summing up 70

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.

  • a whole new world, shipping often is a great way to achieve short-term business gains and a great way to discover what your customer wants. but when you're a programmer, and you are the customer, and you're writing the system, and you've been using these tools for 20 years, you don't need customer discovery. you need to go off and sit in a hammock for a couple of years and think hard. the thing which i find surprising is that we have not only all this legacy, but we have a paralysis around it. we can't even imagine replacing it. highly recommended
  • the real computer revolution hasn't happened yet, by alan kay. so we had a sense that the personal computer's ability to imitate other media would both help it to become established in society, and that this would also make if very difficult for most people to understand what it actually was. our thought was: but if we can get the children to learn the real thing then in a few generations the big change will happen. 32 years later the technologies that our research community invented are in general use by more than a billion people, and we have gradually learned how to teach children the real thing. but it looks as though the actual revolution will take longer than our optimism suggested, largely because the commercial and educational interests in the old media and modes of thought have frozen personal computing pretty much at the "imitation of paper, recordings, film and tv" level. recommended
  • datacide, we were told to surf the web, but in the end, the web serf'd us. the right way is to turn off, buy in and cash out. reinforce the grand narrative and talk about how social is going to bring people together, not just online, but in the real world. how it will augment our interactions and make us more open. how in five years you'll be able to meet your true love through an algorithm that correlates your itunes activity to your medical history and how that algorithm will be worth a billion fucking dollars. and it's through that magical cloud of squandered human potential that skinner emerges once again and starts poking his finger into your brain. we are not going to escape this crisis by putting ourselves in a cage. there is no opt-out anymore. you can draw the blinds, deadlock your door, smash your smartphone, and only carry cash, but you'll still get caught up in their all-seeing algorithmic gaze. they've datafied your car, your city and even your snail mail. this is not a conspiracy, it's the status quo, and we've been too busy displacing our anxiety into their tidy little containers to realize what's going on. recommended
  • the computer revolution hasn't happened yet (transcript), by alan kay. i'm going to use a metaphor for this talk which is drawn from a wonderful book called the act of creation by arthur koestler. one of the great books he wrote was about what might creativity be. he realized that learning, of course, is an act of creation itself, because something happens in you that wasn't there before. he used a metaphor of thoughts as ants crawling on a plane. in this case it's a pink plane, and there's a lot of things you can do on a pink plane. you can have goals. you can choose directions. you can move along. but you're basically in the pink context. it means that progress, in a fixed context, is almost always a form of optimization, because if you're actually coming up with something new, it wouldn't have been part of the rules or the context for what the pink plane is all about. creative acts, generally, are ones that don't stay in the same context that they're in. he says, every once in a while, even though you have been taught carefully by parents and by school for many years, you have a blue idea. maybe when you're taking a shower. maybe when you're out jogging. maybe when you're resting in an unguarded moment, suddenly, that thing that you were puzzling about, wondering about, looking at, appears to you in a completely different light, as though it were something else. he also pointed out that you have to have something blue to have blue thoughts with. i think this is generally missed in people who specialize to the extent of anything else. when you specialize, you are basically putting yourself into a mental state where optimization is pretty much all you can do. you have to learn lots of different kinds of things in order to have the start of these other contexts

summing up 69

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.

  • coding is not the new literacy, coding requires us to break our systems down into actions that the computer understands, which represents a fundamental disconnect in intent. most programs are not trying to specify how things are distributed across cores or how objects should be laid out in memory. we are not trying to model how a computer does something. instead, we are modeling human interaction, the weather, or spacecraft. we are employing a set of tools designed to model how computers work, but we're representing systems that are nothing like them. we have to create a new generation of tools that allow us to express our models without switching professions and a new generation of modelers who wield them. to put it simply, the next great advance in human ability comes from being able to externalize the mental models we spend our entire lives creating. that is the new literacy. and it's the revolution we've all been waiting for. highly recommended
  • shonda rhimes '91, commencement address, when people give these kinds of speeches, they usually tell you all kinds of wise and heartfelt things. they have wisdom to impart. they have lessons to share. they tell you: follow your dreams. listen to your spirit. change the world. make your mark. find your inner voice and make it sing. embrace failure. dream. dream and dream big. as a matter of fact, dream and don't stop dreaming until all of your dreams come true. i think that's crap. i think a lot of people dream. and while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing
  • keep your crises small, initially, the films our teams put together, they're a mess. it's like everything else in life - the first time you do it, it's a mess. sometimes it's labeled "first time, it's a failure", but that's not even the right word to use. it's just like, you get the first one out, you learn from it, and the only failure is if you don't learn from it, if you don't progress

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