The White Darkness
I went from being a bad writer to a good writer after taking a one-day course in “business writing.” I couldn’t believe how simple it was. I’ll tell you the main tricks here so you don’t have to waste a day in class.
But the main observation I came home with after this trip is this: America is a rich country that feels like a poor country.
How paradoxical. Snow-sports enthusiasts think of themselves as great lovers of nature and clean air, more conscious than most people of the changing climate. Yet their sport is becoming ever more man-made, expensive and exclusive. Perversely, it is also becoming more polluting, producing ever more emissions of greenhouse gases to survive.
Google was supposed to be the goal, the reward people worked so hard for. And on the surface, it was everything you could have asked for: lots of autonomy, excellent compensation, a workspace that caters to your every need. So why did it feel so empty?
“There are people who worry about ai [artificial intelligence],” Harris said. “They ask whether we can maximise its potential without harming human interests. But ai is already here. It’s called the internet. We’ve unleashed this black box which is always developing new ways to persuade us to do things, by moving us from one trance to the next.”
The experiment was significant, said Fogg, not so much for its specific finding as for what it implied: that computer applications could be methodically designed to exploit the rules of psychology in order to get people to do things they might not otherwise do. In the paper itself, he added a qualification: “Exactly when and where such persuasion is beneficial and ethical should be the topic of further research and debate.”
“The dynamics of the attention economy are structurally set up to undermine the human will,” he says. “If politics is an expression of our human will, on individual and collective levels, then the attention economy is directly undermining the assumptions that democracy rests on.” If Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are gradually chipping away at our ability to control our own minds, could there come a point, I ask, at which democracy no longer functions?
The latter is, according to their stories, exactly what happened when, 40 years ago, the prototypes left the labs too soon, and entered the world of Apple, IBM, and Microsoft, producing the accumulation of bad decisions that led to a world where people stare at smartphones.
AK: Yeah. We can eliminate the learning curve for reading by getting rid of reading and going to recordings. That’s basically what they’re doing: Basically, let’s revert back to a pre-tool time.
Have you ever noticed that on these custom projects, the single most common cause of overruns, failures, and general miserableness always boils down to, basically, “the (insert expletive here) customer didn’t know what they wanted?
It’s a bit smarmy of me to criticize them for waiting so long between releases. They didn’t do it on purpose, now, did they?
Well, yes. They did. They did it by making the single worst strategic mistake that any software company can make:
They decided to rewrite the code from scratch.
I think the way most developers "understand" code is to rewrite it.
What an excellent article on Microsoft at Vista times. I especially liked the comparison to the iOS, which perfectly nailed almost everything that Vista made wrong (including the different levels of abstraction in the presentation API which Avalon didn't have).
Microsoft badly misjudged the underlying trends in computer hardware, in particular the right turn that occurred in 2003 to the trend of rapid improvements in single-threaded processor speed and matching improvements in other core elements of the PC. Vista was planned for and built for hardware that did not exist. This was bad for desktops, worse for laptops and disastrous for mobile.
Listeners now spend about half their time on Spotify listening to playlists, either of their own creation or curated by Spotify's editors and other tastemakers. As a result, every artist wants a spot on the high-traffic playlists like Today's Top Hits or Rap Caviar
Undeniably, Sgt. Pepper is an experimental classic, a triumph of influence. But I don’t consider it even the best Beatles album; that’s Rubber Soul or Revolver. On the Sgt. Pepper album, however, is “A Day in the Life,” which is my idea of a perfect song. It is the epitome of The Beatles’ master building, of fitting stone upon stone, each section troweled together with such ingenuity and care that upon completion the whole thing feels seamless, a structure not built at all, but a whole that simply was.
“We need to get more employers saying, ‘Yeah, we just need someone to manage the login page,’” he says. “You don’t have to be a superstar.”
Now, to be sure, society does need some superstars! Serious innovators, at companies and in academia, are the ones who create new fields like machine learning. But that doesn’t preclude a new mainstream vision of what most programming work actually is.
In my tech lifetime it seems that we only get about 5 years of “non-insane complexity” in our platforms before the “ecosystem” shifts into a swampish nightmare, and then 5-10 years of complete hell before we can move in.
Yeah, um, I'm sorry, but William is not available right now. His friends call him Bill, by the way. The person who helped you last time? That was Bill Gates.
A s měnící se atmosférou se mnozí občané snažili zjistit, co se po nich bude chtít. A preventivně se přizpůsobovali.
Being a good developer and team member is about so much more than programming. With years you can gain much technical experience, but if you do not invest time and energy into improving your soft skills, you can create a bottleneck for your career, one that you might not even see.
Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days.
As I’ve matured as a programmer, I’ve found that an effective technique in avoiding team conflict is to stop aiming for perfect code.
To the citizens of the United States of America, in light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.
Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II resumes monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy.
Confident in my work, I deployed the changes, closed my laptop, and drove out of town for a weekend of camping with friends. I had just arrived when my phone rang. It was my project lead, Kevin.
“The client’s site is down. What happened?”
Oh shit. Fuck. I had no idea. I was three hours away with no laptop.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ll take care of it. Have a good weekend.”
The place to be cheap is not on things like new hardware or software for your team. Take good care of your people and they'll take good care of you. At the same time, act as soon as you see an issue. People like working with people that care and work hard. We've been quite lucky in building a phenomenal team. However, we have had to let go of people in the past who were not performing and no longer enjoyed their work. Firing someone sucks and should never be taken lightly. At the same time, it is also sometimes necessary for the health of your team, company, and the individual. While we don't like this fact, firing can sometimes be as important as hiring too.
As your codebase expands and evolves, Haskell’s ability to handle complexity, clarify thinking, and ensure consistency is a blessing. You will worry less about the server crashing when you go to sleep. You will spend less time on bugs in old code. You will refactor confidently and quickly.
Yet another article on monads and category theory, but this one is really good!
What I eventually came to understand, and what you should commit to learning too, is that the real heroes are the ones who are consistently reliable. They say what they’ll do and do what they say. The only way to be that kind of hero is to manage expectations.
The one thing that has really really helped me in this regard is a concept that I call “the dispassionate pursuit of passion” in the book, and basically the concept boils down to not tethering your happiness to the achievement of outcomes.
What I recommend is an alternative approach, which is to become a little more aware of what it is that you're really good at, and what you enjoy doing. When you don't need to compare yourself to other people, you gravitate towards things that you instinctively enjoy doing, and you're good at, and if you just focus on that for a long enough time, then chances are very, very high that you're going to progress towards mastery anyway, and the fame and the power and the money and everything will come as a byproduct, rather than something that you chase directly in trying to be superior to other people.
Great long read for all NYC lovers!
We Americans, after all, are forbidden from entering most of our private lands. But in some European countries, walking almost wherever you want is not only ordinary but perfectly acceptable.
When people begin to feel that nothing they do matters, that whether they succeed or fail is of little to no consequence, they will either cease to make any effort towards doing the right thing, or will go find a new place where what they do matters