonates the defender before the user establishes anything, it becomes impossible for the user to tell which party is legitimate. This sentence, made in solid gold Yes.
Apple’s Incredible Platform Advantage (Steve Cheney) — the best people in chip design no longer want to work at Intel or Qualcomm. They want to work at Apple. I have plenty of friends in the Valley who affirm this. Sure Apple products are cooler. But Apple has also surpassed Intel in performance. This is insane. A device company – which makes CPUs for internal use – surpassing Intel, the world’s largest chip maker that practically invented the CPU and has thousands of customers.
Data Center’s Days are Numbered — Adrian Cockroft says, the investments going into bolstering security on AWS and other clouds are set to pay off to the point where within five years, “it will be impossible to get security certification if you’re not running in the cloud because the tools designed for data centers are sloppily put together and can’t offer the auditing for PCI and other regulators.”
A Peek Inside IBM’s R&D Lab — IBM still has a physics department, but at this point, almost every physicist is somehow linked to a product plan or customer plan.
Power of Small Groups (Matt Webb) — Matt’s joined a small Slack community of like-minded friends. There’s a space where articles written or edited by members automatically show up. I like that. I caught myself thinking: it’d be nice to have Last.FM here, too, and Dopplr. Nothing that requires much effort. Let’s also pull in Instagram. Automatic stuff so I can see what people are doing, and people can see what I’m doing. Just for this group. Back to those original intentions. Ambient awareness, togetherness. cf Clay Shirky’s situated software. Everything useful from 2004 will be rebuilt once the fetish for scale passes.
Asymmetric Misperceptions (PDF) — research into the systematic mismatch between how politicians think their constituents feel on issues, and how the constituents actually feel. Our findings underscore doubts that policymakers perceive opinion accurately: politicians maintain systematic misperceptions about constituents’ views, typically erring by over 10 percentage points, and entire groups of politicians maintain even more severe collective misperceptions. A second, post-election survey finds the electoral process fails to ameliorate these misperceptions.
Flux: New Approach to System Intuition (LinkedIn) — In general, we assume that if anything is best represented numerically, then we don’t need to visualize it. If the best representation is a numerical one, then a visualization could only obscure a quantifiable piece of information that can be measured, compared, and acted upon. Anything that we can wrap in alerts or some threshold boundary should kick off some automated process. No point in ruining a perfectly good system by introducing a human into the mix. Instead of numerical information, we want a tool that surfaces relevant information to a human, for situations that would be too onerous to create a heuristic. These situations require an intuition that we can’t codify.
402: Payment Required (David Humphrey) — The ad blocking discussion highlights our total lack of imagination, where a browser’s role is reduced to “render” or “don’t render.” There are a whole world of options in between that we should be exploring.
My xoxo Talk (Bryce Roberts) — about indie.vc and the experience of trying something good in the investment world. You won’t believe what happened next …
10 More Robotics Companies Acquired (Robohub) — companies of all types and sizes are finding strategic reasons to acquire robotic ventures to add to their arsenal of products and services because they don’t want to be left behind.
The Past, Present, and Future of the Music Biz — you might not agree with the conclusions, but the numbers are horrifying^W edifying. The U.S. concert industry has nearly tripled since 1999 (when recorded music sales peaked). Yet, what’s typically overlooked by this narrative is that the vast majority of this growth – 83% to be exact – has gone to non-Top 100 touring artists. In 2000, the Top 100 tours (which included ‘NSYNC, Metallica and Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre) collected nearly 90% of annual concert revenues. Today, that share has fallen to only 44%.
U.S. Web Design Standards — U.S. Digital Service and 18F put together a reusable component library and style guide for U.S. Government apps.
Police Program Aims to Pinpoint Those Most Likely to Commit Crimes (NYT) — John S. Hollywood, a senior operations researcher at the RAND Corporation, said that in the limited number of studies undertaken to measure the efficacy of predictive policing, the improvement in forecasting crimes had been only 5% or 10% better than regular policing methods.
Apple’s Assault on Advertising and Google (Calacanis) — Google wants to be proud of their legacy, and tricking people into clicking ads and selling our profiles to advertisers is an awesome business – but a horrible legacy for Larry and Sergey. Read beside the Bloomberg piece on click fraud and the future isn’t too rosy for advertising. If the ad bubble bursts, how much of the Web will it take with it?
$9 Computer Hardware (Makezine) — open hardware project, with open source software. The board’s spec is a 1GHz R8 ARM processor with 512MB of RAM, 4GB of NAND storage, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in.
The Hit Charade (MIT TR) — Spotify’s deep-learning system still has to be trained using millions of example songs, and it would be perplexed by a bold new style of music. What’s more, such algorithms cannot arrange songs in a creative way. Nor can they distinguish between a truly original piece and yet another me-too imitation of a popular sound. Johnson acknowledges this limitation, and he says human expertise will remain a key part of Spotify’s algorithms for the foreseeable future.
The Future of War is the Distant Past (John Birmingham) — the Naval Academy is hedging against the future by creating cybersecurity midshipmen, and by requiring every midshipman to learn how to do celestial navigation.
What Happens Next Will Amaze You (Maciej Ceglowski) — the next in Maciej’s amazing series of keynotes, where he’s building a convincing case for fixing the Web.
I recently started using an ad blocker: just Adblock Plus, and just on Chrome. While I’m an ad-hostile person, I’m not aggressively ad-hostile. For the most part, I’m content to ignore advertising. But some site (I don’t remember which) just went too far, probably with mouseover popups that obscured what I wanted to read, and I said “I’ve had it.” You can waste my bandwidth, but don’t prevent me from reading articles.
So, with that in mind, here are a few observations.
If you’re in the ad business, don’t make the experience worse for the readers. Seriously: you ought to realize that if you’ve just annoyed someone, they’re not likely to click on your ad, let alone buy your product. Doc Searls (@dsearls) wrote absolutely the smartest thing I’ve seen on this controversy: “If marketing listened to markets, they’d hear what ad blocking is telling them.” And if people are telling you, “we don’t want you, go away,” you’d best figure out why, rather than whining about it. (Searls’ entire series on advertising is excellent, and you should read it. The last post, Debugging adtech assumptions, lists all the prior posts). Read more…