Links - September 5th, 2016

  • Labor Day: From the Job Loop to the Knowledge Loop
    Albert Wenger - Continuations

    What is the point of work? What should people spend their time on, and why? Wenger argues that we are about to enter a post-capital and post-labor world. I still haven’t decided if I should read his book now, as a draft, or when it is published in a few months.

  • Are We Really So Modern?
    Adam Kirsch - The New Yorker

    I should make an effort and learn more about history and philosophy. We are solving different immediate problems, but ultimately trying to answer the same basic questions as those that came before us.

  • The Pill, the Condom, and the American Dream
    Derek Thompson - The Atlantic

    In a complex world, second order effects tend to be more important in aggregate than one would expect. Increased access to birth control results in better care for the kids who are born, and eventually a better society.

  • What to Make of Andreessen Horowitz’s Returns?
    Mark Suster - Both Sides of the Table

    Not often do you get a VCs view on another fund. Suster gives us some great insights in his piece.

  • How Uber Drivers Decide How Long to Work
    Noam Scheiber - The New York Times

    No data was released, but here is the original <a href”http://static1.squarespace.com/static/56500157e4b0cb706005352d/t/56da1114e707ebbe8e963ffc/1457131797556/IncomeTargetingFeb16.pdf”>paper</a>, in case you want to take a look.

  • Trying Not to Try
    Edward Slingerland - Nautilus

    Thinking fast and slow, from the angle of Butcher Ding and chinese philosophy. When your conscious mind lets go, the body can take over.

  • Will Amazon Kill FedEx?
    Devin Leonard - Bloomberg

    Amazon is an impressively interesting company (as an aside, the old timey look of the photos is great, too). The original bits and atoms startup, which somehow keeps innovating.

  • All about Microservices
    a16z (Podcast)

    Starting a career in software engineering during the days of AWS and Heroku gives me a strange vantage point. The story of how Netflix switched their whole infrastructure would not be half as impressive if I didn’t understand the role of culture in organizational change. The fact is that “this is how we do things around here” can make or break you. This episode talks about the architecture that underlie the modern web stack.

Links - August 30th, 2016

  • Big data, Google and the end of free will
    Yuval Noah Harari - The Financial Times

    Harari discusses the jump from religion, to humanism, and now Dataism: Letting go of “religion” and “feelings” to guide our choices, and allowing computers to make decisions for you. As much as “knowing thyself” is great advice, making good decisions also requires knowing the rest of the world. No matter how much you know yourself, there will be unknown unknowns about the people and things you interact with. Computers might be able to help us there.</br>A specific case I’ve thought deeply about is “choosing what content to consume,” which applies to books, articles, podcasts, MOOCs, etc. Objectively, there is some optimal solution to this question, and Harari’s Dataism probably has a better answer than humanism, regardless of how uncomfortable that thought makes you feel.</br>The idea is powerful, and we can similarly extrapolate to other questions.

  • In Search of Ragu
    Roads & Kingdoms

    A cuisine’s history, and its people’s sentiments about it, can tell us a lot about culture and how it is formed over time. There is a lot of value when food becomes more than sustenance.

  • How artificial intelligence and machine learning work at Apple
    Steven Levy - Backchannel

    Another one that I can’t comment much on, but want to share.

  • I Got Scammed By A Silicon Valley Startup
    Penny Kim - Startup Grind

    Lately I have been bringing up Maslow’s hierarchy over and over. I am one of the few lucky people in the world who (like you, probably, since you’re reading this) get to only worry about the very top of this pyramid. Food, shelter, health - all these are non-thoughts for me. My concerns are much less important. In the context of this article, I have been spending many hours considering how to be happier at work, and spend my time to maximize my learning and my future opportunities. Even in the tech bubble that I live in, things can be much worse, and it is sobering to remember that.

  • Building Better Algorithms Requires Human Judgment
    Albert Wenger - Continuations

    The filter bubble, v2.

  • Hunting for great names in programming
    David Heinemeier Hansson - Signal v. Noise

    Naming things is much harder than it seems, and its implications much more widespread than one would expect. Spend more time thinking about names.

  • Types
    Gary Bernhardt

    Different languages have different ways of constraining and enabling programmers. Any language provides us with trade-offs. For a long time, I have thought of types as an added layer of complexity, which makes them unappealing. However, unit tests and documentation are also extra complexity, and I am more than happy to pay the cost for those. Perhaps its time to make the jump and get into static typing.

Links - August 24th, 2016

  • The Unicorn Hedge
    Dave McClure - 500 Hats

    As software seeps into our daily lives, everything becomes “tech”. I don’t like that word, it is too broad, and somewhat meaningless. A truck is technology. So is a self-driving truck, but the latter does much more by leveraging software. Every “traditional” company in some capacity uses “tech”, and as time goes on more and more firms depend on software for their daily operations. This is at the root of the reality that McClure describes. AirBnB is considered a “tech” company, but it should be compared against Hilton and Marriott, not against Google and Apple. That’s their actual competition. The hedge is real, and it is only a symptom of the overall trend towards a fully software enabled industry.

  • Programming without Programmers? Aka Software Eating Software Development?
    Albert Wenger - Continuations

    Software engineering, and the tools required for it, have evolved significantly over time. Barriers to entry have been lowered, making programming accessible for “normal” people, both in terms of monetary costs as well as in the amount of effort required to get started and build something significant. For better or for worse, modern programming languages are english-like enough that they can be grokked by children. Writing machine or assembly language can be seen as an esoteric exercise by today’s standards. On the shoulders of giants, we’ve climbed up several levels on the ladder of abstraction, and as Wenger implies, this is not stopping any time soon.

  • Understanding VCs
    Fred Wilson - AVC

    The “PR angle” Fred talks about is true of the blogs of VCs, startups, programmers, journalists, and pretty much any other piece of content on the web, even including this curated set of links. We should cast wide nets, and get information from every possible source before making decisions. Remember other people are driven by incentives just as much as ourselves.

  • Penny Auctions - How to sell a $180 tablet for $7,264
    Curious Gnu

    Whether penny auctions can be classified as gambling or not, they could be a source of really interesting decision theory/behavioral economics research. If you know of any studies particularly worth looking at, please send them my way.

  • Milwaukee's Divide Runs Right Through Me
    Bassey Etim - The New York Times

    Over the last few weeks, I started watching The Wire. The longer I live in this country, the more I understand the tensions around race and class rooted in years and years of history. I want to spend more time reading about this, and exploring the narratives of the various sides. Building empathy is hard work.

  • It really is the future
    Paul Biggar - CircleCI

    A follow-up on last week’s post on Docker, and the state of distributed systems on the web. This one being the non-satirical version.

  • Five Years of Tim Cook’s Apple in Charts
    Jan Dawson - Medium

    Being on the inside, I can’t say much about this, other than: I’m still bullish.

  • But What If We're Wrong
    Russ Roberts and Chuck Klosterman - EconTalk

    Lots of interesting tid bits on culture, and how our perception of the world changes over time. What will we look back in N years and think “wow, how were we so stupid”?

  • Slavery and Racism
    Russ Roberts and Michael Munger - EconTalk

    The fact that two white economics professors at prestigious universities talk about this in public is already a big win. Not knowing the history of slavery in the US, this was quite interesting. The “us vs. them” framing, coupled with the Rawlsian ideas towards the end, was the most persuasive part. Incentives strike again.

  • On Average
    Roman Mars - 99% Invisible

    Had never thought about the fact that someone had to have introduced “average” into our culture. Another great episode from the 99pi team.

Links - August 22th, 2016

  • This is strictly a business decision
    Tim O'Reilly - Medium

    Incentives rule all our decisions. If the mandate of fiduciary duty is to “maximize shareholder value,” that is what any board will do. Whether the “business decision” was correct or not is a question of short-term vs. long-term thinking, discount rates, and how much the company values its employees. When labor is interchangable, this is not a surprising decision. If the well-being of the employees were somehow baked in into the pricing model, there could be a different outcome.

  • Imaging, Snapchat and mobile
    Benedict Evans

    As usual, Evans gives us a lot to think about. Our phones aren’t really just phones, and our cameras aren’t really just cameras.

  • It’s The Future
    Paul Biggar - CircleCI Blog

    Overengineering is a real problem. I need to learn more about this new dev-ops world, and play with Docker et al, but the fact is that to get started, a monolith running on Heroku is more than enough. Scaling will be harder? Yes, but you might actually get something done and sell to real users. Good enough is good enough. Once again, short-term vs. long term incentives.

  • All the Leaves are Brown and the Sky is Gray
    Cate Huston - Accidentally in Code

    Perspective on software engineering impact: Somehow, the industry keeps moving forward as our projects die, 1 by 1. Stay motivated, and learn from your errors.

  • The stuff we really need is getting more expensive. Other stuff is getting cheaper.
    Christopher Ingraham - The Washington Post
  • The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority
    Nassim Nicholas Taleb - Medium

    A draft of a chapter of Taleb’s upcoming book. He argues that asymmetrical rules lead to minorities dictating choices when there are large benefits to a concentrated minority and small diffuse costs among the majority. All his examples are negative, but its not hard to think of how this same effect can affect us positively.

  • The Night That Obama and Hillary Founded ISIS
    Liz Meriwether - New York Magazine

    The world of politics is odd.

  • Page dewarping
    Matt Zucker

    Math lets us do some really interesting things. This post presents a relatively simple model that solves a real problem for a real person.

  • Firms and Inequality
    Claudia Sahm

    An analysis on the future of work, and labor compensation. I am not surprised that gains are concentrated in a set of firms, the real question, as Claudia points out, is “is rising worker segregation a sign of reduced competition, greater economic rents, or is it telling us about a change in the nature of production?” My guess? The latter.

  • The meaning of trust in the age of Airbnb
    Tim Harford

    The fact that we can walk into a store and exchange a piece of paper for a loaf of bread is a sign of trust. Our economies, and our lives, are all based on trust, and Tim’s article explains how important this is in an age where “reputation” becomes currency. Reminded me a lot of Seabright’s Company of Strangers.

Links - August 18th, 2016

Hello there old friends. It has been forever since my last post, and I apologize for that. Here is a mixed bag of technology, management, and politics pieces. My interests haven’t changed, hopefully yours haven’t either.

Expect more frequent updates coming back soon.

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