"web" entries

Four short links: 13 October 2015

Four short links: 13 October 2015

Apple Chips, Death of the Data Center, IBM R&D, and Stateful Services

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. A Peek Inside IBM’s R&D LabIBM still has a physics department, but at this point, almost every physicist is somehow linked to a product plan or customer plan.
  4. Building Scalable Stateful Services (High Scalability) — elucidation of a talk by Caitie McCaffrey (YouTube), tech lead for observability at Twitter.
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Four short links: 9 October 2015

Four short links: 9 October 2015

Page Loads, Data Engines, Small Groups, and Political Misperception

  1. Ludicrously Fast Page Loads: A Guide for Full-Stack Devs (Nate Berkopec) — steps slowly through the steps of page loading using Chrome Developer Tools’ timeline. Very easy to follow.
  2. Specialised and Hybrid Data Management and Processing Engines (Ben Lorica) — wrap-up of data engines uncovered at Strata + Hadoop World NYC 2015.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
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Four short links: 6 October 2015

Four short links: 6 October 2015

System Intuition, Magic is Power, Predicting Behaviour, Payment Required

  1. 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.
  2. Jumping to the End: Practical Design Fiction (Vimeo) — “Magic is a power relationship” — Matt Jones on the flipside of hiding complex behaviours from users and making stuff “work like magic.” (via Richard Pope)
  3. Predicting Daily Activities from Egocentric Images Using Deep Learning — aka “people wear cameras and we can figure out what they’re going to do next.”
  4. 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.
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Four short links: 29 September 2015

Four short links: 29 September 2015

Indie VC, Robotics Acquisitions, Music Money, and USG Web Standards

  1. 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 …
  2. 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.
  3. 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%.
  4. 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.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 25 September 2015

Four short links: 25 September 2015

Predicting Policing, Assaulting Advertising, Compliance Ratings, and $9 Computer

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. China Is Building The Mother Of All Reputation Systems To Monitor Citizen BehaviorThe document talks about the “construction of credibility” — the ability to give and take away credits — across more than 30 areas of life, from energy saving to advertising.
  4. $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.
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Four short links: 24 September 2015

Four short links: 24 September 2015

Machine Music Learning, Cyber War, Backing Out Ads, and COBOL OF THE 2020s

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Go Will Dominate the Next Decade (Ian Eyberg) — COBOL OF THE 2020s. There, I saved you the trouble.
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A Web without ads

Ad blockers won't destroy the Web, but they might bring us back to the Web we intended to build in the first place.

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You might have noticed a small dustup around ad blockers over the last few days. Someone on Twitter asked how this came out of nowhere in three days. Well, it didn’t. It’s been building. Apple kicked it into overdrive by adding ad blocking capability to iOS, but there’s nothing really new.

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…

Comments: 5
Four short links: 28 August 2015

Four short links: 28 August 2015

Ad Blockers, Self-Evaluation, Blockchain Podcast, and Mobile Fingerprints

  1. 10 Ad Blocking Extensions Tested for Best PerformanceThis test is about the performance of an ad blocker in terms of how quickly it loads a range of ad blocked pages, the maximum amount of memory it uses, and how much stress it puts on the CPU. µBlock Origin wins for Chrome. (via Nelson Minar)
  2. Staff Evaluation of Me (Karl Fisch) — I also tried the Google Form approach. 0 responses, from which I concluded that nobody had any problems with me and DEFINITELY no conclusions could be drawn about my coworkers creating mail filters to mark my messages as spam.
  3. Blockchain (BBC) — episode on the blockchain that does a good job of staying accurate while being comprehensible. (via Sam Kinsley)
  4. Fingerprints On Mobile Devices: Abusing and Leaking (PDF) — We will analyze the mobile fingerprint authentication and authorization frameworks, and discuss several security pitfalls of the current designs, including: Confused Authorization Attack; Unsecure fingerprint data storage; Trusted fingerprint sensors exposed to the untrusted world; Backdoor of pre-embedding fingerprints.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 21 August 2015

Four short links: 21 August 2015

Web Experiments, Virtual Time, Reading Postmortem, and Chinese Robot Companies

  1. Doing Science on the Web (Alex Russell) — Minimizing harm to the ecosystem from experiments-gone-wrong […] This illustrates what happens when experiments inadvertently become critical infrastructure. It has happened before. Over, and over, and over again. Imma need therapy for the flashbacks. THE HORROR.
  2. Virtual Time (Adrian Colyer) — applying special relativity to distributed systems. Contains lines like: All messages sent explicitly by user programs have a positive (+) sign; their antimessages have a negative (-) sign. Whenever a process sends a message, what actually happens is that a faithful copy of the message is transmitted to the receiver’s input queue, and a negative copy, the antimessage, is retained in the sender’s output queue for use in case the sender rolls back. Curl up with your intoxicant of choice and prepare to see the colour of infinity.
  3. Lessons Learned from Reading Postmortems — (of the software kind) Except in extreme emergencies, risky code changes are basically never simultaneously pushed out to all machines because of the risk of taking down a service company-wide. But it seems that every company has to learn the hard way that seemingly benign config changes can also cause a company-wide service outage.
  4. 194 Chinese Robot Companies (Robohub) — Overall, 107 Chinese companies are involved in industrial robotics. Many of these new industrial robot makers are producing products that, because of quality, safety, and design regulations, will only be acceptable to the Chinese market. Many interesting numbers about the Chinese robotics biz.
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Four short links: 5 August 2015

Four short links: 5 August 2015

Facebook Video, Lost Links, Regulatory Push, and LLVM Teases

  1. Theft, Lies, and Facebook Video (Medium) — inexcusable that Facebook, a company with a market cap of $260 BILLION, launched their video platform with no system to protect independent rights holders. It wouldn’t be surprising if Facebook was working on a solution now, which they can roll out conveniently after having made their initial claims at being the biggest, most important thing in video. In the words of Gillian Welch, “I wanna do right, but not right now.
  2. The Web We Have to SaveNearly every social network now treats a link just the same as it treats any other object — the same as a photo, or a piece of text — instead of seeing it as a way to make that text richer. You’re encouraged to post one single hyperlink and expose it to a quasi-democratic process of liking and plussing and hearting: Adding several links to a piece of text is usually not allowed. Hyperlinks are objectivized, isolated, stripped of their powers.
  3. California Regulator Pushing for All Cars to be Electric (Bloomberg) — Nichols really does intend to force au­tomakers to eventually sell nothing but electrics. In an interview in June at her agency’s heavy-duty-truck laboratory in downtown Los Angeles, it becomes clear that Nichols, at age 70, is pushing regulations today that could by midcentury all but banish the internal combustion engine from California’s famous highways. “If we’re going to get our transportation system off petroleum,” she says, “we’ve got to get people used to a zero-emissions world, not just a little-bit-better version of the world they have now.” How long until the same article is written, but about driverless cars?
  4. LLVM for Grad Students — fast intro to why LLVM is interesting. LLVM is a great compiler, but who cares if you don’t do compilers research? A compiler infrastructure is useful whenever you need to do stuff with programs.
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