summing up 61

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.

  • magic ink: information software and the graphical interface, by bret victor. today's ubiquitous gui has its roots in doug engelbart's groundshattering research in the mid-'60s. the concepts he invented were further developed at xerox parc in the '70s, and successfully commercialized in the apple macintosh in the early '80s, whereupon they essentially froze. twenty years later, despite thousand-fold improvements along every technological dimension, the concepts behind today's interfaces are almost identical to those in the initial mac. similar stories abound. for example, a telephone that could be "dialed" with a string of digits was the hot new thing ninety years ago. today, the "phone number" is ubiquitous and entrenched, despite countless revolutions in underlying technology. culture changes much more slowly than technological capability. the lesson is that, even today, we are designing for tomorrow's technology. cultural inertia will carry today's design choices to whatever technology comes next. in a world where science can outpace science fiction, predicting future technology can be a nostradamean challenge, but the responsible designer has no choice. a successful design will outlive the world it was designed for. highly recommended
  • visualisation and cognition: drawing things together, by bruno latour. it is not perception which is at stake in this problem of visualization and cognition. new inscriptions, and new ways of perceiving them, are the results of something deeper. if you wish to go out of your way and come back heavily equipped so as to force others to go out of their ways, the main problem to solve is that of mobilization. you have to go and to come back with the "things" if your moves are not to be wasted. but the "things" you gathered and displaced have to be presentable all at once to those you want to convince and who did not go there. in sum, you have to invent objects which have the properties of being mobile but also immutable, presentable, readable and combinable with one another. highly recommended (pdf)
  • cargo cult software engineering, the issue that has fallen by the wayside while we've been debating process vs. commitment is so blatant that it may simply have been so obvious that we have overlooked it. we should not be debating process vs. commitment; we should be debating competence vs. incompetence. the real difference is not which style is chosen, but what education, training, and understanding is brought to bear on the project. rather than debating process vs. commitment, we should be looking for ways to raise the average level of developer and manager competence. that will improve our chances of success regardless of which development style we choose
  • nude portraits, photography project by trevor christensen

summing up 60

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 internet and hieronymus bosch: fear, protection, and liberty in cyberspace, the internet was conceived in the defense world, designed by academic and industrial research engineers, and transported into the commercial world only after its core design had been widely deployed. engineers are naturally libertarian. whether they are designing cars or computer networks, their ideals are utility, speed, and flexibility. software engineers are spared the ethical issues that confront the designers of munitions; engineering in the world of zeroes and ones inherits the nonnormative, amoral quality of mathematics. even cost, safety, and secrecy are imposed by market forces and governments, which had little force in the internet's gestation period. so there was a garden of eden quality to the internet in its preconsumer days: a combination of fecundity and innocence. the network fostered experimentation and innovation, and little worry about the potential for mischief or evil. highly recommended (pdf)
  • the internet's original sin, i have come to believe that advertising is the original sin of the web. the fallen state of our internet is a direct, if unintentional, consequence of choosing advertising as the default model to support online content and services. through successive rounds of innovation and investor storytime, we've trained internet users to expect that everything they say and do online will be aggregated into profiles (which they cannot review, challenge, or change) that shape both what ads and what content they see. outrage over experimental manipulation of these profiles by social networks and dating companies has led to heated debates amongst the technologically savvy, but hasn't shrunk the user bases of these services, as users now accept that this sort of manipulation is an integral part of the online experience. users have been so well trained to expect surveillance that even when widespread, clandestine government surveillance was revealed by a whistleblower, there has been little organized, public demand for reform and change. only half of americans believe that snowden's leaks served the public interest and the majority of americans favor criminal prosecution for the whistleblower. it's unlikely that our willingness to accept online surveillance reflects our trust in the american government, which is at historic lows. more likely, we've been taught that this is simply how the internet works: if we open ourselves to ever-increasing surveillance-whether from corporations or governments-the tools and content we want will remain free of cost
  • technical debt 101, the main problem is that software just doesn't suddenly fall. there is no gravity in software. the grains of sand, though not properly glued each other to create solid material, keep floating in the air. and this is a problem, because this makes the consequences of bad practices less visible. you can always add some more sand to your software building. some sand will fall, some will move to unexpected places and knowing where to put the new sand will become really hard, but still, the building stands
  • you are not late, in terms of the internet, nothing has happened yet. the internet is still at the beginning of its beginning. if we could climb into a time machine and journey 30 years into the future, and from that vantage look back to today, we'd realize that most of the greatest products running the lives of citizens in 2044 were not invented until after 2014

summing up 59

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.

  • everyone i know is brokenhearted, i don't believe anymore that the answer lies in more or better tech, or even awareness. i think the only thing that can save us is us. and i do think rage is a component that's necessary here: a final fundamental fed-up-ness with the bullshit and an unwillingness to give any more ground to the things that are doing us in. to stop being reasonable. to stop being well-behaved. not to hate those who are hurting us with their greed and psychopathic self-interest, but to simply stop letting them do it. the best way to defeat an enemy is not to destroy them, but to make them irrelevant. recommended
  • how the other half works: an adventure in the low status of software engineers, there was a time, perhaps 20 years gone by now, when the valley was different. engineers ran the show. technologists helped each other. programmers worked in r&d environments with high levels of autonomy and encouragement. to paraphrase from one r&d shop's internal slogan, bad ideas were good and good ideas were great. silicon valley was an underdog, a sideshow, an ellis island for misfits and led by "sheepdogs" intent on keeping mainstream mba culture (which would destroy the creative capacity of that industry, for good) away. that period ended. san francisco joined the "paper belt" cities of boston, new york, washington and los angeles. venture capital became hollywood for ugly people. the valley became a victim of its own success. bay area landlords made it big. fail-outs from mba-culture strongholds like mckinsey and goldman sachs found a less competitive arena in which they could boss nerds around with impunity; if you weren't good enough to make md at the bank, you went west to become a vc-funded founder. the one group of people that didn't win out in this new valley order were software engineers. housing costs went up far faster than their salaries, and they were gradually moved from being partners in innovation to being implementors' of well-connected mba-culture fail-outs' shitty ideas. that's where we are now
  • the problem with founders, the secret of silicon valley is that the benefits of working at a startup accrues almost entirely to the founders, and that's why people repeat the advice to just go start a business. there is a reason it is hard to hire in silicon valley today, and it isn't just that there are a lot of startups. it's because engineers and other creators are realizing that the cards are stacked against them unless they are the ones in charge
  • the pitchforks are coming… for us plutocrats, we rich people have been falsely persuaded by our schooling and the affirmation of society, and have convinced ourselves, that we are the main job creators. it's simply not true. there can never be enough super-rich americans to power a great economy. i earn about 1,000 times the median american annually, but i don't buy thousands of times more stuff. my family purchased three cars over the past few years, not 3,000. i buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most american men. i bought two pairs of the fancy wool pants i am wearing as i write, what my partner mike calls my "manager pants." i guess i could have bought 1,000 pairs. but why would i? instead, i sock my extra money away in savings, where it doesn't do the country much good. so forget all that rhetoric about how america is great because of people like you and me and steve jobs. you know the truth even if you won't admit it: if any of us had been born in somalia or the congo, all we'd be is some guy standing barefoot next to a dirt road selling fruit. it's not that somalia and congo don't have good entrepreneurs. it's just that the best ones are selling their wares off crates by the side of the road because that's all their customers can afford

not just a label relaunch

it's a great feeling to watch a child of yours grow up. this just happened last week, when the guys at not just a label relaunched their website along with a new technology stack. a company which i co-founded and served as cto for almost five years.

along with their relaunch they published an essay on the importance of free and open source software and open innovation (including yours truly). i am especially honored to be featured along aral balkan and his indie tech initiative.

summing up 58

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.

  • visualizing algorithms, so, why visualize algorithms? why visualize anything? to leverage the human visual system to improve understanding. or more simply, to use vision to think. highly recommended
  • what scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit? the mediocrity principle, the reason this is so essential to science is that it's the beginning of understanding how we came to be here and how everything works. we look for general principles that apply to the universe as a whole first, and those explain much of the story; and then we look for the quirks and exceptions that led to the details. it's a strategy that succeeds and is useful in gaining a deeper knowledge. starting with a presumption that a subject of interest represents a violation of the properties of the universe, that it was poofed uniquely into existence with a specific purpose, and that the conditions of its existence can no longer apply, means that you have leapt to an unfounded and unusual explanation with no legitimate reason. what the mediocrity principle tells us is that our state is not the product of intent, that the universe lacks both malice and benevolence, but that everything does follow rules - and that grasping those rules should be the goal of science
  • intuitive equals familiar, as an interface designer i am often asked to design a "better" interface to some product. usually one can be designed such that, in terms of learning time, eventual speed of operation (productivity), decreased error rates, and ease of implementation it is superior to competing or the client's own products. even where my proposals are seen as significant improvements, they are often rejected nonetheless on the grounds that they are not intuitive. it is a classic "catch 22." the client wants something that is significantly superior to the competition. but if superior, it cannot be the same, so it must be different (typically the greater the improvement, the greater the difference). therefore it cannot be intuitive, that is, familiar
  • "i think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we're tool-builders. i read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. the condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. and humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list; it was not too proud of a showing for the crown of creation. so, that didn't look so good. but then somebody at scientific american had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. and a man on a bicycle-or a human on a bicycle-blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts. and that's what a computer is to me. what a computer is to me is, it's the most remarkable tool that we've ever come up with. and it's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds", steve jobs
  • what's on your mind? short film by shaun higton