10,000 Original Copies · Klim Type Foundry
Over the last 10 years or so I redrew National, one of my first typefaces, as National 2. It’s completely redrawn, no two letterforms are exactly the same, and I added a bunch of new styles. But to me it is still National. It’s what I wanted to draw 10 years ago, but didn’t have the skill, time or patience.

While I was writing this talk I realised that, in effect, I had torn down my own shrine and rebuilt it.

I’m doing the same thing with Futura, Helvetica, the types of Van Den Keere, with Akzidenz Grotesk and Plantin. I am not going to let them die in the museums. I’m going to take what I want, and remake them in my own voice, style and accent.

It’s taken me a long time to become comfortable with this idea. Because we all seem to worship in the church of originality, whether we are aware of it or not.
typography  ethics  art  creativity 
11 days ago
Tadashi Tokieda Collects Math and Physics Surprises | Quanta Magazine
One very common question that comes up at the end of a lecture is, “Does all this have any practical applications?” It’s really intriguing because this question is asked in almost exactly the same words wherever I go. It’s like listening to a prerecorded message.

I ask them, what do you think constitutes a practical application? It’s very surprising. Roughly speaking, people converge within five to 10 minutes onto two categories of practical applications. One is, if you manage to make several million dollars instantly. The other is, if you manage to kill millions of people instantly. Many people are actually kind of shocked by their own answers.

Then I tell them that, well, I don’t know about other people, but I have a practical application for my toys. When I show my toys to some children, they seem to be happy. If that’s not a practical application, what is?
joy  physics  wonder 
14 days ago
On the 'other' developers - musings
The first time you encounter the fact that == works differently in different languages is the first time you realise that you can’t assume programming paradigms from your language maps to other languages. But knowing what differences exist is vital to be able to quickly skill up in that new stack.
engineering  training  pedagogy  software-development  technology 
21 days ago
Your Political Mental Map | The American Conservative
The paradox here, as I wrote about in my book The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming, is that the same tight communal bonds that made small-town life very hard for outsiders and marginalized people like me were what made things so beautiful and loving for my late sister as she suffered from cancer. That is, the things that held me down when I was a teenager living there were not all that different from the things that held her up when she was terminally ill. I don’t know what to do with that. Still don’t.
small-towns  ruralism  rod-dreher  urbanism  community 
5 weeks ago
Questions for prospective employers
The one non-developer and one developer thing is very important. I want to see how different their answers are and how they interact.

The actual questions I’m planning to ask are as follows:

What do you personally like about working here? What do you dislike?
What’s your office culture like? Can you describe the typical sense of humour?
What’s your racial and gender diversity like in the company? Does this vary from team to team? If it’s not good, do you know why and is it something you’re trying to change? How?
What is your company doing to have a positive impact on society? (question suggested by my friend Alex White)
What’s your staff turnover rate like? Is it different from team to team? If it’s high, do you know why people typically leave and is it something you’re trying to change? (question suggested by Jamie MacIver, my brother)
How do you deal with failure? When something goes wrong, what do you do to make sure it doesn’t happen again? (question suggested by my friend Kat Matfield)
Who in your company is completely indispensable? Tell me about them (question suggested by my friend Elisabeth)
How much technical debt do you have? What are you doing to address it? Is it working?
Can you tell me about a change you’ve made in your development process recently? What prompted it? (question suggested by Michael Chermside)
How do you decide and manage what to work on next?
Suppose it is decided that a feature is needed and should be part of the current work priorities. What happens between now and the point where that feature hits production?
What’s your business model like? Is it working? How would you know if it wasn’t working, and how would you go about fixing it?
david-r-maciver  interviewing  career-advice 
8 weeks ago
Investigating ad transparency mechanisms in social media: a case study of Facebook’s explanations
When examining ad explanations provided by Facebook, the key finding is that explanations are often incomplete, and sometimes misleading. Suppose that an advertiser uses several attributes for targeting, the explanations will include at most one of those attributes. If you were going to pick just one attribute of course, then the one with the most explanatory power would probably be the one with the smallest population (i.e., fewer Facebook users with that attribute). But Facebook’s explanations appear to show only the most prevalent attribute (e.g., ‘people in the millennials audience’). This makes the explanations incomplete in a very unhelpful way.
lying  facebook  adrian-colyer  social-media  algorithmism  advertising  the-morning-paper 
8 weeks ago
Capturing and enhancing in situ system observability for failure detection
Panorama proposes a new way of building a failure detecting service by constructing in-situ observers. The evaluation results demonstrate the effectiveness of leveraging observability for detecting complex production failures.

Panorama looks to be the perfect complement to any chaos engineering initiative.
software-development  chaos-engineering  adrian-colyer  observability  the-morning-paper 
8 weeks ago
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear blinders
In his books Empire and Communication (1950) and The Bias of Communication (1951), the Canadian historian Harold Innis argued that all communication systems incorporate biases, which shape how people communicate and hence how they think. These biases can, in the long run, exert a profound influence over the organization of society and the course of history. “Bias,” it seems to me, is exactly the right word. The media we use to communicate push us to communicate in certain ways, reflecting, among other things, the workings of the underlying technologies and the financial and political interests of the businesses or governments that promulgate the technologies. (For a simple but important example, think of the way personal correspondence has been changed by the shift from letters delivered through the mail to emails delivered via the internet to messages delivered through smartphones.) A bias is an inclination. Its effects are not inevitable, but they can be strong. To temper them requires awareness and, yes, resistance.
technology  bias  winning-slowly-season-6  l-m-sacasas  technique  futurism  nick-carr  technologism 
8 weeks ago
Protocol aware recovery for consensus based storage
Within a replicated state machine system, there are three critical persistent data structures: the log, the snapshots, and the metainfo. The log maintains the history of commands, snapshots are used to allow garbage collection of the log and prevent it from growing indefinitely, and the metainfo contains critical metadata such as the log start index. Any of these could be corrupted due to storage faults. None of the current approaches analysed by the authors could correctly recover from such faults.
the-morning-paper  distributed-systems  software-development  adrian-colyer  computer-science  raft  paxos 
9 weeks ago
Zeldman on Web & Interaction Design | Web design news and insights since 1995
For a publishing house brand, rejection over time equals design. It’s as important to our brand as the content we choose to help shape and publish. You can think of rejection as a form of whitespace.
jeffery-zeldman  publishing  design 
9 weeks ago
Career narratives.
Importantly, while generalized career paths won't necessary align cleanly with your goals, they also are unlikely to take full advantage of your strengths. While an important part of setting your goals is developing areas you're less experienced in to maximize your global success, it's equally important to succeed locally within your current environment by prioritizing doing what you do well.

With all of this in mind, take an hour and write up as many goals as you can for what you'd like to accomplish in the next one to five years. Then prioritize the list, pick a few that you'd like to focus on for the next three to six months, and share it with your manager to discuss at your next one-on-one.

…if you don't [have a career narrative], then there is probably no one guiding your career. Chasing the next promotion is at best a marker on a mass-produced treasure map, with every shovel and metal detector recovering the same patch. Don't go there. Go somewhere that's disproportionately valuable to you because of who you are and what you want.
career-advice  will-larson  management 
10 weeks ago
Scalability! But at what COST?
Lots of people struggle with the complexities of getting big data systems up and running, when they possibly shouldn’t be using the systems in the first place. The data sets above are certainly not small (billions of edges), but still run just fine on a laptop. Much faster than the distributed systems, at least.

Here are two helpful guidelines (for largely disjoint populations):

1. If you are going to use a big data system for yourself, see if it is faster than your laptop.
2. If you are going to build a big data system for others, see that it is faster than my laptop.
software-development  big-data  graph-algorithms  parallelism  rust  frank-mcsherry  c# 
10 weeks ago
Antics, drift, and chaos
A discussion of how Netflix uses “chaos engineering” to deal with the challenges of distributed systems in modern computing. Particularly of interest in regard to his discussion of the *challenges* of modern computing: chaos engineering is neat, but his comments on system behavior are far *more* interesting.
chaos-engineering  lorin-hochstein  emergence  software-development  netflix 
10 weeks ago
It's Hard to Reason About Systems • Hillel Wayne
Too bad everything we like is nonlinear. By having good tests you can move faster. That’s nonlinear. Types support better refactoring tools? Nonlinear. Using Clojure will attract better developers? Nonlinear. Everything’s nonlinear. And, of course, they don’t have to be first-order. Changing the rate of impact on B can change the rate on C. We can also go deeper: Not only can we change the degree of impacts of actions, we can change how much we change the degree of impacts!

Hopefully you’re starting to see why we can’t reason our way to answers. Programming isn’t a set of isolated factors you can tackle separately. Everything impacts everything else. We can’t solve a complex system with thinking alone. If you disagree, consider physics: there’s no closed-form solution to the three body problem. Why would a 100-body problem be any different?

If software is so complicated, how do we get anything done? Humans are fantastic at rough heuristics. All these complexities soak into our brains and we build an intuition about how it all works. But heuristics are also intensely irrational. That’s not a bad thing! It just means that it depends as much on our experiences, emotions, and muscle memory as it does on our conscious thought. Good for getting stuff done. But the further we get from our narrow experiences, the less useful it becomes. That means it’s pretty bad for finding the objective truth. Just because TDD works for you doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone else. Your intuition about your system may not apply to their system.

When we do communicate, we tend to simplify. This is necessary and practical. Second-order impacts tend to be smaller than first-order impacts, third-order smaller still. We can often disregard them as being small enough to be negligable. Adding tests takes up disk space, but you usually don’t care about that. Using up more disk space means pushing to remote takes slightly longer, but you care even less about that. On the other hand, you can’t always write off the second-order impacts: in fact, we often obsess over them.
agile-software-development  software-development  hillel-wayne  plt  type-theory  testing  systems-engineering  complexity 
10 weeks ago
Unit Tests Aren't Tests • Hillel Wayne
The problem is that your program is a collection of interdependent units, and you’re not testing the total program with unit tests. There’s this idea in physics called “emergence”, where simple systems interacting with simple rules give rise to complex systems acting by effectively different rules. For example, atoms are relatively well-understood, self-contained models. Chuck enough of them in a box and suddenly you have the entire field of solid-state physics. Add the assumption that “electrons can’t be inside the protons” and now you have semiconductors. Add a couple more rules and physics throws its hands in the air, says “fuck this”, and fobs it off on the chemists.

Code exhibits emergence too. Enough interacting units and your program is vastly more complex than the sum of its parts. Even if each unit is well-behaved and works according to its unit tests, the bulk of the complexity is in their integration. Since you’re interested in the program behaving correctly, not its individual units of code, and since unit tests don’t determine the program is behaving correctly (only the code), they’re not testing the program. Ergo, they’re not tests. They’re development.
software-development  agile-software-development  hillel-wayne  testing  emergence  unit-tests 
10 weeks ago
How is a Class like a Microservice? • Hillel Wayne
And without that notation, it’s hard to see that one of the major claimed benefits of a microservice architecture, separation of concerns, is us using devops to compensate for a flaw in our programming language. This doesn’t mean that microservices are bad. What it does mean is that we need to be clear of what we want out of microservices. If we want microservices to improve scalability or use multiple languages, then they may be the right choice. But if we want them primarily for the separation of concerns, I think that’s a bad idea.

Let’s tie this off with an exercise for the reader. Notation is really powerful. With just three components and a couple rules we were able to see symmetries between classes and services. By defining a specific subset of this abstraction we were able to show why Ruby’s module system encourages coupling. But there are all sorts of ways we can strengthen or weaken the model. Just a few examples:

- Arrows have to end at ports. What if we placed restrictions on where they start?
- For proper interfaces, arrows can’t cross into a box. What if arrows couldn’t cross out of a box?
- Can two boxes intersect? Can a box be inside two different boxes at once?
- What if we assigned boxes and ports different “colors” and used that to restrict arrows?
- Make some small tweaks to the model. What real-world programming structures does it represent now? What can we learn from it?
programming  hillel-wayne  plt  software-development  microservices  Ruby  Java  devops 
10 weeks ago
The Narrow Passage of Gortahig
Have they ever thought about, you know, widening the road?

Well, it is someone’s house and shed, you’re gently told, a family that’s lived there a long time. Some years ago, the owner evidently offered to let the shed be knocked down to open some more room for the road, but others in west Cork County weren’t passionate about forcing that change. The only group motivated to alter the road were the tour companies that wanted to send large coaches around the Ring of Beara, like they do on the next peninsula over, Kerry.

Given the history of the property and the cost of a new road, the majority decided just to let things be. So the narrow passage of Gortahig remains.
winning-slowly  dan-cohen  Ireland  small-towns  economics 
11 weeks ago
Why Logical Clocks are Easy
Tracking causality should not be ignored. It is important in the design of many distributed algorithms. And not respecting causality can lead to strange behaviors for users, as reported by multiple authors.1,9

The mechanisms for tracking causality and the rules used in these mechanisms are often seen as complex,6,15 and their presentation is not always intuitive. The most commonly used mechanisms for tracking causality—vector clocks and version vectors—are simply optimized representations of causal histories, which are easy to understand.

By building on the notion of causal histories, you can begin to see the logic behind these mechanisms, to identify how they differ, and even consider possible optimizations. When confronted with an unfamiliar causality-tracking mechanism, or when trying to design a new system that requires it, readers should ask two simple questions: (a) Which events need tracking? (b) How does the mechanism translate back to a simple causal history?
logical-clocks  causality  software-development  version-vectors  version-clocks  acm 
11 weeks ago
Go: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Rust is climbing higher in the stack with great web frameworks and nice ORMs. It also gives you that warm feeling of "if it compiles, errors will come from the logic I wrote, not language quirks I forgot to pay attention to".
rust  plt  software-development  programming 
12 weeks ago
Exception Handling Considered Harmful
In order to write exception-safe code, at every significant line of code the programmer must take the possibility of an exception and rollback happening into account, to be sure the code cleans up properly and leaves things in a suitable, stable state if an exception occurs – that it doesn't leave a data structure half-modified, or a file or network connection open, for example. That is decidedly non-trivial. It takes a great deal of time and effort, it requires a very high degree of discipline to get right, and it is just far too easy to forget or overlook something – even experts frequently get it wrong.
software-development  product-types  plt  exceptions  programming 
12 weeks ago
My Approach to Getting Dramatically Better as a Programmer – malisper.me
All these lessons are obvious in retrospect. but I had no clue that any of these were issues until I recorded my screen and saw where I was actually spending time.

The steps I take for this exercise are:

Record myself writing some problem. This can either be a problem I worked on at work or a problem from a programming challenge website such as Leetcode.
Go through the recording at 10x speed and annotate what I was doing at each moment.
Total how much time I spent into high level categories. How much time did I spend debugging some bug? How much time did I spend building some feature
Look at the categories I spent the most time in. Then dig into what actually took up that time.
Come up with approaches that would have allowed me to save time. Often there are ways I could have structured my code up front that would have allowed me to write less code or find bugs earlier.
I highly recommend recording your screen. It’s one of the easiest ways to find small changes you can make to make yourself a lot more productive.
productivity  software-development  michael-malis 
12 weeks ago
Big companies v. startups
The compensation trade-off has changed a lot over time. When Paul Graham was writing in 2004, he used $80k/yr as a reasonable baseline for what “a good hacker” might make. Adjusting for inflation, that's about $100k/yr now. But the total comp for “a good hacker” is $250k+/yr, not even counting perks like free food and having really solid insurance. The trade-off has heavily tilted in favor of large companies.

The interesting work trade-off has also changed a lot over time, but the change has been… bimodal. The existence of AWS and Azure means that ideas that would have taken millions of dollars in servers and operational expertise can be done with almost no fixed cost and low marginal costs. The scope of things you can do at an early-stage startup that were previously the domain of well funded companies is large and still growing. But at the same time, if you look at the work Google and MS are publishing at top systems conferences, startups are farther from being able to reproduce the scale-dependent work than ever before (and a lot of the most interesting work doesn't get published). Depending on what sort of work you're interested in, things might look relatively better or relatively worse at big companies.
finance  career-advice  startups  dan-luu 
12 weeks ago
Response to “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” The American Vision
On the flip side, we today believe and actively live out so much of the “radical” worldview for which the despised opponents of those orthodox men and women stood back then, but which was sneered at as Jacobinism, humanism, depravity, unorthodoxy, heresy, Communism, antichrist, and much more. Yet here we are: we are all abolitionists now. If that is Jacobinism, we are all French Revolutionaries. If race-mixing is Communism, as was openly and widely believed in the 50s and 60s, then we are all Communists now also.

If, however, we have seen past all that fearmongering and demagoguery, maybe we should back off a bit this time, too, and make an actual “closer examination.” Maybe we should mark that which is good and important—that which is social about biblical justice and biblical about social justice—and not throw the baby out with the baptismal water. Maybe we need a less ham-fisted, knee-jerk reaction and a more thoughtful one based on God’s law and its outworking of love in the church and society. Maybe, just maybe, the conservative, Bible-believing churches ought to try to lead a social movement on biblical principles, not let the liberals pick up where we fail again, and not circle the wagons again.
john-macarthur  doug-wilson  liberalism  social-justice  joel-mcdurmon  racism 
12 weeks ago
Zuckerberg’s Blindness and Ours —L.M. Sacasas
Reducing knowledge to know-how and doing away with thought leaves us trapped by an impulse to see the world merely as a field of problems to be solved by the application of the proper tool or technique, and this impulse is also compulsive because it cannot abide inaction. We can call this an ideology or we can simply call it a frame of mind, but either way it seems that this is closer to the truth about the mindset of Silicon Valley.

It is not a matter of stupidity or education, formally understood, or any kind of personal turpitude. Indeed, by most accounts, Zuckerberg is both earnest and, in his own way, thoughtful. Rather it is the case that one’s intelligence and one’s education, even if it were deeply humanistic, and one’s moral outlook, otherwise exemplary and decent, are framed by something more fundamental: a distinctive way of perceiving the world. This way of seeing the world, including the human being, as a field of problems to be solved by the application of tools and techniques, bends all of our faculties to its own ends. The solution is the truth, the solution is the good, the solution the beautiful. Nothing that is given is valued.

The trouble with this way of seeing the world is that it cannot quite imagine the possibility that some problems are not susceptible to merely technical solutions or, much less, that some problems are best abided. It is also plagued by hubris—often of the worst sort, the hubris of the powerful and well-intentioned—and, consequently, it is incapable of perceiving its own limits. As in the Greek tragedies, hubris generates blindness, a blindness born precisely out of one’s distinctive way of seeing. And that’s not the worst of it. That worst of it is that we are all, to some degree, now tempted and prone to see the world in just this way too.
knowledge  l-m-sacasas  hannah-arendt  mark-zuckerberg  social-media  facebook  technique  technology  wisdom 
september 2018
Data on discrimination
Differential treatment of women and minorities isn't limited to hiring and blogging. I've lost track of the number of times a woman has offhandedly mentioned to me that some guy assumed she was a recruiter, a front-end dev, a wife, a girlfriend, or a UX consultant. It happens everywhere. At conferences. At parties full of devs. At work. Everywhere. Not only has that never happened to me, the opposite regularly happens to me -- if I'm hanging out with physics or math grad students, people assume I'm a fellow grad student.

When people bring up the market in discussions like these, they make it sound like it's a force of nature. It's not. It's just a word that describes the collective actions of people under some circumstances. Mary's situation didn't automatically get fixed because it's a free market. Mary's rejection by the recruiter got undone when I complained to my engineering director, who put me in touch with an HR director who patiently listened to the story and overturned the decision4. The market is just humans. It's humans all the way down.

We can fix this, if we stop assuming the market will fix it for us, and fix things ourselves.
software-development  racism  sexism  discrimination  computer-science  dan-luu 
september 2018
Audience Overload
while it is impossible to fine-tune that audience in the same way we might work to fine-tune our information flows, we nonetheless can customize it a significant degree and, more importantly, we have some ideal image of that audience in our mind.

It is that image of the audience we desire, the audience we want to please, the audience from whom we seek a reaction to satisfy our emotional cravings—cravings already manipulated by the structure of the platforms that connect us with our audience—it is the image of that audience and the influence it exerts over us that has disordered our public discourse.
michael-sacasas  performativity  information-overload  l-m-sacasas  social-media 
september 2018
The American Scholar: The Privilege Predicament
The absurdity inherent in all of this should not obscure the damage it has wrought: damage in sowing confusion even about the obvious—about the difference between what is important and less important, between doing what is injurious and being deficient in doing what is positively good, between sponsoring injustice and simply living more or less modestly in an imperfect world. To be unable to make these kinds of elementary distinctions is to be radically impaired, and there seems to me no question that the tendency to invoke privilege has exacerbated that impairment. There was, at the heart of the privilege turn, an aspiration to enlightenment. But the partisans committed to promoting the privilege critique are mainly interested in drawing hard lines separating the guilty from the saved, the serenely oblivious from the righteous, fiercely aggrieved, and censorious.
privilege  rhetoric  identity-politics  identity  modernity  robert-boyers 
august 2018
Pure UI Control
…the idea we’re missing is an application’s control states. Previously we enumerated all of an interface’s display states as all the meaningfully different ways it should display. A control state is all the possible states of the interface that have different sets of allowed interactions. Sometimes the two layers of states align, as in a loading state that displays a spinner and ignores all user input. In other cases, an interface’s display state can remain the same even while it’s control state changes.
pure-ui  software-development  design  state  adam-solove  ui  control-flow 
august 2018
Augmenting Agile with Formal Methods
I’m not suggesting formal methods replaces heavy refactoring, pairing, testing, etc, but that it augments it. Specifications give us a means of thinking quickly and deeply about complex systems and finding flaws in our designs. It helps us build higher-quality systems faster and cheaper. If that isn’t Agile I don’t know what is.
agile-software-development  tla+  testing  formal-methods  verification  software-development  hillel-wayne 
july 2018
A Single Prioritized List (a Story) – Hacker Noon
By far the hardest part is the transparency. Perhaps in the past this was just “known” — the less important effort was called equally important, but it wasn’t, or the CEOs pet project was called “strategic” to get it rushed through. But it wasn’t explicit. For that, you need psychological safety and trust.

You are going to hit blockers, and you’ll have a choice…either hide them away, or not. Finally, people see through “fake” autonomy. They sense when the system is highly constrained. So if you want to get to the point where teams can really own their own value streams and be truly independent, you can put that out there as an aspirational goal and keep working towards it.

A single prioritized list of business outcomes/missions, and limit work in progress.
product-management  management  leadership  software-development  john-cutler 
july 2018
Start With Naive Pragmatism
Most folks are more “here and now”, and that heuristic has worked decently well throughout history.
For systems thinkers this can be very challenging. We want to to address the root dynamic. We want something that will “stick” and will be self-sustaining. We may want to engage diverse perspectives to further explore the problem.
But you have to keep your eye on the prize.
Example… say I want to address the problem of unplanned work sapping throughput from my team. I can talk about it on a high level, or I can dig into the last 7 days and look at the specific issues that cropped up. Then I’ll explore the expected issues in the next week, and together with my team try to solve today’s problem (not the broader systems problem).

This isn’t to say that you should abandon lasting solutions. Don’t abandon your “start with the Why” instinct. Keep that, but narrow it down to “why right now”. Most people will respond to local experiments that work. They’ll be initially unreceptive to the bigger discussion — those are scary, and unpredictable, and vague. But with some momentum that can change.
product-management  john-cutler  management  software-development  leadership 
july 2018
PMs: Share Outcomes With Your Team – Hacker Noon
Product managers tend to focus so myopically on what is “on deck” and in progress, that they fail to close the loop on prior work. The second something is shipped — with fanfair and some success theater — the focus shifts to the next thing.… Return to the same dashboards whenever possible to minimize ramp-up and repeat questions. Don’t be afraid to share qualitative data too — real customer/user stories can be incredibly impactful. Invite a customer if you can. Challenge yourself to really own presenting this stuff with confidence, and engaging the team. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, do not be afraid to share negative or disconfirming information…you’ll get far more respect that way vs. being a “know it all PM!”… No magic tool will replace this kind of open and reflective communication. How you spend your time as a team is a good reflection of what you care about.
product-management  engineering  john-cutler  software-development  management 
july 2018
Ripple Effects, No, and Chips On Shoulders…
Backing up I’m hearing a couple things. I’m hearing that you should probably say No, but that saying No doesn’t feel like an option. You’ve dropped hints, and they aren’t biting. Leadership has some cause to ask questions, but they’re also somewhat complicit in the problem. You’re eager to please and don’t want to be pegged as obstructionist. It sounds like a wicked loop of sorts. Who will break the cycle? Someone should break the cycle, right? As long as this persists, things will just get worse and trust and confidence will degrade further.
john-cutler  software-development  culture  engineering 
july 2018
Is Agile the Enemy (of Good Design)?
These two quotes sum up a *huge* amount of what's wrong with a lot of what passes for "Agile" and indeed for "startup culture":
The stuff you’re talking about rarely happens. It is all about “ship, ship, ship”. We don’t pivot. We don’t refine. The product owner just wants to mark it done in Jira. The MVPs are an excuse to get crappy stuff out the door. I guarantee that if I am methodical with my prototype testing, I can come up with something better because I will expose it to users. Not AS great as doing it the perfect Agile way, but better than nothing. I mean I struggle even to do usability testing. So you know…yes in theory all that is good, but it doesn’t happen.
The enemy of both actual agilistas and the UX/design community in 2018 is, as John points out, short-term, output-centric thinking driven by a focus on short-term financial results, and all the cultural ramifications of this mindset.
And this is some hot fire here:
So where does this leave us? Designers have a right to be concerned. At least with waterfall no one prematurely yells “ship it” in the middle of the project. Designers have time to work instead of trying to jump on and off the sprint conveyor belt. And because the “thing” is built in a big batch, they have time to tackle the design problem holistically right from the beginning. “Good” waterfall beats abused Agile any day.
john-cutler  agile  design  ux  startups  culture 
july 2018
Behemoth, bully, thief: how the English language is taking over the planet | News | The Guardian
Current educational discourse is full of talk about the need to bolster children’s cognition. In the culture at large, experts have been trumpeting the cognitive benefits of everything from online brain games to magic mushrooms. Why not try Hopi instead? The point of this education wouldn’t necessarily be to acquire fluency in an extinct or smaller language – it would be to open a door.
linguistics  English  globalization  jacob-mikanowski 
july 2018
The Ignoble Lie by Patrick J. Deneen | Articles | First Things
So long as liberalism was not fully itself—so long as liberalism was corrected and even governed by Christianity—a working social contract was possible. For Christianity, difference is ordered toward unity. For liberalism, unity is valued insofar as it promotes difference. The American experiment blended and confused these two understandings, but just enough to make it a going concern. The balance was always imperfect, leaving out too many, always ­unstably oscillating between quasi-theological evocation of unity and deracinated individualism. But it seemed viable for nearly 250 years. The recent steep decline of religious faith and Christian moral norms is regarded by many as marking the triumph of liberalism, and so, in a sense, it is. Today our unity is understood almost entirely in the light of our differences. We come together—to celebrate diversity. And today, the celebration of diversity ends up serving as a mask for power and inequality.
Christianity  America  unity  pluralism  patrick-deneen  divercity  Christendom  liberalism  post-liberalism 
july 2018
The Barbell Method of Reading
Read the book. Read swiftly but don’t skip any parts unless they make you vomit or put you to sleep. Mark all the passages that stand out and contain useful, interesting or inspiring information.
Read the book a second time. But now you read the marked parts only. This time you make notes, connect them to past notes (Zettelkasten Method!) and think about what you’ve read. Make mindmaps, drawings, bullet points – everything that helps you to think more clearly.
barbell-method  note-taking  learning  zettelkasten  reading  memory 
july 2018
The Other Whisper Network
I can see how the drama of this moment is enticing. It offers a grandeur, a sweeping purity to our possibly flawed and fumbling and ambivalent selves. It justifies all our failings and setbacks and mediocrities; it wasn’t us, it was men, or the patriarchy, holding us back, objectifying us. It is easier to think, for instance, that we were discriminated against than that our story wasn’t good enough or original enough to be published in The Paris Review, or even that it did not meet the editor’s highly idiosyncratic yet widely revered tastes. Or that a man said something awful and sexual to us while we were working on a television show, and we got depressed and could never again achieve what we might have. And yet do we really in our hearts believe that is the whole story? Is this a complete and satisfying explanation? There is, of course, sexism, which looms and shadows us in all kinds of complicated and unmappable ways, but is it the totalizing force, the central organizing narrative, of our lives? This is where the movement veers from important and exhilarating correction into implausibility and rationalization. (One of the deeply anonymous says, “This seems like such a boring way to look at your life.”)
feminism  katie-roiphe  sexuality  sexism  sexual-politics  #metoo 
july 2018
the Aspen Tech Solutionism Festival —Snakes and Ladders “I have long loved the Atlantic and am proud of my association with it, but every time the Aspen Ideas Festival rolls around my inner Unabomber emerges and wants to burn the entire endeavor to th
And the flipside of Madrigal’s post:
Maybe Code for America is reconsidering some of its priorities but it’s still Code for America and its “solutions” inevitably involve deepening people’s dependence on Big Tech. (“We can give you a texting tool that allows you to text with people and it’s been shown to decrease the rates of failure to appear.”)
aspen-ideas-festival  politics  silicon-valley  google  alan-jacobs  technology 
june 2018
Civic Tech in a Time of Technopessimism
Her point was: It’s not the technology that’s significant—a texting tool is not a complex technical artifact—but the tool can change the way the system works.

Here in 2018, it’s possible that you’ve noticed that tech did not save government. But some parents who have been accused of crimes in Tulsa, Oklahoma are now spending the night at home with their kids instead of in jail. Or to take another major Code for America initiative, a bunch of California counties have now made it easier to apply for food stamps.

Neither of these efforts is likely to be hailed as “technology saving government,” but maybe those big abstractions were part of the problem.
criminal-justice  alexis-madrigal  government  ethics  code-for-america  recidivism  technology  silicon-valley  politics  probation  alexis-c-madrigal  localism 
june 2018
UTC is Enough for Everyone, Right?
Building a calendar sucks. Like there’s really cool shit you can do, since every calendar out there today is basically straight outta 2005, but at the end of the day you’re stuck dealing with all of the edge cases that all your dork friends have warned you about since the dawn of time. (Like literally, the dawn of time is a separate edge case you have to account for as well.) So there’s been a lot of heinous stuff we’ve had to work with.
This is a truly amazing compendium of weird time bugs.
time  zach-holman  iso8601  programming 
june 2018
The Great Theorem Prover Showdown —Hillel Wayne “Functional programming and immutability are hot right now. On one hand, this is pretty great as there’s lots of nice things about functional programming.”
Functional programming and immutability are hot right now. On one hand, this is pretty great as there’s lots of nice things about functional programming. On the other hand, people get a little overzealous and start claiming that imperative code is unnatural or that purity is always preferable to mutation.

I think that the appropriate paradigm is heavily dependent on context, but a lot of people speak in universals. I keep hearing that it’s easier to analyze pure functional code than mutable imperative code. But nobody gives rigorous arguments for this and nobody provides concrete examples. Nobody actually digs into why assignments and transitions are so much harder to reason about than pure functions and IO monads. We’re just supposed to accept it as an axiom.

I don’t like accepting things as axioms. If we make a claim, we better damn well put it to the test.
hillel-wayne  dafny  fp  type-theory  programming  haskell  idris  agda  ip  computer-science  fstar  theorem-proving 
june 2018
We Are What We Build, by Eric Meyer · The Manual
Kathy Sierra, who has been targeted for harassment more than once, relates in her book Badass that the horse trainer’s mantra is: “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult.”8 Now consider the converse: what is easy comes to be accepted as the right thing, and what is difficult comes to be regarded as the wrong thing. That’s why I say what we do now isn’t neutral. Everything we do, from what we share to how we interact with our networks to how those networks are structured, is influencing the near future of our societies. Not just the hyper-digital developed world’s societies, but all societies everywhere, because what happens online will shape what happens offline.
And speaking of concepts that may make no sense in a couple of decades, consider the idea that there’s a distinction between online and offline. We often try to demarcate them, talking about the virtual and real worlds as if the internet is a different planet that we sometimes visit and then return home. That’s never been true, but the mobile revolution has made the fiction obvious. The internet is no more a separate, “virtual” world than are books or songs. We talk to each other directly, and share ourselves, whatever the medium.
We wouldn’t say that by making a phone call we enter a different world; when we go online, we aren’t going away either. Wherever we go, we take ourselves with us, and seek to be heard.

All of this is right, but the first bit is more right.

That there is no true divider between our online and offline selves is not the same thing as there being no important differences between interacting digitally and acting in person – just as communicating only via letter is different in important ways from interacting in person, and indeed is also not neutral!
gamergate  eric-meyer  technology  ethics  norms  twitter  internet  social-media 
june 2018
The New Web Typography › Robin Rendle
I think we need to at least acknowledge that typography, reading and design in general is far more complicated than we’d like to admit. And where we stand on this spectrum is predominately what shapes those experiences more than anything else.

We have to acknowledge the subtlety of this continuum in our work, even if we prefer the comforts of one specific point.

And this:
The text above is predictable since it will be rendered in every browser. The font, however, is fragile in comparison. It’s a critical point of failure for typographers to grapple with, and ultimately we must accept that preparing our typographic interfaces with failure in mind is better than the alternative.
progressive-enhancement  robin-rendle  typography  design 
june 2018
The React is “just” JavaScript Myth - daverupert.com
jQuery was just JavaScript too (no VBScript whatsoever). I jest, but I think React and jQuery share a lot about what makes a successful project: an intuitive syntactic sugar API and a bubbling ecosystem of plugins and extensions that solve common developer problems. Other largely-adopted technologies like WordPress, Rails, heck even Linux, possess those same characteristics.
This is exactly right. React itself is “just JS” (though… so is every other framework?) but it’s the ecosystem that makes it viable and that’s a lot more than just your bog-standard vanilla JS.
jquery  react  dave-rupert  javascript 
june 2018
Reading Jonathan Edwards (Nathan Finn)
Most Colonial Puritans believed that God prepared the elect for regeneration through their participation in various means of grace such as public worship, prayer, and fasting. They believed that the normal course of one’s spiritual life was to be raised in a Christian family, participate in these means of grace, and at some point to come into awareness of their regeneration, which would result in “owning the covenant” (professing Christ publicly) for themselves. They also believed it was presumptuous to express assurance of one’s salvation. Edwards pushed back on this formula. Far more than his Puritan predecessors, he emphasized the experience of conversion, which was evidence of one’s regeneration and, consequently, one’s election. He thought it was normal to have a basic assurance of one’s salvation, even while admitting that God alone knows the heart of each individual. He was never a radical who believed that a conversion experience of some sort automatically meant someone was an authentic Christian, but he did believe that a lack of emphasis on personal conversion contributed to nominal faith. I believe his critically positive approach to conversion, which avoided both the “conversionism” of the radicals and “gradualism” of the preparationists, remains helpful. Conversionism too often leads to false professions, while gradualism too often leads to a sentimental or superficial identification with the faith.

This is interesting, and it's a place where I differ from Edwards and Finn (though I'd differ a bit with the Puritans as well). The emphasis on an experience of conversion seems to underplay how for many people the "preparation" approach does accurately reflect their own experience of the faith. Certainly it's a fair picture of mine! You can push back against the lack of assurance without pushing back on the rest—and you should, as the Reformers did: "Look to your baptism!"
nathan-finn  jonathan-edwards  conversion  puritans  regeneration 
may 2018
Lessons From Isaac Asimov's Multivac
Technology’s threat to democracy is not, at its root, that of poorly designed systems (though certainly design improvements can be made). The real threat is when technical progress is relied upon as a substitute for moral progress in cultivating the civic virtues, norms, and values that sustain functional democracies.
shannon-vallor  ethics  technology  google  democracy  politics  isaac-asimov 
may 2018
Team reviews – Marc Hedlund – Medium
Team reviews are quick and easy to do, and every time I’ve done one, the manager and I wind up talking about important topics, pushing ourselves to promote and reward people who deserve it, and taking action where needed. It also helps me know our whole team better, and get clear signals from managers that make interactions with each person more meaningful. I highly recommend the practice.
via:jeremywsherman  management  leadership 
may 2018
Love, Again
I spent my childhood and adolescence fixated on the kind of family I was certain was the only sort worth having: I wanted to be a husband and a father, one whose very identity was defined by permanent relationality. (You can’t stop being a father, and you shouldn’t, according to Jesus, stop being a husband once you’ve promised to be one.) Instead I’ve been given a different sort of family, one marked by promises of a sometimes-overlooked kind. When the married couple with whom I currently share a house and I sat down recently to be interviewed about our unusual living arrangement, we surprised even ourselves, I think, as we talked about how much the practice of godparenthood had reshaped our understanding of what family is. Before they had children of their own, my housemates, Aidan and Melanie, had become godparents to another couple’s son, with whom they had shared a home previously. They stood at the font as their friends’ baby was sprinkled with water and marked as Christ’s own forever, and they promised to help raise him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And soon thereafter, that baby’s parents would stand next to me at the font as Aidan and Melanie’s daughter was baptized, and we together—weaving an even thicker skein of commitment—made the same promises in relation to her. Biological and marital kinship, it turned out, had become the site around which a deeper, sacramental kinship would flourish, tying us all to one another not only by the well-known forms of conjugal and parental love but also by the sometimes less-celebrated form of voluntary devotion. We were, we felt, proving Jesus’s words true: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children.”
homosexuality  sexuality  celibacy  love  wesley-hill  hospitality  family 
may 2018
The Dead End of the Left? | Commonweal Magazine
Del Noce also reflected deeply on the political repercussions of the advent of such “post-Marxist bourgeois society.” He believed that, ironically, the enduring influence of Marxist ideas would leave the left ill-equipped to correct the excesses of capitalism. If values like justice and human dignity do not have an objective reality rooted in a metaphysical order knowable by reason, then social criticism becomes purely negative. It can unmask the hypocrisy and contradictions of ideals like religion, family, and country, but there is no conceptual ground for new ideals. Secondly, Del Noce thought that the left itself was doomed to become “bourgeoisified,” by losing its ties to the working classes and becoming focused on causes broadly linked with sexuality. By doing so it would end up embracing an essentially individualistic and secular idea of happiness, which French sociologist Jacques Ellul had called the bourgeois trait par excellence. Conversely, politics would no longer be the expression of a fabric of social life organized around families, churches, ethnic neighborhoods, trade unions, etc., because all of them were being undermined by the individualism of the new culture.
neoliberalism  Marxism  post-liberalism  politics  sexual-politics  socialism  identity-politics  carlo-lancellotti  roman-catholic  liberalism  Christianity 
may 2018
Entity-Component-System architecture for UI in Rust
The overuse of RefCell is a sign of unidiomatic Rust code. With the right architecture, it can be avoided entirely. The general techniques apply in many cases where there is dynamic interaction between multiple stateful components. These techniques are: use integers as references to nodes within a graph, split state into mutable and immutable parts when diving in, and explicitly export “continuation” state when too deeply borrowed, rather than transferring control flow directly.
ECS  raph-levien  gui  immediate-mode-gui  rust 
may 2018
Security Trade-Offs in the New EU Privacy Law
I can say without hesitation that an overwhelming percentage of that research has been possible thanks to data included in public WHOIS registration records.

Is the current WHOIS system outdated, antiquated and in need of an update? Perhaps. But scrapping the current system without establishing anything in between while laboring under the largely untested belief that in doing so we will achieve some kind of privacy utopia seems myopic.

If opponents of the current WHOIS system are being intellectually honest, they will make the following argument and stick to it: By restricting access to information currently available in the WHOIS system, whatever losses or negative consequences on security we may suffer as a result will be worth the cost in terms of added privacy. That’s an argument I can respect, if not agree with.
security  krebs  internet  secondary-effects  GDPR 
may 2018
Double Crux — A Strategy for Resolving Disagreement
Let's say you have a belief, which we can label A (for instance, "middle school students should wear uniforms"), and that you're in disagreement with someone who believes some form of ¬A. Double cruxing with that person means that you're both in search of a second statement B, with the following properties:

You and your partner both disagree about B as well (you think B, your partner thinks ¬B).
The belief B is crucial for your belief in A; it is one of the cruxes of the argument. If it turned out that B was not true, that would be sufficient to make you think A was false, too.
The belief ¬B is crucial for your partner's belief in ¬A, in a similar fashion.
reason  rationalism  duncan-sabien  thinking 
may 2018
Even Amid Scandal, Facebook Is Unstoppable —Alexis C. Madrigal | The Atlantic “When Mark Zuckerberg takes the stage on Tuesday at F8, Facebook’s big annual conference, I expect him to gesture briefly at the troubles of the last year and a half, and
Despite personal reservations about Facebook’s interwoven privacy, data, and advertising practices, the vast majority of people find that they can’t (and don’t want to) quit. Facebook has rewired people’s lives, routing them through its servers, and to disentangle would require major sacrifice. And even if one could get free of the service, the social pathways that existed before Facebook have shriveled up, like the towns along the roads that preceded the interstate highway system. Just look at how the very meaning of the telephone call has changed as we’ve expanded the number of ways we talk with each other. A method of communication that was universally seen as a great way of exchanging information has been transformed into a rarity reserved for close friends, special occasions, emergencies, and debt collectors.
alexis-madrigal  cambridge-analytica  facebook  alexis-c-madrigal  technology  culture 
may 2018
The Convivial Society, No. 4: Community
A couple really salient bits here. First, on technological visionaries (dare I say utopians) stretching back to the telegraph (at least):
It seems that none of these visionaries ever took into consideration the possibility that the moral frailties of human nature would only be amplified by their new technologies.

Second, on why that vision proved alluring:
The rise of communication technologies from the mid-19th century through today has roughly coincided with the dissolution and degradation of the traditional communities, broken and often cruel though they may have been, that provided individuals with a relatively integrated experience of place and self. In 1953, the sociologist Robert Nisbett could write of the "quest for community" as the "dominant social tendency of the twentieth century." Framing a new technology as a source of community, in other words, trades on an unfulfilled desire for community.

What strikes me as most interesting here is that Sacasas notes, even if only as an aside, one of the most important things that most critics of our current techno/cultural milieu seem entirely content to skip over: that the traditional communities *were* "broken and often cruel." One of the reasons that the social revolutions of the last 150 years have had such force is precisely this: that the traditional communities so casually valorized today may have helped people have "an integrated experience of place and self"—but that experience was, often as not, one of *abuse*.
technology  liberalism  community  modernity  l-m-sacasas  post-liberalism 
may 2018
‘The Connecting Is the Thinking’: Memory and Creativity | L.M. Sacasas
It seems to me that having first identified a computer’s storage capacity as “memory,” a metaphor dependent upon the human capacity we call “memory,” we have now come to reverse the direction of the metaphor by understanding human “memory” in light of a computer’s storage capacity. In other words we’ve reduced our understanding of memory to mere storage of information. And now we read all discussions of memory in light of this reductive understanding.
Given this reductive view of memory, it seems silly for Socrates (and by extension, Plato) to worry about the externalization of memory, whether it is stored inside or outside, what difference does it make as long as we can access it? And, in fact, access becomes the problem that attends all externalized memories from the book to the Internet. But what if memory is not mere storage? Few seem to extend their analysis to account for the metaphysical role memory of the world of forms played within Plato’s account of the human person and true knowledge. We may not take Plato’s metaphysics at face value, but we can’t really understand his concerns about memory without understanding their lager intellectual context.
poincare  memory  nick-carr  internet  l-m-sacasas  learning  google  the-shallows  thinking 
april 2018
Offloaded Memory and Its Discontents (or, Why Life Isn’t a Game of Jeopardy)
What assumptions are at play that make it immediately plausible for so many to believe that we can move from internalized memory to externalized memory without remainder? It would seem, at least, that the ground was prepared by an earlier reduction of knowledge to information or data. Only when we view knowledge as the mere aggregation of discreet bits of data, can we then believe that it makes little difference whether that data is stored in the mind or in a database.
the-shallows  thinking  internet  l-m-sacasas  google  learning  memory 
april 2018
Is Google Making Us Stupid?
Nick Carr’s original essay behind “The Shallows” and the piece that kicked off the public conversation about these things. Still required reading a decade later – and most of its lessons yet unheeded.
thinking  the-shallows  intelligence  memory  google  internet  nick-carr 
april 2018
Don’t Offload Your Memory Quite Yet: Cognitive Science, Memory, and Education | L.M. Sacasas
The problem is that we tend to conceive of thinking analogously to how we imagine a computer works and we abstract processes from data. We treat “critical thinking” as a process that can be taught independently of any specific data or information. On the contrary, according to Willingham, the findings of cognitive science suggest that “[c]ritical thinking processes are tied to background knowledge” and “we must ensure that students acquire background knowledge parallel with practicing critical thinking skills.”
thinking  memory  the-shallows  internet  l-m-sacasas 
april 2018
Artificial Intelligence — The Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet
On the other hand, while the humanities and the sciences are essential as we go forward, we should also not pretend that we are talking about something other than an engineering effort of unprecedented scale and scope — society is aiming to build new kinds of artifacts. These artifacts should be built to work as claimed. We do not want to build systems that help us with medical treatments, transportation options and commercial opportunities to find out after the fact that these systems don’t really work — that they make errors that take their toll in terms of human lives and happiness. In this regard, as I have emphasized, there is an engineering discipline yet to emerge for the data-focused and learning-focused fields. As exciting as these latter fields appear to be, they cannot yet be viewed as constituting an engineering discipline.
Moreover, we should embrace the fact that what we are witnessing is the creation of a new branch of engineering. The term “engineering” is often 
invoked in a narrow sense — in academia and beyond — with overtones of cold, affectless machinery, and negative connotations of loss of control by humans. But an engineering discipline can be what we want it to be.
In the current era, we have a real opportunity to conceive of something historically new — a human-centric engineering discipline.

Entirely unconsidered here: whether creating this field is good—or whether treating it as *engineering* is good.
humanism  algorithmism  technology  humanities  ai  machine-learning  michael-i-jordan  engineering  ethics 
april 2018
"a revisionist blizzard of alternative theories"
A man caught up in the news must remain on the surface of the event; be is carried along in the current, and can at no time take a respite to judge and appreciate; he can never stop to reflect. There is never any awareness — of himself, of his condition, of his society — for the man who lives by current events. Such a man never stops to investigate any one point, any more than he will tie together a series of news events. We already have mentioned man's inability to consider several facts or events simultaneously and to make a synthesis of them in order to face or to oppose them. One thought drives away another; old facts are chased by new ones. Under these conditions there can be no thought. And, in fact, modern man does not think about current problems; he feels them. He reacts, but be does not understand them any more than he takes responsibility for them. He is even less capable of spotting any inconsistency between successive facts; man's capacity to forget is unlimited. This is one of the most important and useful points for the propagandist, who can always be sure that a particular propaganda theme, statement, or event will be forgotten within a few weeks.

—Jacques Ellul
politics  alan-jacobs  social-media  russia  technology  propaganda  jacques-ellul 
april 2018
propaganda and social media
I think what social media produce is emergent propaganda — propaganda that is not directed in any specific and conscious sense by anyone but rather emerges, arises, from vast masses of people who have been catechized within and by the same power-knowledge regime. Think also about the idea I got from an Adam Roberts novel: the hivemind singularity. Conscious, intentional propaganda is so twentieth century. The principalities and powers are far more sophisticated now.
jacques-ellul  social-media  propaganda  alan-jacobs  winning-slowly-season-6 
april 2018
"not to waver with the wavering hours"
The “wavering hours” waver because they’re charged with the nervous energy that comes from a too-busy life, a life of agitation and anxiety. As a youth Horace studied philosophy in Athens, and there he would have learned about the inestimable value of ataraxia — a peaceable and tranquil spirit. Because if you don’t have that, then you become a victim of your circumstances — and, especially in our time, a victim of propaganda.

Reading old books is a very valuable thing, because it takes you out of the maelstrom of “current events”; and it’s especially valuable to read old books like those by Horace because they will tell you quite directly how vital it is for you to learn this lesson.
silence  horace  culture  social-media  alan-jacobs  solitude 
april 2018
An oral history of Stargate SG-1: The show that surpassed its inspiration to spark an unforgettable franchise
I think it was really sort of a forerunner of what was and is no longer a sort of under-appreciated genre. There have been many fantastic shows in this genre that have grown up since Stargate and they're rich and different from each other and yet I think Stargate was part of that foundation that I thought was a bit underappreciated… I think it laid a foundation for what came after it.
science-fiction  Stargate  TV 
april 2018
Blockchain is not only crappy technology but a bad vision for the future
Blockchain systems do not magically make the data in them accurate or the people entering the data trustworthy, they merely enable you to audit whether it has been tampered with. A person who sprayed pesticides on a mango can still enter onto a blockchain system that the mangoes were organic. A corrupt government can create a blockchain system to count the votes and just allocate an extra million addresses to their cronies. An investment fund whose charter is written in software can still misallocate funds.
How then, is trust created?
In the case of buying an e-book, even if you’re buying it with a smart contract, instead of auditing the software you’ll rely on one of four things, each of them characteristics of the “old way”: either the author of the smart contract is someone you know of and trust, the seller of the e-book has a reputation to uphold, you or friends of yours have bought e-books from this seller in the past successfully, or you’re just willing to hope that this person will deal fairly. In each case, even if the transaction is effectuated via a smart contract, in practice you’re relying on trust of a counterparty or middleman, not your self-protective right to audit the software, each man an island unto himself. The contract still works, but the fact that the promise is written in auditable software rather than government-enforced English makes it less transparent, not more transparent.
winning-slowly-season-6  technology  kai-stinchcombe  futurism  economics  blockchain 
april 2018
The Frailest Thing | L.M. Sacasas | Technology, Culture, and Ethics
We can usefully frame the choice to delete Facebook or abstain from social media or any other act of tech refusal by (admittedly loose) analogy to the monastic life. It is not for everyone. The choice can be costly. It will require self-denial and discipline. Not everyone is in a position to make such a choice even if they desired it. And maybe, under present circumstances, it would not even be altogether desirable for most people to make that choice. But it is good for all of us that some people do make that choice.

In this way we can create a legitimate space for refusal, while acknowledging that such a choice is only one way of fighting the good fight.

Those who choose to walk away will, if nothing else, be a sign to us, they will embody an ideal that many may desire but few will be able to pursue. They will preserve an alternative way of being in the world with its attendant memories and practices. And by doing so they will play their part in working for the good of society.
l-m-sacasas  facebook  monasticism  ethics  technology  criticism 
april 2018
For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned. - The New York Times
There’s nothing wrong with getting lots of shades of opinion. And reading just the paper can be a lonely experience; there were many times I felt in the dark about what the online hordes thought about the news.… Still, the prominence of commentary over news online and on cable news feels backward, and dangerously so. It is exactly our fealty to the crowd — to what other people are saying about the news, rather than the news itself — that makes us susceptible to misinformation.… The built-in incentives on Twitter and Facebook reward speed over depth, hot takes over facts and seasoned propagandists over well-meaning analyzers of news.
newspapers  social-media  winning-slowly-season-6 
march 2018
I, for one.
…I think there’s something here that applies to AMP, and to initiatives like it. Heck, one could even argue the creation of AMP isn’t just Google’s failure, but our failure. More specifically, perhaps it’s pointing to a failure of governance of our little industry. Absent a shared, collective vision for what we want the web to be—and with decent regulatory mechanisms to defend that vision—it’s unsurprising that corporate actors would step into that vacuum, and address the issues they find. And once they do, the solutions they design will inevitably benefit themselves first—and then, after that, the rest of us. If at all.
internet  ethan-marcotte  amp  politics  openweb  google  ethics 
march 2018
Why Donald Trump Was the 'Perfect Candidate' for Facebook —Alexis C. Madrigal | The Atlantic “Here is the central tenet of Facebook’s business: If lots of people click on, comment on, or share an ad, Facebook charges that advertiser less money to re
The University of Virginia media-studies professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, who has a book coming out on Facebook in September—Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy—had a stark response, especially with the midterms six months away. “There is no reform. The problem with Facebook is Facebook,” he told me. “When you marry a friction-free social network of 2 billion people to a powerful, precise, cheap ad system that runs on user profiling you get this mess. And no one can switch it off. So we are screwed.”
winning-slowly-season-6  facebook  clinton  alexis-madrigal  trump  elections  advertising 
february 2018
On Unpublished Thoughts
I’ve coupled the act of creation and publishing so tightly, I’ve given up the instances of the former that don’t flow into the latter.

I don’t know what the answer to this problem is yet. Since I’ve realized that the reason Sparks’ turn of phrase has been nagging me, I’ve been more aware of my need to create just for its own sake. This may mean I get back into the habit of writing just for writing, or pick up my camera to shoot photographs of more than just old computers in my studio.

Whatever comes of this, you probably won’t be privy to its output. And — no offense — that’s the point.
writing  creativity  winning-slowly-season-6  internet  blogging  stephen-hackett 
february 2018
As we may think
It is associative indexing though, that is the essential feature of the memex, “the process of tying two items together is the important thing.” Bush describes a hypertext like mechanism at this point, but most interesting from my perspective is his emphasis on a trail as a fundamental unit — something we largely seem to have lost today.… Documents and links we have aplenty. But where are our trails?
winning-slowly-season-6  adrian-colyer 
february 2018
School Shooting Simulation Software (and the Problem with How People Define 'Ed-Tech')
If we recognize technology as practices, we can more readily see the connections to social relations, Franklin argued. We can then think about technology not just in terms of the introduction of a particular tool, but in terms of how technology might support or shift pre-existing values. Cultural values. Political values. Institutional values.
To claim that a school shooting simulation isn’t “ed-tech” is remarkably unhelpful. It serves to bolster the ideological claims that technology is always bound up in “progress.” And importantly, this refusal to include certain technologies in “ed-tech” circumscribes much of the analysis one might undertake about systems, structures, histories.

(She quotes, just before this, Ursula Franklin, who seems to be riffing on Ellul’s notion of _technique_. And rightly.)

This, from the conclusion, is also quite helpful:
What happens if we refuse to talk about these [metal detectors, school shooting simulators, etc.] as “ed-tech”, if we refuse to address the practices of surveillance and control as well as products of surveillance and control? If nothing else, this refusal stops us from having the necessary conversations about why some schools might get simulations that train teachers how to respond to a potential shooting, and some schools get metal detectors that interpolate all students as potential shooters.
education  technique  ursula-franklin  technology  audrey-watters 
february 2018
Your Body Does Not Want to Be an Interface - MIT Technology Review
The assumption driving these kinds of design speculations is that if you embed the interface–the control surface for a technology–into our own bodily envelope, that interface will “disappear”: the technology will cease to be a separate “thing” and simply become part of that envelope. The trouble is that unlike technology, your body isn’t something you “interface” with in the first place. You’re not a little homunculus “in” your body, “driving” it around, looking out Terminator-style “through” your eyes. Your body isn’t a tool for delivering your experience: it is your experience. Merging the body with a technological control surface doesn’t magically transform the act of manipulating that surface into bodily experience. I’m not a cyborg (yet) so I can’t be sure, but I suspect the effect is more the opposite: alienating you from the direct bodily experiences you already have by turning them into technological interfaces to be manipulated.
cybernetics  wearables  google-glass  john-pavlus 
february 2018
The Shallowness of Google Translate - The Atlantic
I’ve recently seen bar graphs made by technophiles that claim to represent the “quality” of translations done by humans and by computers, and these graphs depict the latest translation engines as being within striking distance of human-level translation. To me, however, such quantification of the unquantifiable reeks of pseudoscience, or, if you prefer, of nerds trying to mathematize things whose intangible, subtle, artistic nature eludes them. To my mind, Google Translate’s output today ranges all the way from excellent to grotesque, but I can’t quantify my feelings about it. Think of my first example involving “his” and “her” items. The idealess program got nearly all the words right, but despite that slight success, it totally missed the point. How, in such a case, should one “quantify” the quality of the job? The use of scientific-looking bar graphs to represent translation quality is simply an abuse of the external trappings of science.
translation  ai  algorithmism  technology  art 
february 2018
The metadata of experience, the experience of metadata
Metadata is a kind of agony.

Everything that happens to me is time-stamped. My life is a series of transactions recorded in official ledgers. I am a clerk. I am a bureaucrat. I’m always on the job.

I know all the details. I know what just happened, and I know what happens next. Only the present escapes me.
winning-slowly-season-6  nick-carr  satire  criticism  technology 
february 2018
PLATO and the History of Education Technology (That Wasn't)
The Friendly Orange Glow is a history of PLATO – one that has long deserved to be told and that Dear does with meticulous care and detail. (The book was some three decades in the making.) But it’s also a history of why, following Sputnik, the US government came to fund educational computing. Its also – in between the lines, if you will – a history of why the locus of computing and educational computing specifically shifted to places like MIT, Xerox PARC, Stanford. The answer is not “because the technology was better” – not entirely. The answer has to do in part with funding – what changed when these educational computing efforts were no longer backed by federal money and part of Cold War era research but by venture capital. (Spoiler alert: it changes the timeline. It changes the culture. It changes the mission. It changes the technology.) And the answer has everything to do with power and ideology – with dogma.
...
Bret Victor credits the message and content of his keynote to computer scientist Alan Kay, who once famously said that “the best way to predict the future is to build it.” (Kay, of course, appears several times in *The Friendly Orange Glow* because of his own contributions to computing, not to mention the competition between CERL and PARC where Kay worked and their very different visions of the future). But to be perfectly frank, the act of building alone is hardly sufficient. The best way to predict the future may instead be to be among those who *mythologize* what’s built, [who tell certain stories](http://hackeducation.com/2016/11/02/futures) , who craft and uphold the dogma about what is built and how it’s used.
history  mythology  education  technology 
february 2018
the invariant ed-tech sequence
The result: the app is forcibly implemented, but only partially, with the result that faculty are still unhappy with having to use the crappy app but have to use it *less*, which means that the task that was performed adequately with previous technologies/means is now performed less effectively and completely. Everyone loses except the people who made the sorry-ass app.
startups  education  technology  winning-slowly-season-6 
january 2018
Does Technology Evolve More Quickly Than Ethical and Legal Norms? —L.M. Sacasas “It is frequently observed that developments in technology run ahead of law and ethics, which never quite catch up.”
It may be better, then, to say that it is the scale of new technologies that transcends the institutions and communities which are the proper sites for ethical reflection about technology. The governing instinct is to scale up our institutions and communities to meet the challenge, but this inevitably involves a reliance on the same technologies that generate the problems. It never occurs to us that the answer may lie in a refusal to operate at a scale that is inhospitable to the human person.
l-m-sacasas  technology  ethics  winning-slowly  winning-slowly-season-6 
january 2018
Superfluous People, the Ideology of Silicon Valley, and The Origins of Totalitarianism —L.M. Sacasas “There’s a passage from Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism that has been cited frequently in recent months, and with good reason.”
As for the outsourcing of our cognitive, emotional, and ethical labor and our obsessive self-tracking and self-monitoring, it amounts to being sealed in a tomb of our revealed preferences (to borrow Rob Horning’s memorable line). Once more, spontaneous desire, serendipity, much of what Arendt classified as natality, the capacity to make a beginning at the heart of our individuality—all of it is surrendered to the urge for an equilibrium of programmed predictability.
ethics  technology  l-m-sacasas 
january 2018
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