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.

Outside Lands, take two

Outside Lands, take two

Well, “take two” isn’t really fair. I’ve actually been to the festival three times. I hope you’ll see a jump in quality from last year’s.

Pretty crazy how people are willing to be photographed due to the air of professionalism of a DSLR in ways that a smartphone camera wouldn’t allow. As I asked people to take their photos, they would constantly ask things like “Where will these be published?” or “What site are you taking the photos for?” and were oddly surprised when I told them it was for a personal blog. The camera is both a bridge and a barrier.

If you came looking for a specific photo, and it isn’t here, reach out and I’ll happily send it your way. 600 was a lot to post at once. More...

Links - July 14th, 2016

As you can tell from the articles below, I’ve read a lot about consciousness lately. In general, I like the topic a lot, but I was actually trying to find an article on the subject from a couple of years ago that I remember being really good. Sadly, I didn’t find it, but it did take me down the rabbit hole of the Internet, and I found all of the consciousness related posts below, so hopefully you will enjoy those.

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