summing up 57

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 critique of technocentrism in thinking about the school of the future, by seymour papert. so we are entering this computer future; but what will it be like? what sort of a world will it be? there is no shortage of experts, futurists, and prophets who are ready to tell us, but they don't agree. the utopians promise us a new millennium, a wonderful world in which the computer will solve all our problems. the computer critics warn us of the dehumanizing effect of too much exposure to machinery, and of disruption of employment in the workplace and the economy. who is right? well, both are wrong - because they are asking the wrong question. the question is not "what will the computer do to us?" the question is "what will we make of the computer?" the point is not to predict the computer future. the point is to make it. highly recommended
  • inside the mirrortocracy, if spam filters sorted messages the way silicon valley sorts people, you'd only get email from your college roommate. and you'd never suspect you were missing a thing. lest you get the wrong idea, i'm not making a moral case but a fairly amoral one. it's hard to argue against the fact that the valley is unfairly exclusionary. this implies that there is a large untapped talent pool to be developed. since the tech war boils down to a talent war, the company that figures out how to get over itself and tap that pool wins. highly recommended
  • programming languages, operating systems, despair and anger, it's pretty damn sad that something as limited and now ancient as bash represents some kind of optimum of productivity for many real-world "everyday programming" tasks - and yet fails so miserably for so many other everyday programming tasks due to lack of data abstraction and richness. 90% of the shit that gets written doesn't even involve anything as complicated as finding set partitions. really
  • we lost the war. welcome to the world of tomorrow, we need to assume that it will take a couple of decades before the pendulum will swing back into the freedom direction, barring a total breakdown of civilization as we know it. only when the oppression becomes to burdensome and open, there might be a chance to get back to overall progress of mankind earlier. if the powers that be are able to manage the system smoothly and skillfully, we cannot make any prediction as to when the new dark ages will be over
  • the gloaming, short film by niko nobrain

summing up 56

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.

  • what the theory of "disruptive innovation" gets wrong, the logic of disruptive innovation is the logic of the startup: establish a team of innovators, set a whiteboard under a blue sky, and never ask them to make a profit, because there needs to be a wall of separation between the people whose job is to come up with the best, smartest, and most creative and important ideas and the people whose job is to make money by selling stuff. disruptive innovation is a theory about why businesses fail. it's not more than that. it doesn't explain change. it's not a law of nature. it's an artifact of history, an idea, forged in time; it's the manufacture of a moment of upsetting and edgy uncertainty. transfixed by change, it's blind to continuity. it makes a very poor prophet. highly recommended
  • five things we need to know about technological change, by neil postman. in the past, we experienced technological change in the manner of sleep-walkers. our unspoken slogan has been "technology über alles," and we have been willing to shape our lives to fit the requirements of technology, not the requirements of culture. this is a form of stupidity, especially in an age of vast technological change. we need to proceed with our eyes wide open so that we many use technology rather than be used by it. highly recommended (pdf)
  • how children what? and so in the twenty-three years since the creation of the world wide web, "a bicycle for the mind" became "a treadmill for the brain". one helps you get where you want under your own power. another's used to simulate the natural world and is typically about self-discipline, self-regulation, and self-improvement. one is empowering; one is slimming. one you use with friends because it's fun; the other you use with friends because it isn't. our tools and services increasingly do things to us, not for us. and they certainly aren't about helping us to do things with them
  • "all our inventions are but improved means to an unimproved end", henry david thoreau
  • a developer's responsibility, even though developers sometimes love to put on their headphones and crank out some piece of software wizardry, it's important to occasionally step out of the office and engage with your customers. regularly seeing the daily work-life of your users first-hand helps establish that sense of responsibility to the end-user, and it makes the software better for it
  • how the rainbow color map misleads, despite its importance for perception and visualization, color continues to be a surprisingly little understood topic. people often seem to be content with default colors, or with an arbitrary selection that just happens to look good. but without great care when picking colors, you can do a lot of damage to your visualization

summing up 55

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.

  • ease at work, i visualize my sense of unease or dis-ease as pendulum. and the pendulum swings from over here, we have the master of the universe, we have the programmer who's better than anybody else. then, the other side of the pendulum. and usually this happens after i made a particularly egregious mistake. on this side of the pendulum i am a waste of carbon, i am the worst programmer ever born. now are those stories true? no, but i am addicted telling myself both of those stories. i am wasting time, blowing off opportunities, throwing away the energy and gifts i've been given. so, what am i looking for? i am looking for a space in the middle, i'm still gonna swing. i'm still gonna think i'm better than i really am, i'm still gonna think i'm worse than i really am. but i would like to reduce the amplitude a bunch. if i can do that, i might not be at ease, but i'll be a lot closer than i am today. recommended
  • teaching creative computer science, we've ended up focusing too much on technology, on things, on devices, on those seductive boxes and not enough on ideas. i want our children not only to consume technology but to be imaginative creators of technological artefacts. i want them to be creative writers as well as appreciative readers. i want them to understand what they're doing as well how the stuff that they're using works as well as using it. arthur c. clarke once famously remarked that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. i think it's very damaging if our children come to believe that the computer systems they use are essentially magic. that is: not under their control
  • seeing spaces, i think people need to work in a space that moves them away from the kinds of non-scientific thinking that you do when you can't see what you're doing - moves them away from blindly following recipes, from superstitions and rules of thumb - and moves them towards deeply understanding what they're doing, inventing new things, discovering new things, contributing back to the global pool of human knowledge
  • the pivot, in an environment in which start-up resources are not limited, and no one can predict the next winner, and it is easy to measure customer behavior in great detail, the internet is no longer a technology. the internet is a psychology experiment. in this environment, quality is less important than speed. so the most prized technical people are the ones who can work quickly and produce one buggy prototype after another. and that brings me to the next observation. psychology has evolved to be a function of speed plus measurement. we're nearing the point at which the best psychologist in the world is any computer with access to big data, and any start-up that is rapidly testing one idea after another. that's a system that makes sense to me. in a complicated environment, systems work better than goals
  • interview with david graeber, in socialist regimes you couldn't really get fired from your job. as a result you didn't really have to work very hard. so on paper they had eight- or nine-hour days but really everyone was working maybe four or five. you get up. you buy the paper. you go to work. you read the paper. then maybe a little work, and a long lunch, including a visit to the public bath… if you think about it in that light, it makes the achievements of the socialist bloc seem pretty impressive: a country like russia managed to go from a backwater to a major world power with everyone working maybe on average four or five hours a day. but the problem is they couldn't take credit for it. they had to pretend it was a problem, "the problem of absenteeism," or whatever, because of course work was considered the ultimate moral virtue. they couldn't take credit for the great social benefit they actually provided. which is, incidentally, the reason that workers in socialist countries had no idea what they were getting into when they accepted the idea of introducing capitalist-style work discipline. "what, we have to ask permission to go to the bathroom?" it seemed just as totalitarian to them as accepting a soviet-style police state would have been to us. that ambivalence in the heart of the worker's movement remains. on the one hand, there's this ideological imperative to validate work as virtue in itself. which is constantly being reinforced by the larger society. on the other hand, there's the reality that most work is obviously stupid, degrading, unnecessary, and the feeling that it is best avoided whenever possible

summing up 54

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.

  • patterns of software, a collection of essays on patterns, software, writing, business, and my life story. the two essays habitability and piecemeal growth and the bead game, rugs and beauty alone are worth reading the book. highly recommended (pdf)
  • the internet with a human face, one of the worst aspects of surveillance is how it limits our ability to be creative with technology. it's like a tax we all have to pay on innovation. we can't have cool things, because they're too potentially invasive. imagine if we didn't have to worry about privacy, if we had strong guarantees that our inventions wouldn't immediately be used against us. highly recommended
  • finding the right job for your product, by clayton christensen. it appears that the precipitating event that allows the winning strategy of an emerging company to coalesce is the clarification of a job that customers need to get done for which its product is being hired. it is only when the job is well-understood that the business model and the products and services required todo it perfectly become clear. then, and only then, can the company "take off". recommended (pdf)
  • a conversation with werner vogels, giving developers operational responsibilities has greatly enhanced the quality of the services, both from a customer and a technology point of view. the traditional model is that you take your software to the wall that separates development and operations, and throw it over and then forget about it. not here. you build it, you run it
  • "there is always a well-known solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong", h. l. mencken
  • paths of hate, short film by damian nenow

summing up 53

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.

  • failure, by adam savage. every parent will tell you that you make a rule for your kid and they'll break it, you put a wall up and they'll push against it. there's a prevailing theory that this is how a child learns the shape of the world. and if you don't give them any boundaries they start freaking out. we all know children who don't get any boundaries and they start freaking out because the world feels unsafe to them. they need someone to tell them what the limit is and i think that failure in my life has worked in the exact same way. it doesn't teach me the limit of the world but it teaches me the shape of my intuition. there's one thing i've learned which is that a craftsman isn't somebody who doesn't make mistakes. it's not about the cessation of failure, it's about recognizing that it's occurring, recognizing that it's going to be an inherent part of the process and recognizing that you gotta dance with that. sometimes it's gonna catch up with you, sometimes you're gonna screw things up so badly and it's gonna be fine in the end. i don't trust people that haven't failed. highly recommended
  • a personal computer for children of all ages, by alan kay. with dewey, piaget and papert, we believe that children "learn by doing" and that much of the alienation in modern education comes from the great philosophical distance between the kinds of things children can "do" and much of 20-century adult behavior. unlike the african child whose play with bow and arrow involves him in future adult activity, the american child can either indulge in irrelevant imitation like the child in a nurse's uniform taking care of a doll or is forced to participate in activities which will not bear fruit for many years and will leave him alienated. if we want children to learn any particular area, then it is clearly up to us to provide them with something real and enjoyable to "do" on their way to perfection of both the art and the skill. highly recommended
  • everything is broken, it's hard to explain to regular people how much technology barely works, how much the infrastructure of our lives is held together by the it equivalent of baling wire. but computers don't serve the needs of both privacy and coordination not because it's somehow mathematically impossible. there are plenty of schemes that could federate or safely encrypt our data, plenty of ways we could regain privacy and make our computers work better by default. it isn't happening now because we haven't demanded that it should, not because no one is clever enough to make that happen
  • how did software get so reliable without proof? by tony hoare. this review of programming methodology reveals how much the best of current practice owes to the ideas and understanding gained by research which was completed more than twenty years ago. the existence of such a large gap between theory and practice is deplored by many, but i think quite wrongly. the gap is actually an extremely good sign of the maturity and good health of our discipline, and the only deplorable results are those that arise from failure to recognise it (pdf)
  • "the fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt", bertrand russell