vague, but exciting

the porous city

/

/

email me

/

about

Transparency can increase inequality
Via @interfluidity, argument that wage inequality is increasing because it's easier to assess worker quality, so the most productive workers are self-segregating into high-profit firms leaving everyone else at low-profit firms. See also this post on job polarization.

I completely believe this dynamic exists. There's a related story playing out in online advertising, where the ability to target specific kinds of consumers has reduced the broad-based advertising that a lot of general interest online publications depended on.

My first thought was how to reconcile this with continued hiring discrimination, but I guess that's not actually hard. It just means that while firms have gotten better at picking out high-productivity workers from the available pool, they're still - partially intentionally, partially unintentionally - artificially limiting the size of that pool.

I have a harder time reconciling the stronger claims in the top post with the evidence that monopoly rents are a major driver of corporate profit inquality. I asked Waldman about this and ...



Sad lol.

Everyone has one great piece of interactive fiction in them
TODO figure out a reason I need to use inklewriter to write some Infocom knockoff bullshit.

Projects at the 2016 Decentralized Web Summit
I'm skeptical of a lot of this stuff, but I'm glad that people are working on it.

Technologies of the Decentralized Web Summit

"In the old city, we are condemned to bitter struggle over what ultimately may be too little to matter."
The thing about San Francisco is that while greenfields have been exhausted in the city, the San Francisco Bay Area is largely undeveloped. We are always arguing over San Francisco, or Palo Alto (ick). Outside of the 47 square miles of San Francisco proper are almost 3200 square miles in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties.
There's No Substitute For A Substitute

Interesting argument for Singapore-style dense, livable greenfield development. Probably another good idea that will be strangled in its crib by California's tax structure.

ngrok
Expose localhost to the Internet securely

Maybe useful someday. Demo, test, run lightweight services from a Mac mini under the end table.

Reflections on federated services and the trend to centralization
Post from Signal developer and HN comments (worth it for comments from Sandstorm dev alone.)

Prusa on a Coin-op Greg's

Will people stop doing cool stuff on the web already, it's supposed to be politely dead
Simulating the world with emoji

Imagine Conway's game of Life with emoji and more complex rules.

Moby Dick Big Read
Audio, different reader every chapter - Tilda Swinton, Benedict Cumberbatch, China Miéville ...

Another js component that I'll wistfully imagine adding to this site
Substance

Really, a pretty nifty-looking content editor, with the ability to run a server component that understands your document model and rendering rules.

So are we gonna break desktops, phones or both
Long detailed fascinating ideas for the evolution of iOS and OS X

A lot of these are, cough, relevant to my current job as well.

It's hard for me to imagine developers building serious apps without root access to their development environment. On the other hand, who's to say that should drive platform evolution. Either way, the idea of OS X and iOS "growing together" is seductive, if only because it suggests a plausible future in which OS X still exists. Not sure how it squares with the constraints that make the iOS experience so unique - part of what makes iOS apps so great is the limited target area.

The scariest thing about eliminating OS X, which the author is aware of, is Apple's restrictive policies towards apps in the App Store.

Custom View Controller Extension Providers

I mean, maybe OLE's time has come again.

Four pitfalls of hill climbing
hmmm
But actually ends with a defense of hill climbing for product optimization.

Come ON
do it

"But, oh, for one brief, shining moment ..."

Measure customers, not dollars
Initiatives at Apple are evaluated by how well they create and retain customers, not on profitability

Combined with the fact that Apple basically never changes prices, you can see why (1) they're able to focus on quality and (2) they're so ruthless about operations.

Amazing fractals. No, really.

Progressive political organizations in SF (and other ways to get involved)
Googled "social democrats san francisco" but was disappointed, although apparently there used to be such a group.

Gonna start this as a list sans commentary but will come back and add notes.


I know nothing about some of these so if some of them are fronts for AppGooAmFace or NIMBYs don't get mad.

Inequality and democracy
Piketty fears that given rising levels of wealth inequality, democracy is doomed. People will not tolerate high levels of inequality forever, and repressing their resistance to an unequal social order will eventually require dispensing with democratic forms. I’m not so sure ... procedural democracy limping on against a background of inequality, disdain and humiliation is not an attractive prospect, but it is already a big part of our present and may be the whole of our future unless egalitarian politics can be revived.
-Piketty, Rousseau and the desire for inequality

Yet the US political system has been under the influence of wealthy elites ever since the American Revolution. In some historical periods it worked primarily for the benefit of the wealthy. In others, it pursued policies that benefited the society as a whole ... unequal societies generally turn a corner once they have passed through a long spell of political instability. Governing elites tire of incessant violence and disorder. They realise that they need to suppress their internal rivalries, and switch to a more co-operative way of governing, if they are to have any hope of preserving the social order.
-History tells us where the wealth gap leads

You may pick two, but no more than two, of the following:

Liberalism
Inequality
Nonpathology

... if severe inequality is going to continue, then there must remain some sizable contingent of people who are socioeconomic losers, who will as a matter of economic necessity become segregated into less-desirable neighborhoods, who will come to form new communities with social identities, which must be pathological for their poverty to be stable.
-Tangles of pathology

Oh and the second link makes the point that when the pendulum swings back to more equality overall, it can still increase inequality between groups. The last link is the one that makes the picture really dark, because it suggests that the only way to end systematic oppression of black people is to either make the US more equal than it's ever been, or find a new group to oppress.

Useful meta-reviews of health studies
Cochrane findings that will help you

Can't believe I didn't bookmark Cochrane studies here when I found out about them. Cochrane reviews are the antidote to pop-sci articles on health issues talking about a study that just came out with n=20 and results not yet replicated. Study shows Volvo drivers 10 times as likely to experience stress-related tinnitus, maybe.

Stuff that's interesting to me:

  • Acupuncture is pretty good
  • Antioxidants aren't that great and are maybe bad
  • Exercise is good
  • Bicycle helmets are good, so are motorcycle helmets
  • Melatonin is good for jet lag
  • Muscle relaxants are probably good for lower back pain
  • Unsaturated fat is probably better than saturated
  • Reducing salt seems good (however, my understanding is that the important thing is the salt/potassium balance, so increasing potassium might be just as good?)
  • Chinese herbal medicine might reduce cold symptoms (okay I am so down with visiting Chinatown when I feel a cold coming on, give me all the elixirs)

Cryptography as a means to restore the balance of power
Cryptography rearranges power: it configures who can do what, from what.

I'd argue that the reverse is really the issue that needs more attention. Online systems that do not provide strong cryptography rearrange power, as compared to their offline equivalents.

It was not feasible to scan all phone calls for keywords in 1970, since that required effort from humans to do the patching and listening. The power dynamic changed when our industry brought those calls into a centralized, trivially-storable clear-text format. Encrypting the conversations is simply a partial return to the status quo of a few decades ago.
- via

I don't retreat, I reload

Betteridge's Law debunked
Usability on mobile is getting worse.

Although apparently people are getting better at understanding what a hamburger menu is.

Competing in an actually efficient market is terrible
It looks like (fingers crossed) my job in 2016 will involve making life easier for mobile app developers. I don't envy them, honestly.
The likely end state is the web becomes a niche product used for things like 1) trying a service before you download the app, 2) consuming long tail content (e.g. link to a niche blog from Twitter or Facebook feed).

This will hurt long-term innovation from a number of reasons:

1) Apps have a rich-get-richer dynamic that favors the status quo over new innovations. Popular apps get home screen placement, get used more, get ranked higher in app stores, make more money, can pay more for distribution, etc. The end state will probably be like cable TV – a few dominant channels/apps that sit on users’ home screens and everything else relegated to lower tiers or irrelevance.

2) Apps are heavily controlled by the dominant app stores owners, Apple and Google. Google and Apple control what apps are allowed to exist, how apps are built, what apps get promoted, and charge a 30% tax on revenues.
- The Decline of the Mobile Web

So despite the massive growth in mobile usage "it has gotten harder, not easier, to innovate on the Internet with the smartphone emerging as the platform of choice vs the desktop browser" and as a result VC firms (or USV at least) are less interested in taking risk there. A year and a half later they see more of the same.

But maybe better app discovery - potentially via models for using apps that don't require an install - can help.

Things discovered over lunch in Stinson Beach
pyrrhus

Product managers vs accessibility, part two

previously

Worse is better
Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.
- Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendicies (via)

omg the web is alive

Tech news sounding increasingly desperate
forlorn headlines from the Verge

Thinking about getting a 'FUCK PROP 13' tattoo on my forearm

"We have no fucking clue how to simulate a brain."
We can’t simulate the brain of C. Elegans, a very well studied roundworm (first animal to have its genome sequenced) in which every animal has exactly the same 302-neuron brain (out of 959 total cells) and we know the wiring diagram and we have tons of data on how the animal behaves, including how it behaves if you kill this neuron or that neuron. Pretty much whatever data you want, we can generate it. And yet we don’t know how this brain works. Simply put, data does not equal understanding. You might see a talk in which someone argues for some theory for a subnetwork of 6 or 8 neurons in this animal. Our state of understanding is that bad.
Dirty Rant About The Human Brain Project

Why everything is terrible now, tech giants edition
The history of the Internet and mobile is that in many categories the winner takes most of the market ... Lately, we’ve been wondering if there is an end to this pattern on the Internet and mobile. We think it is possible that an open data platform, in which users ultimately control their data and the networks they choose to participate in, could be the thing that undoes this pattern of winner takes most.
Blog post on AVC: Winner Take Most

Also some discussion in the comments about whether the pattern of startups rapidly growing into giants is over; maybe we're stuck with the giants we have and the innovations they deign to give us. Unless those open data platforms emerge ...

I don't know my history well enough, but I wonder how often mature, siloed markets have become standardized.

  • Messaging: email started open & tiny; grew huge. Email sticking around but some of this usage going to service-specific messaging
  • 1-1 chat: started proprietary, went open, now back to proprietary
  • Group chat: started open with IRC, center of gravity now proprietary
  • Publishing: AOL replaced by tiny/open http. Maybe going back to proprietary with Instant Articles
  • Cloud storage: WebDAV is dead; iOS's storage provider API does standardize/commoditize this to an extent
  • Identity: OAuth kinda ... services that want users to be able to log in via OAuth still need to decide which identity providers they want to support, and often they decide to go Facebook-only.

Reckonwrong is running things right now. If you don't know ...

It's funny how Valley types can simultaneously believe "we're far-seeing geniuses who have nothing to learn from the chattering class" and "well nobody knows what will really work, let a thousand flowers launch." Wait am I about to write a thinkpiece

Data as radioactive waste
Another Maciej talk: Haunted by Data

I wonder what Jason Scott thinks about all this (I know there's difference between private user data and public web pages, most of the time.)

Most interesting part to me:
But Nature is full of self-modifying, interlocking systems, with interdependent variables you can't isolate. In these vast data spaces, directed iterative search performs better than any amount of data mining.

My contention is that many of you doing data analysis on the real world will run into similar obstacles, hopefully not at the same cost as pharmacology.
Reminds me of something I've heard from multiple people working on data-driven stuff in consumer web stuff: "every variation performed worse than the baseline."

"Directed iterative search" I'm pretty sure means "We'll just try them —and if they don't work — why then we'll just try something else."

Slothrop's assignations

Leisure Town
Someone's still paying the server bills for this mothballed, dark, amazing web comic, and it looks good on a phone, too.

Leisure Town

Have Gmail only filter messages not sent directly to me
This was surprisingly hard to figure out. Maybe this will help somebody.

1. Go to Settings and under Inbox choose to override filters for important messages
2. Create a filter from:me to:me and choose "Always mark as important"

This will make sure messages sent directly to you end up in your inbox, even if you have another filter that would normally archive it.

Yesssss more workflow tools

Open-source Audioscrobbler clone
ListenBrainz

I still don't know why I care about my listening history (although Last.fm's event recommendations have been great.) This also imports your existing history from Last.fm.

Waiting on Valencia to get into a Severed Heads show, a gorgeous lowrider glides past bumping hip-hop.

Make tiny web pages on your phone
Byte.co

Images, text, links, with a public URL. Add a safe subset of Javascript and you have Hypercard.

Social networks we need and don't have
  • A social network for artists - share some stuff publicly, talk privately, have more control over your online self-presentation than you get from Facebook. Arguably demand here is why a terrible site like Ello got traction.
  • A social network where you share stuff with friends. No, not Facebook, I don't want to share with everyone I've ever met. I'm talking about sharing with a smaller set of people in a more private space. What if Path was a good idea but was five years too early?
  • Local social networks. Facebook groups are doing a non-terrible job here sometimes, but Facebook might be the wrong baseline - makes more sense for this to be public by default. Maybe a Twitterish local social net?

The counterargument being "how many social networks do you want to be a part of?" but seems to me that any time people find a congenial space (cool people, or people with useful information to share) they're eager to jump in. "People" here probably skews toward more active/savvy types, and I don't know how large that segment is, but they're probably the users most likely to make you money if you care about that kind of thing.

Things I'm skeptical about that are maybe actually okay
  • Natural language interfaces
  • Centralized social networks
  • "the death of the filesystem"

Still terrible: the impact of illegible UIs and constant unnecessary UI changes on older users.

Two punctures, one failed tube, and Daniel pulled through all the tough parts

Other
Games, Video, History, Berlin, Activism, Friday, Clothes, Feminism, San Francisco, Podcasts, Quizzes, Sports, Statistics, Personal care, CrowdFlower, Travel, Minnesota, Transportation, Law, Geography, Bicycling, Politik, Life hacks, Toys, L.A., Housing, Boston, Food & Drink, Agriculture, Surfing, NYC

Tech
a11y, Javascript, Audio, Open, RSS, Shopping, Social, Net, Storage, Wearables, Product Management, Hardware, Web analytics, Business, Mobile, Security, Medical, Visual, WRX, barcamp, Crowdsourcing, s60, Web, OS, Development, Collaboration, Data, MacOS, PIM, Automobile, Energy

Music
Good tracks, Musicians, Mailing lists, History, Shopping, Reviews, Streams, Booking, Business, Labels, Making, Mixes, Hip-hop, Lyrics, Mp3s, House, Videos, L.A., Events, Boston

People
Vocations, Weblogs, Enemies, ADD, Friends, Heroes, Health, Family, Languages, Me, MOTAS, Subcultures, Stories, Gossip, Working with, Life hacks, Exercise

Commerce
Personal finance, Web, Real Estate, Investing, Macroeconomics, Insurance, Shopping, Microfinance, Personal services, Non-profit, Taxes, Marketing and CRM, International Development, IP Law, Management consulting

Arts
Movies, Animation, Comix, Visual, Literature, Humor, Burning Man, Rhetoric, Outlets, Sculpture, iPad bait, Events, Spoken Word, Poetry

Design
Type, Cool, Data visualization, Web, Tools, IA, Process, Furniture, User experience, Architecture, Algorithmic, Presentations

Science
Zoology, Networks, Psychology, Statistics and Data, Environment, Physics

Travel
Uganda, Vagabond '08, Kenya, Kingdom of Siam

Photos
Photos I Wish I'd Taken, Friends, Moblog

Philosophy
Mind

One Acre Fund

Subscribe to this site's rss feed