June 17, 2019

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 17th 2019

  • Uber’s Path of Destruction. In-depth dismantling of Uber as a company of any value. I disagree that they haven't managed any useful innovation, they did bring a nice user-experience to smartphone-owners-who-want-a-cab, but some service design for a cab firm would've found that sooner or later. Sadly their big innovation is in persuading VCs and the press that they're a tech firm rather than a taxi firm that gets digital; WeWork is doing the same for real estate, and we'll have similar problems to cope with when it becomes apparent that they aren't going to generate the same multiple returns for its investors.
  • Stock and flow. Just a lovely explanation of how to manage step 1 (stock) and step 2 (flow). I also think about opportunity cost a lot, but hadn't made the connection back to my D-grade A-level economics until just now.
  • Sidewalk Toronto: The Recklessness of Novelty. The recklessness of novelty is a wonderful phrase, and sadly it's everywhere. 'There is a local approach to Quayside supportive of global innovation and respectful of Toronto knowledge. And, most importantly, as Shannon Mattern writes, about maintenance over disruption, the work of already here places and people. In her words, “What we really need to study is how the world gets put back together.”'
  • Five Lessons from History. An interesting oblique look at some history that we all know.

Inspired by Giles' recent promotion of RSS and the fact that I've just added two new RSS feeds to my RSS reader, I figured it might be interesting to surface that information here. It's kind of like when Twitter start showing you tweets that your friend's next-door neighbour's cat's distant uncle liked. Only hopefully not quite as annoying. And it's at the end of the blog post, so it's easy to skip. I don't know if it'll become a regular fixture, I guess we'll see.

This week's RSS additions:

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June 03, 2019

Interesting Things on the Internet: June 3rd 2019

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May 27, 2019

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 27th 2019

  • Putting the Soul in Console. "maybe things like our gaming devices or the websites we visit should be created by people we know and like, instead of giant faceless companies, seems more essential than ever. We would never settle for replacing all of our made-with-love, locally-grown, mom's recipe home cooking with factory-farmed fast food, even if sometimes convenience demands we consume the latter."
  • Council Estate Academics: Take Pride in Your Roots. Not just academics. I didn't grow up on a council estate, but lots of this rings true. The class system in this country has been finely honed over centuries to ensure there's always another level into which you don't fit. Sod that for a game of soldiers.
  • “Like millions of others, I was fed the myth…It’s bollocks, mate.”. A good exploration of another perspective on the last link.
  • Kolyma - Birthplace of Our Fear. Long, but really interesting documentary about the Russian Gulag, that era of Stalinist Russia and its legacy.
  • Russell Keith-Magee - Keynote - PyCon 2019. Interesting arguments about how and why we should be funding open source projects (focused on Python, but it all applies elsewhere too). The section about Ostrom's work in how we successfully manage a commons and how that conflicts with open source licensing was especially interesting. Given that a commons, or a community, needs ways to protect itself from bad actors; how do we reconcile that with the four freedoms? Maybe we need to change the four freedoms.
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May 20, 2019

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 20th 2019

  • Why I (Still) Love Tech: In Defense of a Difficult Industry. Yep. Pretty much all of this. I do think that some of this is a response to the geeks gaining power. Some of us remember what it was like to be the outsider, and want to help others up onto our platform; others remember what it was like to be the outsider, and enjoy getting to be the school bully. So much work to do.
  • Lets talk about Extinction Rebellion. I wanted to write more about Extinction Rebellion here, particularly when I visited the protests on Waterloo Bridge when I was down in London. Given that hasn't happened, this good write-up will have to suffice for now.
  • Senate testimony on privacy and surveillance capitalism. Not as entertaining as his usual talks against the big tech companies, but important, considered arguments about the risks and how we should regulate tech from Maciej. Happy that I pay him for my pinboard.in account. "For sixty years, we have called the threat of totalitarian surveillance ‘Orwellian’, but the word no longer fits the threat. The better word now may be ‘Californian’."
  • Freezing Executive Salaries to Pay Entry-Level Workers a Better Wage. "The conversation with our executives was straightforward. We were in the midst of a turnaround. We were demanding much from every corner of the company. Small financial sacrifices from those at the top could be life changing for those at the bottom of our wage scale."
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May 13, 2019

Interesting Things on the Internet: May 13th 2019

  • Tukey, Design Thinking, and Better Questions. Excellent thoughts on data science (I need to read the original paper too, written in 1962!). "Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise."
  • Finance for non-accountants. Excellent primer on how to read a company's accounts, for non-accountants like myself (and most people).
  • Radically Open Security: Non-profit Ventures. Interesting set of rules for setting up non-profit businesses. Good to see more examples like this knocking around.
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April 29, 2019

Interesting Things on the Internet: April 29th 2019

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April 15, 2019

Interesting Things on the Internet: April 15th 2019

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March 17, 2019

Blog All Dog-eared Pages: The Devil's Device by Edwyn Gray

Hardly any dog-eared pages for this book, The Devil's Device, but that belies how interesting a read it was. It's the story of Robert Whitehead and his invention, the torpedo.

Page 18

In addition [Robert Whitehead] had no social background and, even worse, he was a common engineer—and everyone knew that engineers were not exactly persona grata in polite circles. In fact, very sensibly, the Navy's own commissioned engineers had to mess separately and were not admitted to the wardrooms lest, so it was whispered, their oil- and coal-grimed hands should besmirch the spotless table linen. It was an attitude exemplified in its extreme by the remark of a young midshipman to an Engineer Lieutenant who had reminded him of the seniorities of rank: 'You may be senior to me, Brown—but my mother wouldn't invite your mother to tea!'

Page 67

Robert had been in business long enough to realize that sheer skill was not enough if one lacked access to the right ears and, even though his torpedo was not yet completely satisfactory, he snatched the opportunity to ensure that news of his weapon reached the most influential people.

Page 228

The German G-7e required only 1,255 man-hours for completion using semi-skilled labour. The equivalent thermal-engined weapon needed 1.707 man-hours with highly skilled operators. In terms of modern warfare the mathematics of production schedules can be as important as the tactical skill of the admirals.

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February 25, 2019

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 25th 2019

  • Leeway. An excellent exploration of why we need systems which don't blindly apply a rigid set of rules. (That's the same argument for why most home automation will just annoy us with unexpected edge cases).
  • How Austerity, and a Cowardly Ruling Class, Brought About Brexit. "I want my country back too, as it happens. But I'm not kidding myself about who stole it. The Tories sold out the British people and then made the mistake of giving them one real chance to make their feelings known—and, well, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like David Cameron's face."
  • Known Assailants. A well-written account of failed social mobility in the US. Social mobility seems almost dead these days. Given the mess the upper class is currently making of the UK, it's in everyone else's (the upper class will be insulated regardless, and some are likely to profit from it...) interest to be finding ways to bring it back.
  • Building the Barbican. Fascinating report into the workers who built the Barbican. Includes such scandalous behaviour as one of the contractor companies engineering strikes to try to get out of (or renegotiate) a contract they'd under-priced in their bids, and stories of the establishment siding with management over the workers despite their valid (and relatively minor) demands.
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February 11, 2019

Interesting Things on the Internet: February 11th 2019

  • Death Sentence: The Words That Bulldoze Our Cities. How bullshit aspirational marketing copy blights our city, and what it says about society.
  • An oral history of “Silicon” Roundabout. An excellent look at the development of London's tech scene and how the community came first, then the flashy offices and money showed up. Should be required reading for all the "regeneration" types, but they wouldn't want to hear what it told them.
  • A letter to Steven Pinker (and Bill Gates, for that matter) about global poverty. A robust debunking (with plenty of citations) of the "things might look bad but actually we're doing a good job of improving the lives of the global poor" claims/narrative. We're not doing well, and we could do much better, but the rich wouldn't like that (even though there's lots we could do before they'd notice any difference in their lifestyles)
  • Cambridge University deserves to sink below the rising seas. Julian on scathing form about how Oxbridge are failing and how we are failing to hold them to account. It reminds me of an excellent comment on a Metafilter thread on a similar top - "I am surprised that Oxford and Cambridge, but Oxford in particular, haven't attempted to disown so many of their alumni who went into politics and are directly related - both Labour *and* Tory, to the current useless state of British politics.

    There is no greater illustration of how empty the meaning of an Oxbridge education is than of Dominic Rabb, a man according to wikipedia who has a degree from Cambridge and a masters from Oxford, yet is so fucking stupid that he can't work out - for himself - the importance of the Dover-Calais crossing to the UK economy."

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