summing up 49

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 future doesn't have to be incremental, by alan kay. suppose you had twice the iq of leonardo, but you were born in 10000 bc; how far you gonna get? zero before they burn you at the stake. henry ford was nowhere near leonardo, but he was able do something leonardo couldn't do. leonardo never was able to invent a single engine for any of his vehicles. but henry ford was born into the right century. he had knowledge and he did not have to invent the gasoline engine, it already had been invented. and so he would be what was called an innovator today, he did not invent anything. but he put things together, and for most things knowledge dominates iq. highly recommended
  • creation myth; xerox parc, apple, and the truth about innovation, when you have a bunch of smart people with a broad enough charter, you will always get something good out of it. it's one of the best investments you could possibly make - but only if you chose to value it in terms of successes. if you chose to evaluate it in terms of how many times you failed, or times you could have succeeded and didn't, then you are bound to be unhappy. innovation is an unruly thing. there will be some ideas that don't get caught in your cup. but that's not what the game is about. the game is what you catch, not what you spill. recommended
  • improving our ability to improve: a call for investment in a new future, by doug engelbart. we need to become better at being humans. learning to use symbols and knowledge in new ways, across groups, across cultures, is a powerful, valuable, and very human goal. and it is also one that is obtainable, if we only begin to open our minds to full, complete use of computers to augment our most human of capabilities (pdf)
  • research, huh! what is it good for? what look like novel ideas from a distance in general turn out, upon closer inspection, to have emerged from a general cloud of research ideas that were knocking around at the time. it's terribly hard to know where ideas came from, once you have them. and that makes it terribly hard to guess well what ideas are going to grow out of whatever's going on now. so perhaps there isn't a better way than to generate lots of solutions, throw them around the place and see what few of them stick to a problem
  • programming languages are the least usable, but most powerful human-computer interfaces ever invented, if there's any truth to the title of this post, it's the implied idea that programming languages are just another type of human-computer interface and the rich and varied design space of user interface paradigms. this has some fun implications. for example, programmers are users too, and they deserve all of the same careful consideration that we give non-programmers using non-programming interfaces. this also means that programming languages researchers are really studying user interface design, like hci researchers do. there aren't two fields we might find more dissimilar in method or culture, but their questions and the phenomena they concern are actually remarkably aligned
  • visual programming languages, a place on the net where one can easily see what all the different visual programming languages (graphical programming languages) look like
  • being useful - a short introduction to proactive experiences, we often forget about the first commandment of user experience: usefulness. being usable or beautiful is easy, being useful is hard work
  • the future of ui and the dream of the ‘90s, the future of interface design isn't a dream from the 90s. the future of interface design is about emotional awareness; connecting us with products the way we connect with each other

summing up 48

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.

  • our comrade the electron, if you look at the history of the kgb or stasi, they consumed enormous resources just maintaining and cross-referencing their mountains of paperwork. imagine what stalin could have done with a decent mysql server. we haven't seen yet what a truly bad government is capable of doing with modern information technology. what the good ones get up to is terrifying enough. highly recommended
  • no one knows what the f*** they're doing or the 3 types of knowledge, the real reason you feel like a fraud is because you have been successful in taking a lot of information out of the "shit you don't know you don't know" category and put it into the "shit you know you don't know" category; you know of a lot of stuff you don't know. the good news is that this makes you very not dangerous. the bad news is that it also makes you feel dumb and helpless a lot of the time. recommended
  • programming as theory building, it is concluded that the proper, primary aim of programming is, not to produce programs, but to have the programmers build theories of the manner in which the problems at hand are solved by program execution
  • toward a better programming, if you look at much of the advances that have made it to the mainstream over the past 50 years, it turns out they largely increased our efficiency without really changing the act of programming
  • regulation ratchets, in any area where we let humans do things, every once in a while there will be a big screwup; that is the sort of creatures humans are. and if you won't decrease regulation without a screwup but will increase it with a screwup, then you have a regulation ratchet: it only moves one way. so if you don't think a long period without a big disaster calls for weaker regulations, but you do think a particular big disaster calls for stronger regulation, well then you might as well just strengthen regulations lots more right now, even without a disaster. because that is where your regulation ratchet is heading
  • the eight-hour burn, we treat scarce resources as being more valuable, and we make more efficient use of them. when you have too much time to work, your work time reduces significantly in perceived value
  • the expert, short film by lauris beinerts

summing up 47

a more or less weekly digest of juicy stuff. please find previous editions here.

  • salary negotiation, negotiating never makes (worthwhile) offers worse. this means you need what political scientists call a commitment strategy: you always, as a matter of policy, negotiate all offers. this also means you do not start negotiating until you already have a yes-if (yes-if we agree on terms). do not start negotiating from no-but (no-but we might hire you anyway if you're really, really effing cheap). recommended
  • lessons from a silicon valley job search, it's a great market to be an engineer, but finding the right job still requires a lot of time and effort. spray applications anywhere and everywhere you like the look of, and see what sticks. a little organisation will go a long way, but a little over-thinking will quickly make you go insane. recommended
  • engineer's guide to us visas
  • don't scar on the first cut, policies are codified overreactions to unlikely-to-happen-again situations. a collective punishment for the wrong-doings of a one-off. and unless you want to treat the people in your environment as five year-olds, "because the policy said so" is not a valid answer
  • a rant about women, it looks to me like women in general, and the women whose educations i am responsible for in particular, are often lousy at those kinds of behaviors, even when the situation calls for it. they aren't just bad at behaving like arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks. they are bad at behaving like self-promoting narcissists, anti-social obsessives, or pompous blowhards, even a little bit, even temporarily, even when it would be in their best interests to do so. whatever bad things you can say about those behaviors, you can't say they are underrepresented among people who have changed the world
  • cargo cult agile, it's unfortunate, though - and a little ironic - that a set of methods created to reduce meetings and waste is being abused to increase them. stand-up meetings are a neat tool, but they're hardly the core of agile development. beware cargo cult agile. don't use stand-up meetings to avoid real communication and collaboration

summing up 46

a more or less weekly digest of juicy stuff. please find previous editions here.

  • why software sucks, good programmers, designers, architects or creators of any kind are simply thoughtful. they are so passionate about making good things, that they will study any discipline, read any book, listen to any person and learn any skill that might improve their abilities to make things worthy of the world. they tear down boundaries of discipline, domain or job title, clawing at any idea, regardless of its origins, that might help them make a better thing. recommended
  • why software sucks, virtually all of the cost of software development is, directly and indirectly, the cost of design. if a student architect could design a skyscraper, push a button, and have some futuristic genesis device instantly construct the building at virtually no cost - and at no danger to anyone - and with perfect components throughout, would he not do so? further, imagine that with a push of another button, the entire building could be reduced back to its constituent atoms
  • how to stop worrying and learn to love the internet, i suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this: 1) everything that's already in the world when you're born is just normal 2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it 3) anything that gets invented after you're thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it's been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really
  • "technology is stuff that doesn't work yet", bran ferren
  • i'm not the product, but i play one on the internet, we should all stop saying, "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product," because it doesn't really mean anything, it excuses the behavior of bad companies, and it makes you sound kind of like a stoner looking at their hand for the first time
  • why agile has failed, because creating good software is so much about technical decisions and so little about management process, i believe that there is very little place for non-technical managers in any software development organisation. if your role is simply asking for estimates and enforcing the agile rituals: stand-ups, fortnightly sprints, retrospectives; then you are an impediment rather than an asset to delivery
  • on the effectiveness of lectures, listening to lectures is the least effective means of delivering learning, closely followed by reading textbooks. this is not to say that there are not great lecturers and great textbooks - but statistically the overall amount of learning per hour spent in lecture is the lowest of a wide number of possible delivery methods

summing up 45

a more or less weekly digest of juicy stuff. please find previous editions here.

  • money, guilt and the machine, by alan watts. the difference between having a job and having a vocation is that a job is some unpleasant work you do in order to make money, with the sole purpose of making money. but if you do a job with the sole purpose of making money, you are absurd. because if money becomes the goal, and it does when you work that way, you begin increasingly to confuse it with happiness - or with pleasure. yes, one can take a whole handful of crisp dollar bills and practically water your mouth over them. but this is a kind of person who is confused, like a pavlov dog, who salivates on the wrong bell. it goes back to the ancient guilt that if you don't work you have no right to eat; that if there are others in the world who don't have enough to eat, you shouldn't enjoy your dinner even though you have no possible means of conveying the food to them. and while it is true that we are all one human family and that every individual involves every other individual, while it is true therefore we should do something about changing the situation. highly recommended
  • a theory on economic growth, clayton christensen on disruptive innovation. recommended
  • a few words on doug engelbart, our computers are fundamentally designed with a single-user assumption through-and-through, and simply mirroring a display remotely doesn't magically transform them into collaborative environments. if you attempt to make sense of engelbart's design by drawing correspondences to our present-day systems, you will miss the point, because our present-day systems do not embody engelbart's intent. engelbart hated our present-day systems
  • why atom can't replace vim, a new, shiny, modern editor could one-up vim by fixing some (or hopefully all) of these issues. but before an editor can replace vim, it needs to learn everything that 1976 has to teach - not just the lesson of emacs, but also the lesson of vi
  • the labor illusion: how operational transparency increases perceived value, we demonstrate that because of what we term the labor illusion, when websites engage in operational transparency by signaling that they are exerting effort, people can actually prefer websites with longer waits to those that return instantaneous results - even when those results are identical (pdf)
  • innovative, pragmatic, affordable, accessible, ip-protected, innovation is a state of mind, it's not a job title and it's not an industry. it has to be in every single one of you. it's about you. it's about people and it's about minds. and it's about how open you are to innovate and how open you are to innovation
  • failure is an option, capitalism and entrepreneurial innovation require risk, as it is a fundamental component of business evolution. when companies are allowed to fail, their resources get reallocated in the market, just like a fire that converts sparse undergrowth into fertilizer for the next generation of trees
  • flying the world's fastest plane, behind the stick of the sr-71 blackbird