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2019 (Fathom this!)

2019





  • Fresh produce, brought to you by robots. The cost of human labor required for indoor hydroponic farms has made their produce infeasibly expensive. Robotics and AI can cut down these costs by 80 percent. More significantly, these farms also use 90 percent less water than outdoor farms, require no arable land and alleviate the need for herbicides and pesticides.
  • Why washing machines are learning to play the harp. “Appliance makers believe more and better chimes, alerts, and jingles make for happier customers. Are they right?” While not the general gist of the article, I wanted to note two points. On the influence that sound can have on us:
    A wealth of studies in consumer psychology attests to the power of sound to affect our decision making. In one famous experiment from the ’90s, British wine shoppers bought five times as many French bottles as German bottles when French accordions played in the store; when an oompah band sounded, German wine outsold the French. Still other studies have suggested that slot-machine noises, often high-pitched and in major keys, can nudge gamblers to keep playing and can even encourage riskier bets.
    But then there’s the tragedy of commons of sound:
    Too many sounds, carefully designed though they may be, runs the risk of turning into an irritant, or worse. Dexter Garcia, a co-founder of Audio UX, pointed me to a 2010 article in The Boston Globe describing “alarm fatigue.” Nurses at Massachusetts General Hospital had become so bombarded by constant alerts, they ignored the critical beeps signaling a dying patient. The problem is pervasive: In a study at Johns Hopkins Hospital, nearly 60,000 alarms were recorded over 12 days—that’s 350 alarms per patient, per day, hammering staff ears.
  • Logo mashups of fast food rivals. Some interesting brain teasing going on there.


  • It’s not that we’ve failed to rein in Facebook and Google. We’ve not even tried. “The logic of surveillance capitalism begins with unilaterally claiming private human experience as free raw material for production and sales.” “As one data scientist explained to me: ‘We can engineer the context around a particular behaviour and force change that way … We are learning how to write the music, and then we let the music make them dance.’”

Best things I heard at Altitude London

The most exciting things I heard about yesterday at Altitude London were QUIC and HTTP/3, BBR, TLS 1.3 and some of the exciting things that you can soon do on the edge with VCL.

Patrick McManus on TLS 1.3: “It includes a performance dessert to make the security vegetables go down better.”

Moving TLS negotiation to the edge is in itself a performance improvement.

Ilya


  • The Johari window is a technique that helps people better understand their relationship with themselves and others.

Purchase data tips off babies and divorce

A few old stories (from 2012 and 2010), but the references come up from time to time: how supermarket loyalty programs know you’re pregnant and how credit card companies can predict divorce.

Ilya




  • Bloomberg Businessweek: Germ-killing brands now want to sell you germs. I remember reading about David Whitlock’s experiments with ammonia-eating bacteria years ago and have been fascinated by this ever since. Exciting to see that it’s still progressing.



  • “Time management” is not a solution — it’s actually part of the problem.
    Being prolific is not about time management. There are a limited number of hours in the day, and focusing on time management just makes us more aware of how many of those hours we waste. A better option is attention management: Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes.
    This reminds me of agreeing to a fixed scope: all emphasis is placed on delivering a set number of features irrespective of their value or quality. In fact, in this situation, the only thing that can give is quality.

  • Wilfred Hughes: The siren song of little languages. “Sometimes a usable language struggles simply because it’s too much fun to write your own. Developers end up building their own implementation rather than actually using the language.”




  • Logic Magazine: An interview with an anonymous algorithmic trader. Some interesting points on how difficult it is to prove your algorithm works, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to: in order to sell your fund, you need a narrative, and simply saying you have AI can be enough. Also, did you know that: “JP Morgan Chase employs 50,000 technologists, two-thirds of which are software engineers. That’s more engineers than many big tech firms; Facebook, for example, employs about 30,000 people total.”

  • Mozilla releases Common Voices, the largest to-date public domain transcribed voice dataset.



How to build product/market fit

How Superhuman built an engine to find product/market fit. Ask your early users: “how would you feel if you could no longer use the product?” Focus on the “very disappointed” group. These are your biggest proponents, they will tell you why your product is important.

This reminds me of finding a beachhead from Crossing the Chasm.

I also really liked this piece of advice:

Our next step was somewhat counterintuitive: we decided to politely pass over the feedback from users who would not be disappointed if they could no longer use the product.

This batch of not disappointed users should not impact your product strategy in any way. They’ll request distracting features, present ill-fitting use cases and probably be very vocal, all before they churn out and leave you with a mangled, muddled roadmap. As surprising or painful as it may seem, don’t act on their feedback — it will lead you astray on your quest for product/market fit.

Ilya


  • ScienceDaily: How do genes get new jobs? Wasp venom offers new insights. Adaptions require new or changed functions of genes. One way this could happen is for a gene to be copied and the copy taking on a new function.

    However, by studying tiny parasitic Jewel Wasps and their rapidly changing venom repertoires, the Werren Lab at the University of Rochester has uncovered a different process that may be widespread in other species as well.

    The process involves co-opting single copy genes to take on new functions. In some cases, these genes appear to continue their previous function as well, in other parts of the wasp’s anatomy besides the venom gland.

    “It is almost as if they are now moonlighting,” says John (Jack) Werren, professor of biology. “They’ve got a day job, and then take on a night job as well. Over time, if the night job works out, they may give up the day job and evolve as a venom specialist. However, in other cases we have found that they stop moonlighting as venom genes but appear to retain their day job.”















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