• How AI is streamlining marketing and sales. More interestingly, bots can elicit information: “I’ve learned things about my visitors that no other analytics system would show,” said Wentworth. “We’ve learned about new use cases, and we’ve learned about product problems.”

  • How Etsy ships apps. The engineers wanting to have their code shipped join a push train. “This strategy has been successful for a lot of reasons, but especially because each deploy is handled by the people most familiar with the changes that are shipping. Those that wrote the code are in the best position to recognize it breaking, and then fix it. Because of that, developers should be empowered to deploy code as needed, and remain close to its rollout.” But it doesn’t work for apps.
  • Increment is a new magazine dedicated to covering how teams build and operate software systems at scale. The inaugural issue focuses on industry best practices around on-call and incident response. Looks interesting and has gorgeous artwork by Mark Conlan.
  • Things to use instead of JWT. Kevin Burke: “In general, specifications that allow the attacker to choose the algorithm for negotiation have more problems than ones that don’t (see TLS).” Burke helpfully covers four use cases.
  • Alex Honnold becomes the first climber to free solo Yosemite’s 3,000-foot El Capitan wall. This is called the most dangerous rope-free ascent ever. “Honnold’s tolerance for scary situations is so remarkable that neuroscientists have studied the parts of his brain related to fear to see how they might differ from the norm.”
    Honnold sees it in more pragmatic terms. “With free-soloing, obviously I know that I’m in danger, but feeling fearful while I’m up there is not helping me in any way,” he said. “It’s only hindering my performance, so I just set it aside and leave it be.”
  • Scientific American: How gut bacteria tell their hosts what to eat.


Strange Horizons: Freshly Remember’d — Kirk drift

Freshly Remember’d: Kirk Drift. An epic essay on how Star Trek’s original captain is so misremembered — and why it matters.

It starts off with a bang:

Good parties diverge widely; all bad parties are bad in the same way. I am trapped at a dull dinner following a dull talk. […] The man sitting across from me and a little down the way, a bellicose bore of vague continental origin, is execrable. He is somehow attached to a mild woman who is actually supposed to be here: a shy, seemingly blameless new grad student who perpetually smiles apologetically on his behalf, in an attempt to excuse whatever he’s just said. […] We reach the point of no return when the omnijerk (really I suspect there’s just one vast eldritch horror sitting in another dimension that extrudes its thousand tentacles into our own, and that each one of This Guy is merely an insignificant manifestation of the beast: they couldn’t all be so boring in precisely the same way by chance, surely) decides to voice some Dinner Party Opinions on original-series Star Trek. God knows why. It’s not five seconds before he’s on ‘Kirk and the green women’. He’s mocking the retrosexist trope, but smiling a little weirdly while doing it. His own insufficiently private enjoyment is peeking out, like a semi-erection on his face. […] “You’re thinking of Pike,” I say. “The captain in the unaired pilot. Some of that footage got reused for a later story, which made Pike into a previous captain of the Enterprise. And it never actually happened — it was a hallucination sequence designed by aliens who didn’t know what they were doing in order to tempt Pike. He rejected it.”

The essay is persuasive, funny and rich with examples that made me go and re-watch some of the episodes mentioned. I’ve cherrypicked a few fragments that resonated with me, but you should really read it in full. (It will take some time.)

Why can’t we see what’s in front of us? Why can’t we read? Why do we remember green women, molested, when there weren’t any, and the wrong “three little words”? Why has Kirk Drift occurred, affecting this character and this text? I contend this is not just random mismemory, but a sort of motivated, non-accidental, culture-wide process of forgetting. It’s the result of a kyriarchal tendency in reception and in memory that affects not only the reboots, but even our ability to see what happens in a text. Even when it’s right before our eyes, we can’t see Star Trek for our idea of it.

It’s not just about Kirk:

Kirk Drift is strongly at work in our popular histories as well as our texts. We are always being robbed of our radical inheritance: of black stories, of queer stories, of rupture.

Emphasis mine:

The “Zapp Brannigan says Trump quotes” meme is not in and of itself anything like so directly, screamingly incorrect. It is, however, exemplary of the drift to toxic masculinity that made these ridiculous figures possible. If Brannigan is a parody of heroism, he must necessarily also represent an actual idea of it, and what art reflects it also helps create. The fail condition of subversion/parody is reification. We have laughed Zapp Brannigan right into the White House.

There’s a fascinating contemplation over what’s worth forgetting but ultimately the author makes the case for the importance of a diverse memory:

If history is written by the winners, then people with power will always be the ones who control what is remembered, and marginal people’s truths and histories will be what is occluded. It is thus now. We cannot live without memory (and to do so would be to live without meaning). Given this, it becomes a question of what survives.

Ilya
  • Reminiscent of Lonelygirl15, That Poppy is very Gibsonesque. Welcome to Poppy’s World.
  • Revenge of the lunch lady, a fantastic long read of “how an unassuming bureaucrat outsmarted Jamie Oliver and pulled off an honest-to-god miracle in one of America’s unhealthiest cities.”



What happens to older programmers? and other questions on Quora

Quora: What happens to older programmers? Some become managers, many keep coding, the answers are pretty good. Keep in mind that there’s hardly been many old programmers yet.

As an aside, I find Quora questions fascinating. The questions run from the practical to the existential (what’s the point of life?) to the polemic (don’t good programmers use ‘else’?; will PHP die out in 2017?).

There’s something both startling and amusing when someone asks: what are the best gems to be used with Ruby on Rails for a dating / social network website? — and receives candid answers! I appreciate the specificity, but that’s baldly a bold ask.

I suppose what’s most fascinating is what the questions say about us.

Ilya


  • How we manage technologists at x.ai. Tl;dr: tech in single team (e.g. not split by specialism or function), people managers don’t code, technologists choose their own managers every six months. Conferences paid for from company-wide budget, there is no approval, withdrawals are just documented publicly.


Normalised or not, SQL is 43 years old and the 2nd most common language

In 2008, Jeff Atwood suggested maybe normalising isn’t normal. Still a great reference and reminder for designing your database structures. Also, SQL, the second most common programming language in Stack Overflow’s 2017 developer survey, is 43 years old—here’s eight reasons we still use SQL.

Ilya


Perceptual neuroscience — it’s all in the eye of beholder

I quite liked Beau Lotto’s article Look Here in May’s Wired UK. It’s not yet online, but googling it turned up a few other interesting tidbits on perception.

Beau Lotto has just published a book, Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently, though reviewer Jonathan Rée hates it.

Michael Shemer’s TED talk, The pattern behind self-deception, explains how “the human tendency to believe strange things—from alien abductions to dowsing rod—boils down to two of the brain’s most basic, hard-wired survival skills. He explains what they are, and how they get us into trouble.”

Buzzfeed: 16 optical illusions even freakier than that damn dress.

Six TED talks about illusion that will make you doubt your own brain.

Ilya

  • Rutger Bregman: “We could cut the working week by a third”. Bregman’s book, Utopia for Realists, “could yet revitalise progressive thought around the globe. His solutions are quite simple and staunchly set against current trends: we should institute a universal basic income for everyone that covers minimum living expenses — say around £12,000 a year; the working week should be shortened to 15 hours; borders should be opened and migrants allowed to move wherever they choose.”
  • Digital “editions” pays off for The Times. “Users of the … paid-for mobile app are up 30 percent since this time last year, and people are viewing three times as many pages per visit as they were a year ago. Those rises all stem from a decision The Times took a year ago to push away from the trap of commoditized online news and focus on publishing three updates to the digital editions a day: at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.”

Homebrew, rbenv, ruby-build, openssl…

How to upgrade OpenSSL on Mac OS. Homebrew issues led me down a lovely garden path… and this guide helped.

Explicitly specifying the OpenSSL can work when installing a new version of Ruby with rbenv.

RUBY_CONFIGURE_OPTS=--with-openssl-dir=/usr/local/Cellar/openssl/1.0.2k rbenv install 2.3.1

Ilya

  • Google pitches AMP as a solution to bloated websites and poor user experiences. But, Andrew Betts asks: “could AMP actually be bad news for the web, bad news for news, and part of a trend of news distribution that is bad for society in general?”


  • The Guardian: The Internet Warriors. Who are the people that get so angry online? A fascinating documentary interviewing the internet warriors, in their own homes.
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