Friday, August 26, 2016

Stuff I'm reading, coming back from backpacking edition

... Yes, yes, I know, I haven't finished my trip report yet.

But there's too much to read!

  • 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)?
  • Engineering Trade-Offs and The Netflix API Re-Architecture
    we are keenly aware that a decision to create two APIs, owned by two separate teams, can have profound implications. Our goals would, and should, be minimal divergence between the two APIs. Developer experience, as noted above, is one of the reasons. More broadly, we want to maximize the reuse of any components that are relevant to both APIs. This also includes any orchestration mechanisms, and any tools, mechanisms, and libraries related to scalability, reliability, and resiliency. The risk is that the two APIs could drift apart over time. What would that mean? For one, it could have organizational consequences (e.g., need for more staff). We could end up in a situation where we have valued ownership of components to a degree that we have abandoned component reuse. This is not a desirable outcome for us, and we would have to be very thoughtful about any divergence between the two APIs.

    Even in a world where we have a significant amount of code use, we recognize that the operational overhead will be higher. As noted above, the API is critical to the Netflix service functioning properly for customers. Up until now, only one of the teams has been tasked with making the system highly scalable and highly resilient, and carrying the operational burden. The team has spent years building up expertise and experience in system scale and resiliency. By creating two APIs, we would be distributing these tasks and responsibilities to both teams.

  • With Windows 10, Microsoft Blatantly Disregards User Choice and Privacy: A Deep Dive
    Windows 10 sends an unprecedented amount of usage data back to Microsoft, particularly if users opt in to “personalize” the software using the OS assistant called Cortana. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of data sent back: location data, text input, voice input, touch input, webpages you visit, and telemetry data regarding your general usage of your computer, including which programs you run and for how long.
  • Notes on Startup Engineering Management for Young Bloods
    The amount of overhead that goes into managing coordination of people cannot be overstated. It's so great that the industry invented microservices because we'd rather invest engineering headcount and dollars into software orchestration than force disparate engineering teams to work together. And even that is an illusion when it comes to true cross-functional efforts. It turns out, there is a reason big companies end up with project managers who spend all day making sure people are talking to one another.
  • Loomio Co-op Handbook
    Then we evolved again, and became a fully agile team. We had always drawn on elements of agile organising in our software development practices, but it was when we started incorporating all work across the co-op into agile sprints that it really clicked together.

    Every 3 months we stop and reassess the team makeup, the coordinators, and the budget to check: are we still making the absolute best use of this money that’s been entrusted to us? This made us super adaptive and efficient, but of course it was really disruptive too.

    In late 2015 we raised money from impact investors, which finally brought us to a level of financial security where we could think more than 3 months ahead. This has enabled us to thinking long-term, resource a solid core team, and settle into a set of functional processes that address different perspectives and time-scales of our work.

  • NetApp’s surprising Q1
    Flat product sales don’t sound too bad, given the wrenching turnaround CEO George Kurian is trying to execute. But gross margins have dropped to the mid-40s, down over 300 basis points YOY, evidence that NetApp is buying business to keep product revenues up.
  • How to rescue Obamacare as insurers drop out
    To understand the problem bedeviling Aetna and other insurers — and the solution — one has to understand five key features of individual insurance markets.
  • On and off the grid – with digitally literate teenagers
    In a weird way my wife and I came to appreciate watching the Olympics each evening around the television. We did it as a family, and without the aid of digital technologies, which made it more social. Here is what I mean: Digital technologies have removed a social dimension of family life. Today my kids comfortably navigate Snapchat and Wikipedia and all of social media, except Facebook, which they and their friends largely left after my generation joined. My kids used to tease me about not texting as much as they do, but the playfulness passed long ago. At this point my children do not enjoy introducing me to a new apps for the smart phone. The regard me as antiquated.

    Going off the grid prevented my children from burying their faces in their parochial online worlds, so we all watched the same televised sporting events. This became a shared family experience. Each evening, after a day in the park, we sat down to the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and we talked about it. From a parental point of view, this was a very satisfying family experience.


    I came to appreciate that Pokemon Go became a filter through which my son experienced the park. The app worked in every location where LTE worked. It motivated my son to understand the park’s layout. His siblings found it amusing and they engaged with him about the experience. When we hiked up Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, for example, he pulled up a virtual map of the trails. He tried it in every popular location – Mono Lake, Mirror Lake, Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows – any place where cell service supported it. He bagged his first Pickachu (ever) at the Mono Lake Visitor Center. A few times he showed me and his siblings where the creatures lurked.

    It was rather astonishing how engaged he became. By the end of the stay my son had a mental map of every trail we hiked in Yosemite, and the cell phone service overlay that supported the app on the trails. This filter made him appreciate details about the landscape. We spoke about the ways the glaciers cut the granite, and he understood the geometry as well as he understood any virtual landscape. By the end of our stay I half-expected him to go back to the cabin and recreate the landscape on MineCraft.

  • Corporate sponsors at Yosemite? The case against privatizing national parks
    The empirical record regarding state parks is illustrative. Most states have either cut their funding for state park systems substantially in recent years or required them to be more self-sustaining. This trend has increased pressure on state park managers to generate revenue.

    State parks thus have added hotels, lodges, golf courses, ski resorts and various forms of commercial sponsorship. Now the National Park Service reportedly is considering selling corporate sponsorships to raise money for unfunded maintenance projects.

  • This Man Will Change the Way You Play Board Games
    In an industry that cranks out products by the thousand, Daviau has done the seemingly impossible: created a genuinely new way of playing board games. His “legacy games” unfold over months, changing as you play them. They have a beginning, middle, and—most shockingly—an end, completely overturning the fundamental idea that a board game must be eternal and endlessly replayable, an object you can inherit from your grandfather and play with your grandchildren. Daviau is the co-designer of Pandemic Legacy, which was released last year and almost immediately became the highest ranked game of all time on the influential site Board Game Geek. The Guardian said it “may be the best board game ever created.”
  • Track of the Day: 'Hackensack' by Thelonious Monk
    Few of the men and women who arrange microphones, sit in the booths of recording studios, twist knobs, and commit music to tape (or digital files) are known to the public. But Rudy Van Gelder’s skill and talent were such that his name rightly rose to the top echelons of jazz. Van Gelder died at 91 on Thursday, Nate Chinen reported.

    Van Gelder, a trained optometrist, began recording jazz sessions at his parents’ house in Hackensack, New Jersey, as early as the 1940s. Like many of the greatest studio geniuses, RVG (as he was often known) was basically a self-taught amateur, who gradually figured out how to make what were probably the best recordings in the world. By the 1950s he was recording top-flight professionals. Sessions recorded at the house included Miles Davis’ Walkin’, Relaxin’, Workin’, and Steamin’, as well as Bags’ Groove; the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Django; Sonny Rollins’s Tenor Madness and Saxophone Colossus; and Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else.

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