summing up 63

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.

  • is there love in the telematic embrace? by roy ascott. it is the computer that is at the heart of this circulation system, and, like the heart, it works best when least noticed - that is to say, when it becomes invisible. at present, the computer as a physical, material presence is too much with us; it dominates our inventory of tools, instruments, appliances, and apparatus as the ultimate machine. in our artistic and educational environments it is all too solidly there, a computational block to poetry and imagination. it is not transparent, nor is it yet fully understood as pure system, a universal transformative matrix. the computer is not primarily a thing, an object, but a set of behaviors, a system, actually a system of systems. data constitute its lingua franca. it is the agent of the datafield, the constructor of dataspace. where it is seen simply as a screen presenting the pages of an illuminated book, or as an internally lit painting, it is of no artistic value. where its considerable speed of processing is used simply to simulate filmic or photographic representations, it becomes the agent of passive voyeurism. where access to its transformative power is constrained by a typewriter keyboard, the user is forced into the posture of a clerk. the electronic palette, the light pen, and even the mouse bind us to past practices. the power of the computer's presence, particularly the power of the interface to shape language and thought, cannot be overestimated. it may not be an exaggeration to say that the "content" of a telematic art will depend in large measure on the nature of the interface; that is, the kind of configurations and assemblies of image, sound, and text, the kind of restructuring and articulation of environment that telematic interactivity might yield, will be determined by the freedoms and fluidity available at the interface. highly recommended
  • on the reliability of programs, by e.w. dijkstra. automatic computers are with us for twenty years and in that period of time they have proved to be extremely flexible and powerful tools, the usage of which seems to be changing the face of the earth (and the moon, for that matter!) in spite of their tremendous influence on nearly every activity whenever they are called to assist, it is my considered opinion that we underestimate the computer's significance for our culture as long as we only view them in their capacity of tools that can be used. they have taught us much more: they have taught us that programming any non-trivial performance is really very difficult and i expect a much more profound influence from the advent of the automatic computer in its capacity of a formidable intellectual challenge which is unequalled in the history of mankind. this opinion is meant as a very practical remark, for it means that unless the scope of this challenge is realized, unless we admit that the tasks ahead are so difficult that even the best of tools and methods will be hardly sufficient, the software failure will remain with us. we may continue to think that programming is not essentially difficult, that it can be done by accurate morons, provided you have enough of them, but then we continue to fool ourselves and no one can do so for a long time unpunished
  • "institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution", the shirky principle
  • if no one reads the manual, that's okay, if you think about it, the technical writer is in an unusual role. users hate the presence of manuals as much as they hate missing manuals. they despise lack of detail yet curse length. if no one reads the help, your position lacks value. if everyone reads the help, you're on a sinking ship. ideally, you want the user interface to be simple enough not to need help. but the more you contribute to this user interface simplicity, the less you're needed
  • 44 engineering management lessons
  • the grain of the material in design, because of the particular characteristics of a specific piece's grain, a design can't simply be imposed on the material. you can "go with the grain" or "go against the grain," but either way you have to understand the grain of the material to successfully design and produce a work. design for technology shouldn't be done separately from the material - it must be done as an intimate and tactile collaboration with the material of technology.

summing up 62

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.

  • capturing the upside, by clayton christensen. the notion here is that if you create a new business that tries to position itself at the point in a value chain where really attractive money is being made, by the time you get there it probably will have gone, and you can tell where it's gone in a very predictable way, and that's what i want to try to get at here. over on this side of the world, the money tends to be made by the company that designs the architecture, the system, that solves what is not good enough. because it's functionality and reliability that's not good enough, the company that makes this systems that is proprietary and optimized tends to be at the place where most of the profit in the industry is made. because the performance of that kind of a product isn't dictated by the individual components, of which it is comprised; this is determined at the level of the architecture of the system, and that is where the money is made. but on this side, when it becomes more than good enough and the architecture becomes modular, where the money is made flips to the inside of the product. how are you going to do this? anything you can do, the competitors can just copy instantly because in a nonintegrated word, you're outsourcing from a common supplier base, and when the architecture of the system is modular, and it fits together according to industry standards, the better products are not created through clever architectural design; the performance of the product is driven by what's inside. highly recommended
  • seth godin's startup school (transcript), in the summer of 2012 i had an amazing opportunity to spend three days with a group of extremely motivated entrepreneurs - people right at the beginning of building their project, launching their organization. during those three days i took them on a guided tour of some of the questions they were going to have to wrestle with, some of the difficult places they were going through to stand up and say, "this is me. this is what i'm making". highly recommended
  • snowden and the future, by eben moglen. when there is no collective voice for those who are within structures that deceive and oppress, then somebody has to act courageously on his own. someone has to face all the risk for a tiny share of the total benefit that will be reaped by all. such a man may be walking the pathway from slavery to freedom. but any such man worthy of the effort will know that he may also be digging his own grave. when there is no union, we require heroism. or we perish for want of what we should have known, that there was neither collective will nor individual courage to bring us. it takes a union to end slavery because a man who decides that the will of the righteous commands us to free slaves will be called a traitor, and they will hang him-more than once. highly recommended
  • frank sinatra's 1963 playboy interview, i think i can sum up my religious feelings in a couple of paragraphs. first: i believe in you and me. i'm like albert schweitzer and bertrand russell and albert einstein in that i have a respect for life - in any form. i believe in nature, in the birds, the sea, the sky, in everything i can see or that there is real evidence for. if these things are what you mean by god, then i believe in god. but i don't believe in a personal god to whom i look for comfort or for a natural on the next roll of the dice. i'm not unmindful of man's seeming need for faith; i'm for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of jack daniel's. but to me religion is a deeply personal thing in which man and god go it alone together, without the witch doctor in the middle. the witch doctor tries to convince us that we have to ask god for help, to spell out to him what we need, even to bribe him with prayer or cash on the line. well, i believe that god knows what each of us wants and needs. it's not necessary for us to make it to church on sunday to reach him. you can find him anyplace. and if that sounds heretical, my source is pretty good: matthew, five to seven, the sermon on the mount

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