summing up 68

i am trying to build a jigsaw puzzle which has no lid and is missing half of the pieces. i am unable to show you what it will be, but i can show you some of the pieces and why they matter to me. if you are building a different puzzle, it is possible that these pieces won't mean much to you, maybe they won't fit or they won't fit yet. then again, these might just be the pieces you're looking for. this is summing up, please find previous editions here.

  • start-ups and emotional debt, i realize that many people who do successful start-ups say it was the best thing that ever happened to them. but they've also become different people, and they are not the same people they would have been if they had decided to pursue another course. they have different sets of relationships, different skills, different attitudes, and different desires. they really have no idea what kind of person they otherwise would have been become. recommended
  • waffling, i've always been very dubious about the idea of learning from people who have been successful. there's this whole cult of worshipping rich people, reading interviews with them, getting their opinions on things, trying to learn what made them successful. i think it's mostly nonsense. the thing is, if you just look at who the biggest earners are, it's almost entirely luck. the point is if you just look at successful business people, they will probably be confident, decisive, risk takers, aggressive at seizing opportunities, aggressive about growing the business quickly, etc. that doesn't mean that those are the right things to do. it just means that those are variance-increasing traits that give them a chance to be a big success
  • why don't software development methodologies work?, my own experience, validated by cockburn's thesis and frederick brooks in no silver bullet, is that software development projects succeed when the key people on the team share a common vision, what brooks calls "conceptual integrity." this doesn't arise from any particular methodology, and can happen in the absence of anything resembling a process. i know the feeling working on a team where everyone clicks and things just get done
  • 7 principles of rich web applications, the web remains one of the most versatile mediums for the transmission of information. as we continue to add more dynamism to our pages, we must ensure that we retain some of its great historical benefits while we incorporate new ones
  • "the road to wisdom? - well, it's plain and simple to express: err and err and err again but less and less and less", piet hein

sketchpad

i recently read ivan sutherland's thesis on sketchpad, one of the most influential computer programs ever written by an individual. the following paragraph stood out to me:

It was implicit in the research nature of the work that simple new facilities should be discovered which, when implemented, should be useful in a wide range of applications, preferably including some unforseen ones. It has turned out that the properties of a computer drawing are entirely different from a paper drawing not only because of the accuracy, ease of drawing, and speed of erasing provided by the computer, but also primarily because of the ability to move drawing parts around on a computer drawing without the need to erase them. Had a working system not been developed, our thinking would have been too strongly influenced by a lifetime of drawing on paper to discover many of the useful services that the computer can provide.

this idea, the idea that the computer is a new medium, that we have to come up with new ways to interact with our machines, that old patterns of thought are not enough, is a very old one. in this case 1963 to be precise.

summing up 67

i am trying to build a jigsaw puzzle which has no lid and is missing half of the pieces. i am unable to show you what it will be, but i can show you some of the pieces and why they matter to me. if you are building a different puzzle, it is possible that these pieces won't mean much to you, maybe they won't fit or they won't fit yet. then again, these might just be the pieces you're looking for. this is summing up, please find previous editions here.

  • the center of "why?", by alan kay. living organisms are shaped by evolution to survive, not necessarily to get a clear picture of the universe. for example, frogs' brains are set up to recognize food as moving objects that are oblong in shape. so if we take a frog's normal food - flies - paralyze them with a little chloroform and put them in front of the frog, it will not notice them or try to eat them. it will starve in front of its food! but if we throw little rectangular pieces of cardboard at the frog it will eat them until it is stuffed! the frog only sees a little of the world we see, but it still thinks it perceives the whole world. now, of course, we are not like frogs! or are we? highly recommended (pdf)
  • "interface matters to me more than anything else, and it always has. i just never realized that. i've spent a lot of time over the years desperately trying to think of a "thing" to change the world. i now know why the search was fruitless - things don't change the world. people change the world by using things. the focus must be on the "using", not the "thing". now that i'm looking through the right end of the binoculars, i can see a lot more clearly, and there are projects and possibilities that genuinely interest me deeply", bret victor
  • ivan sutherland's sketchpad, a man-machine graphical communication system, the decision actually to implement a drawing system reflected our feeling that knowledge of the facilities which would prove useful could only be obtained by actually trying them. it was implicit in the research nature of the work that simple new facilities should be discovered which, when implemented, should be useful in a wide range of applications, preferably including some unforseen ones. it has turned out that the properties of a computer drawing are entirely different from a paper drawing not only because of the accuracy, ease of drawing, and speed of erasing provided by the computer, but also primarily because of the ability to move drawing parts around on a computer drawing without the need to erase them. had a working system not been developed, our thinking would have been too strongly influenced by a lifetime of drawing on paper to discover many of the useful services that the computer can provide (pdf)
  • "i got this wild dream in my head about what would help mankind the most, to go off and do something dramatic, and i just happened to get a picture of how, if people started to learn to interact with computers, in collective ways of collaborating together, and this was way back in the early 50s, so it was a little bit premature. so anyways, i had some gi bill money left still so i could just go after that, and up and down quite a bit through the years, and i finally sort of gave up", douglas engelbart

the humane representation of thought

another highly interesting talk and ideas by bret victor. it seems to me that his newest talk comes quite close to the motivation which has driven his work over the last years. thus not easy to digest, but definitely worth watching.

summing up 66

i am trying to build a jigsaw puzzle which has no lid and is missing half of the pieces. i am unable to show you what it will be, but i can show you some of the pieces and why they matter to me. if you are building a different puzzle, it is possible that these pieces won't mean much to you, maybe they won't fit or they won't fit yet. then again, these might just be the pieces you're looking for. this is summing up, please find previous editions here.

  • federated education: new directions in digital collaboration, as advocates we're so often put in a situation where we have to defend the very idea that social media is an information sharing solution that we don't often get to think about what a better solution for collaboration would look like. because there are problems with the way social media works now. minority voices are squelched, flame wars abound. we spend hours at a time as rats hitting the skinner-esque levers of twitter and tumblr, hoping for new treats - and this might be ok if we actually then built off these things, but we don't. we're stuck in an attention economy feedback loop where we react to the reactions of reactions (while fearing further reactions), and then we wonder why we're stuck with groupthink and ideological gridlock. we're bigger than this and we can envision new systems that acknowledge that bigness. we can build systems that return to the the vision of the forefathers of the web. the augmentation of human intellect. the facilitation of collaboration. the intertwingling of all things. this is one such proposal. maybe you have others. highly recommended
  • your app is good and you should feel good, there's no disincentive to honking at people for the slightest provocation. there's little recourse for abuse. it's such an asymmetrical, aggressive technology, so lacking in subtlety. it kind of turns everyone into a crying baby - you can let the people around you know that you're very upset, but not why. i think the internet is like this sometimes, too. the internet is like a car horn that you can honk at the entire world. recommended
  • the best investment advice you'll never get, don't try to beat the market and don't believe anyone who tells you they can - not a stock broker, a friend with a hot stock tip, or a financial magazine article touting the latest mutual fund. seasoned investment professionals have been hearing this anti-industry advice, and the praises of indexing, for years. but while wall street has considerable soul-searching to do, full blame for the gouging of naive investors does not lie with the investment management industry alone. there is an innate cultural imperative in this country to beat the odds, to do better than the joneses. it's simply difficult for most of us to accept average returns on our money, or on anything for that matter. recommended
  • forget shorter showers - why personal change does not equal political change, i think we're in a double bind. a double bind is where you're given multiple options, but no matter what option you choose, you lose, and withdrawal is not an option. at this point, it should be pretty easy to recognize that every action involving the industrial economy is destructive. so if we choose option one - if we avidly participate in the industrial economy - we may in the short term think we win because we may accumulate wealth, the marker of "success" in this culture. but we lose, because in doing so we give up our empathy, our animal humanity. and we really lose because industrial civilization is killing the planet, which means everyone loses. if we choose the "alternative" option of living more simply, thus causing less harm, but still not stopping the industrial economy from killing the planet, we may in the short term think we win because we get to feel pure, and we didn't even have to give up all of our empathy, but once again we really lose because industrial civilization is still killing the planet, which means everyone still loses. the third option, acting decisively to stop the industrial economy, is very scary for a number of reasons, including but not restricted to the fact that we'd lose some of the luxuries to which we've grown accustomed, and the fact that those in power might try to kill us if we seriously impede their ability to exploit the world - none of which alters the fact that it's a better option than a dead planet. any option is a better option than a dead planet