Four Short Links

Nat Torkington's eclectic collection of curated links.

Four short links: 24 August 2016

Coop Handbook, Startup Engineering Management, Pokemon Go, and Availability vs. Latency

  1. The Loomio Coop Handbook -- see also the Q&A on the Hacker News comment thread.
  2. Notes on Startup Engineering Management -- every word of this is golden.
  3. Pokemon Go User Numbers Drop -- interesting line of thought, not explored in the article, is that the "cheats" people put in place ("show me where the Pokemon are") are what enabled the flocking and social congregations. Correspondingly, the social use has stopped now that Niantic has blocked the third-party "where are they" services without providing their own functionality.
  4. PACELC Theorem -- PACELC stands for: if there is a partition (P), how does the system trade off availability and consistency (A and C); else (E), when the system is running normally in the absence of partitions, how does the system trade off latency (L) and consistency (C)?

Four short links: 23 August 2016

Real-Time Dystopia, Inside the Hololens, Future Excitement, and Useful Ebook Lending

  1. The Age of the Never-Ending Performance Review (Bloomberg) -- In theory, frequent substantive feedback ought to be less fraught and more helpful than annual reviews and ratings. But coupled with other tools that enable employers to keep an ever-closer watch on how workers spend every second of their days, it’s easy to see how some workplaces could turn pretty dystopian pretty quickly.
  2. Inside the Hololens (The Register) -- The secretive HPU is a custom-designed TSMC-fabricated 28nm coprocessor that has 24 Tensilica DSP cores. It has about 65 million logic gates, 8MB of SRAM, and a layer of 1GB of low-power DDR3 RAM on top, all in a 12mm-by-12mm BGA package. We understand it can perform a trillion calculations a second. So...not an Arduino, then?
  3. Eleven Reasons to be Excited about the Future of Technology (Chris Dixon) -- an investor's take. I'm excited about the future of technology because there's been a multi-country explosion in awareness of, and action around, the unjust treatment of women and minorities. And a lot of that that explosion of awareness happened via tech designed to let white boys in San Francisco chitchat (while, admittedly, enabling a tsunami of trolling assholes). Who knows, maybe VR/AR will accidentally end sex-trafficking.
  4. How NYPL Got Useful Ebook Lending -- presentation about the tech and strategy required to actually make a useful ebook lending service. (via Cory Doctorow)

Four short links: 22 August 2016

Job Automation, Metadata Anonymization, AR/VR Hackathon, and Alexa's Great UX

  1. Hacker Scripts -- possibly apocryphal, but hilarious, set of a programmer's scripts, which automated life to a hilarious degree. One near to my heart: scans the inbox for emails from "Kumar" (a DBA at our clients). Looks for keywords like "help," "trouble," "sorry," etc. If keywords are found, the script SSHes into the clients server and rolls back the staging database to the latest backup. Then sends a reply "no worries, mate; be careful next time."
  2. MAT -- Metadata Anonymization Tool.
  3. MIT AR/VR Hackathon -- Oct 7-10.
  4. What Would Alexa Do? -- Tim's praise of the Echo UX with Alexa. Our family has been using an Echo for three weeks, and (like Tim) I've been tempted to try to use the voice UIs from Google and Apple more ... and their crappy interaction design has turned me off. Alexa is useful in multiple dimensions. Siri and OK Google are barely useful in one. By the way, stay tuned for my next single, "Ok Google, Hey Siri, Alexa -- delete all my files OK OK ENTER," coming soon on Bandcamp.

Four short links: 19 August 2016

Machine Learning Unconference, Sgt Augmento, TCP Puzzles, and Open Source PowerShell

  1. OpenAI's Machine Learning Unconference -- Oct 7-8 in SF.
  2. Sgt Augmento -- Bruce Sterling's new story about robots taking our jobs. (via Cory Doctorow)
  3. TCP Puzzlers -- good stuff! I loved the C Puzzle Book, and all the other "yeah, no wait...WHAT?" style mindbenders.
  4. PowerShell Open Sourced -- it's somewhat a shell, but mostly a scripting language for automation.

Four short links: 18 August 2016

Explaining Models, Persona Conversation, Experiments with Investors, and Prolog In Your Javascript

  1. Why Should I Trust You? (gitxiv) -- In this work, we propose LIME, a novel explanation technique that explains the predictions of any classifier in an interpretable and faithful manner, by learning an interpretable model locally around the prediction.
  2. A Persona-Based Neural Conversation Model -- We present persona-based models for handling the issue of speaker consistency in neural response generation. A speaker model encodes personas in distributed embeddings that capture individual characteristics such as background information and speaking style. A dyadic speaker-addressee model captures properties of interactions between two interlocutors. (via Ben Lorica)
  3. Randomized Field Experiment in Attracting Early Stage Investors -- The average investor responds strongly to information about the founding team, but not to firm traction or existing lead investors. We provide suggestive evidence that team is not merely a signal of quality, and that investing based on team information is a rational strategy. Altogether, our results indicate that information about human assets is causally important for the funding of early-stage firms, and hence, for entrepreneurial success.
  4. LogicJS -- Prolog-like declarative logic programming for Javascript.

Four short links: 17 August 2016

Thinking Mathematics, Document Rectification, Human Misjudgement, and Joel Test for Data Science

  1. What It's Like to Know Higher Mathematics (Quora) -- a fascinating glimpse at how mathematicians think. [W]hen you do have a deep understanding, you have solved the problem and it is time to do something else. This makes the total time you spend in life reveling in your mastery of something quite brief. One of the main skills of research scientists of any type is knowing how to work comfortably and productively in a state of confusion.
  2. Fast Document Rectification and Enhancement (Dropbox) -- how this useful thing is done, for image processing enthusiasts.
  3. The Psychology of Human Misjudgement (PDF) -- interesting run-through of the fallibilities in our judgement. (Think: cognitive biases)
  4. The Joel Test for Data Science -- eight simple questions intended as a quick-and-dirty sniff test for the quality of a data science team.

Four short links: 16 August 2016

Inferential Thinking, Free Coding School, Technical Wealth, and Social Linked Data

  1. Computational and Inferential Thinking -- textbook for the Foundations of Data Science class at UC Berkeley.
  2. Ars Covers 42 -- free coding school with a really interesting approach (aims to provide social mobility). The measure will be its failures, not its successes, so I'm keen to see more reporting on it as it expands out. Very ambitious!
  3. Building Technical Wealth -- work to fix things that make developers less productive because the value from today's development compounds.
  4. MIT Solid -- (derived from "social linked data") is a proposed set of conventions and tools for building decentralized social applications based on Linked Data principles. Solid is modular and extensible, and it relies as much as possible on existing W3C standards and protocols. TimBL's latest project.

Four short links: 15 August 2016

Code that Codes, Learn Don't Tell, Traffic Security, and Simulating Taxation

  1. ExCAPE -- In the proposed paradigm, a programmer can express insights through a variety of forms such as incomplete programs, example behaviors, and high-level requirements, and the synthesis tool generates the implementation relying on powerful analysis algorithms and programmer collaboration. "Programs that write programs are the happiest programs in the world." -- Andrew Hume. Software making software is the logical end-game. (via ADT)
  2. CartPole -- OpenAI's gym version of a classic better-if-learned-than-told programming problem. For more, see Mat Kelcey.
  3. Traffic Camera Security -- To summarize, we discovered three major weaknesses in the road agency’s traffic infrastructure deployment: 1. The network is accessible to attackers due to the lack of encryption. 2. Devices on the network lack secure authentication due to the use of default usernames and passwords. 3. The traffic controller is vulnerable to known exploits. ... which they went on to exploit.
  4. OpenFisca -- an open micro-simulator of the tax-benefit system. It allows users to calculate many social benefits and taxes paid by households and to simulate the impact of reforms on their budget. Models and interactive-simulations are the best ways to learn about dynamic systems.

Four short links: 12 August 2016

Lost Infrastructure, Trump as Machine Learning Algorithm, Malicious Proof-of-Work, and Twitter Abuse

  1. The Lost Infrastructure of Social Media (Anil Dash) -- what we've lost, and what we could get back.
  2. Trump is Like a Biased Machine Learning Algorithm -- an entertaining take on Trump and a cautionary not for people [who] actually think there will soon be algorithms that control us, operating “through sound decisions of pure rationality” and that we will no longer have use for politicians at all.
  3. DDoSCoin: Cryptocurrency with a Malicious Proof-of-Work -- brilliant Usenix paper! This proof involves making a large number of TLS connections to a target server, and using cryptographic responses to prove that a large number of connections has been made. Like proof-of-work puzzles, these proofs are inexpensive to verify, and can be made arbitrarily difficult to solve.
  4. A Honeypot for Assholes -- a history of Twitter's failure to prosecute trolls. I didn't realize how much was inspired by the Free Speech cause in the beginning. It's interesting just how far the conversation about conversations has progressed since then.

Four short links: 11 August 2016

Benefits of Driverless Cars, Editing a Genome, Lagging Porn, and Federal Source Code

  1. Self-Driving Cars Will Improve Our Cities If They Don't Ruin Them -- a reminder that the possible positives of self-driving cars (such as fewer cars) should be regulated for, not assumed as a logical consequence of the introduction of the technology. My 2004 Prius costs me about $1.50 for an hour of run time. It will be cheaper to have my car double-park or circle blocks rather than pay for a parking meter or, heaven forbid, pay for parking in a downtown garage.
  2. Beyond CRISPR: Other Ways To Edit a Genome (Nature) -- NgAgo is just one of a growing library of gene-editing tools. Some are variations on the CRISPR theme; others offer new ways to edit genomes.
  3. Porn Does Not Lead Technology Any More (Wired) -- Some of it may have been true in years past. But no longer. A colleague of mine calls this a meso-idea, an idea that has ceased to be true but that people continue to repeat, ad infinitum, as if it still was. Sex has been commodified, price racing to the bottom in an ocean of perfect competition as the tools of production are democratized and the Internet destroys the pornography industry the way it took hatchets to the newspaper industry.
  4. The People's Code -- We’re releasing the Federal Source Code policy to support improved access to custom-developed Federal source code. The policy, which incorporates feedback received during the public comment period, requires new custom-developed source code developed specifically by or for the Federal Government to be made available for sharing and re-use across all Federal agencies. It also includes a pilot program that will require Federal agencies to release at least a portion of new custom-developed Federal source code to the public and support agencies in going beyond that minimum requirement.

Four short links: 10 August 2016

Language Research, Probabilistic Cognition, Medical Data, and Teaching State Computer Security

  1. AI's Language Problem (Wired) -- very readable overview of the challenges and research in making more sense of the text we are processing, and why deep learning is a great start but not the end of the work to be done.
  2. Probabilistic Models of Cognition -- web book from Stanford profs behind webppl, a probabilistic programming language built on Javascript.
  3. Your Medical Data Misappropriated (BoingBoing) -- "Property" is a terrible framework for understanding personal information—it's led to a situation where people aren't allowed to know what's going on in their own bodies, and where corporations can use anti-theft laws to attack scientists, security researchers, and the people whose bodies generated the data the corporations have turned into crown jewels.
  4. PwC Australia's Game to Teach Cyber Security Lessons (Computer Weekly) -- a friend has played this, says it is really good at conveying the complexity and the relentlessness (and is accessible for normal people).

Four short links: 9 August 2016

Forecasting Deadlines, SQL Client, Concept Network, and Game QA Process

  1. Don't Use Average to Forecast Deadlines -- good advice on how not to use throughput to predict delivery dates. [P]rojects will rarely have a distribution where average, median, and standard deviation are identical. As the data becomes skewed, the average loses its ability to provide the best central location for the data because the data will drag it away from the typical value. As we don’t have information about the data distribution, it’s wrong to make a forecast based on an average.
  2. Selectron -- GUI and command-line SQL client.
  3. ConceptNet -- a semantic network containing a lot of things computers should know about the world, especially when understanding text written by people.
  4. Patch the Process -- games often release massive day-one patches because the console QA process (and the timeline to ship discs) means the devs have fixed things for months after the version that was approved for sale. This post explains that source of lag in more detail, and should make automated testing folks twitch.

Four short links: 8 August 2016

Star Simpson, Inside Malware Network, Code Generation, and Trippy Face Tricks

  1. Interview with Star Simpson (BoingBoing) -- Foo and my personal superhero on the Cool Tools podcast.
  2. Wire Wire: A West African Cyber Threat -- fascinating look inside the malware Nigerian scammers use. Amusingly, the security researchers were able to study what the scammers do because the scammers inadvertently installed their malware on their own boxes, so their keystrokes were logged to command-and-control machines. Dog-fooding your malware is just not best practice, guys. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Latent Predictor Networks for Code Generation (PDF) -- Using this framework, we address the problem of generating programming code from a mixed natural language and structured specification. We create two new data sets for this paradigm derived from the collectible trading card games Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone. On these, and a third preexisting corpus, we demonstrate that marginalizing multiple predictors allows our model to outperform strong benchmarks.
  4. Omote Demonstration (YouTube) -- stunning real-time face tracking and projection mapping system. Starts out as makeup and then gets so much more wow. Demo two is where the acid kicks in. (via BoingBoing)

Four short links: 5 August 2016

Challenge Winner, Rewriting Rules, Games for Ground Truth, and Fast Text Processing

  1. NIH Pill Image Recognition Challenge -- congrats to Foo Greg Sadetsky, whose team took 2nd place!
  2. Time to Rewrite The Rules (Tim O'Reilly) -- You can see here that there is a five-player game in which gains (or losses) can be allocated in different proportion to consumers, the company itself, financial markets, workers, or taxpayers. The current rules of our economy have encouraged the allocation of gains to consumers and financial shareholders (now including top company management), and the losses to workers and taxpayers. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
  3. Ground Truth from Computer Games -- clever hack: using photorealistic games to train image segmenting algorithms.
  4. fastText -- a library for efficient learning of word representations and sentence classification. C++, from Facebook, BSD-licensed.

Four short links: 4 August 2016

Make Music, HTTP/2 Push, d3 Scaffolding, and Elan Lee Interview

  1. Marble Musical Machine (YouTube) -- beautiful example of the nerd tinkerer's art.
  2. Rules of Thumb for HTTP/2 Push -- The intended audience is HTTP/2 server implementers, who want to support server push in their servers, and web developers, who think their pages may be benefit from server push. (via Eric Bidelman)
  3. How I Start d3 Projects (Chris McDowall) -- This is the little bit of scaffolding I typically use when starting a d3.js project.
  4. Interview with Elan Lee -- podcast, no transcription, unfortunately. It used to be that you would exchange money for a product. Now, it's becoming much more attractive to exchange money for an experience.

Four short links: 3 August 2016

Aussie Startups, Exponential Tech, Server-side TLS, and Hololens GA

  1. Australian Startup Scene (Tristan Pollock) -- the Australia and New Zealand VC ecosystem has grown eight times bigger since 2011 and broke $600 million in funding for the first time ever.
  2. Cartoon Intro to Exponential Tech (Kaila Colbin) -- the human brain's struggle with exponential series is the governor on our imagination. This cartoon does a nice job of releasing the brakes for those who haven't yet had their thinking opened up.
  3. Server-Side TLS (Mozilla) -- The Operations Security (OpSec) team maintains this document as a reference guide to navigate the TLS landscape. It contains information on TLS protocols, known issues and vulnerabilities, configuration examples, and testing tools.
  4. Hololens Goes GA -- USD3k per, max 5/customer. USA and Canada only.

Four short links: 2 August 2016

Industrial Organization, Spark 2, MySQL Migrations, and Elon's Bedtime Stories

  1. Industrial Organization Reading List -- from Tyler Cowen's Fall Ph.D. class.
  2. Apache Spark 2.0.0 -- The major updates are API usability, SQL 2003 support, performance improvements, structured streaming, R UDF support.
  3. gh-ost -- GitHub's MySQL schema migration tool providing a low-impact, controllable, auditable, operations-friendly solution.
  4. Elon Musk's Recommended Books -- you can learn a lot about a person from their bookshelf.

Four short links: 1 August 2016

Text to VR, Fixing Government, World Models, and Robots Won't Take Our Jobs

  1. GuriVR -- turns textual scene description into a VR environment.
  2. How Not to Fix Government IT (Simon Wardley) -- I'm all for GDS over time becoming distributed with departments providing services. But why not carve up GDS into the departments right now? UK Gov doesn't have the maps, we don't have the analysis functions, and we don't have the capability within departments.
  3. World Models (Liza Daly) -- One way to address this is to layer on a world model: an additional representation of what words mean. Rather than relying solely on how words relate grammatically or probabilistically, it’s possible to guide systems toward producing text that is internally consistent and stylistically coherent.
  4. How Computer Automation Affects Occupations: Technology, Jobs, and Skills -- Occupations that use computers grow faster, not slower. This is true even for highly routine and mid-wage occupations. Estimates reject computers as a source of significant net technological unemployment or job polarization. But computerized occupations substitute for other occupations, shifting employment and requiring new skills. Because new skills are costly to learn, computer use is associated with substantially greater within-occupation wage inequality. (via Gavin Kelly)

Four short links: 29 July 2016

Embedding Learning, Kickstarter Value, Summer Reading, and UX for Beginners

  1. Using Design Thinking to Embed Learning in Our Jobs (HBR) -- Rather than try to cram all this into a set of formal or informal learning programs, the company built an app, which looks more like a game than a learning system. It is designed to give people the basic information they need before they even come to work, then later add social connections, coaching sessions, and videos that help them on the job, and even encourage them to share what they’ve learned online. Essentially, it mirrors and supports the journey map created during the design-thinking process.
  2. Kickstarter Economic Value Estimated at $5.3 Billion (Guardian) -- For every dollar pledged by a project’s backers, another $2.46 is generated in extra revenue for the creator, and Mollick estimates that, in total, Kickstarter has generated more than $5.3 billion of economic value for project creators.
  3. YC Summer Reading -- more good reading lists.
  4. UX Process for Beginners and Those Who Need Refresher (O'Reilly) -- what it says!

Four short links: 28 July 2016

Inclusive Photo Filters, Spatial Audio, Artificial Connectomes, and Meaningful Metrics

  1. tonr -- an inclusive app with a variety of photo filters that amplifies how beautiful a variety of skin tones are instead of washing them out. The goal of tonr is to create filters that affirm that black, brown, and other skin tones are beautiful. We looked toward deepening the subjects’ skin instead of lightening, emphasizing the richness and saturation of melanin, and playing with interesting color overlays.
  2. omnitone -- spatial audio on the Web. Apache-licensed, from Google.
  3. Building Artificial Connectomes -- There are certain rules to connectomic engineering that allow the emulation of sensory to cortical to motor output behaviors. Gotta love any article that starts, I have emulated the C elegans connectome (i.e. how a nervous system is wired) in robotics and shown that the connectome with a simple neuron model displays behaviors similar to the animal itself.
  4. Creating Meaningful Metrics That Get Your Users To Do The Things You Want (O'Reilly Media) -- the hardest part of anything is figuring out what you should measure. The second-hardest part is then measuring it.