Measuring developer productivity? A response to McKinsey
The consulting firm came up with a methodology they claim can measure software developer productivity. But that measurement comes at a high price – and we offer a more sensible approach.
“As the software engineering industry, we should collectively admit we’ve done a much worse job of measuring productivity down to the individual level, than other functions have. Take sales as an example.”Posted on 2023-08-30T03:15:17+0000
I’m so sorry for psychology’s loss, whatever it is
The plane crashed and nobody checked the bodies
“So yes, it's a shame when we find out that esteemed members of our community might have made up data. That's bad, and they shouldn't do it. But catching the cheaters won't bring our field back to life. Only new ideas can do that. Sweet, sweet ideas, ideas that matter, ideas that you can build on, ideas that would take something with them if they disappeared. That's what I'm going to look for, and fortunately I am good at searching for sweet things and reporting back about their location, because I am not a human at all, but a bunch of bees.
(Please don't sue me.)”Posted on 2023-08-30T03:09:52+0000
Slack's Migration to a Cellular Architecture - Slack Engineering
Summary In recent years, cellular architectures have become increasingly popular for large online services as a way to increase redundancy and limit the blast radius of site failures. In pursuit of these goals, we have migrated the most critical user-facing services at Slack from a monolithic to a c...
Good, albeit short piece. Can’t wait for others in the series.
“A naive implementation that fits these requirements would have us plumb a signal into each of our RPC clients that, when received, causes them to fail a specified percentage of traffic away from a particular AZ. This turns out to have a lot of complexity lurking within. Slack does not share a common codebase or even runtime; services in the user-facing request path are written in Hack, Go, Java, and C++. This would necessitate a separate implementation in each language. Beyond that concern, we support a number of internal service discovery interfaces including the Envoy xDS API, the Consul API, and even DNS. Notably, DNS does not offer an abstraction for something like an AZ or partial draining; clients expect to resolve a DNS address and receive a list of IPs and no more. Finally, we rely heavily on open-source systems like Vitess, for which code-level changes present an unpleasant choice between maintaining an internal fork and doing the additional work to get changes merged into upstream.”Posted on 2023-08-29T03:55:14+0000
Generative AI and intellectual property — Benedict Evans
If you put all the world’s knowledge into an AI model and use it to make something new, who owns that and who gets paid? This is a completely new problem that we’ve been arguing about for 500 years.
Great read on AI, tech, and IP concerns.
“A few weeks ago, in an art gallery in London, I saw a Durer print that wasn’t a Durer print - it was a copy, made in around 1506 by Raimondi, a student of Raphael. Vasari tells us that Durer was furious and went to court in Venice. I treasure the idea of Venetian magistrates trying to work out how to think about this: their verdict was that Raimondi could carry on making the copies, but could no longer include Durer’s logo. That was a case about intellectual property, but the verdict is also a neat split between two ideas of authenticity. Do we care who made it, and why, or do we just want the picture? That's why some people are horrified by music generators or Midjourney, (or, 150 years ago, were horrified by cameras), and others aren't worried at all. “Posted on 2023-08-28T01:52:55+0000
An Old Conjecture Falls, Making Spheres a Lot More Complicated | Quanta Magazine
The telescope conjecture gave mathematicians a handle on ways to map one sphere to another. Now that it has been disproved, the universe of shapes has exploded.
“There are different types of progress in math and science. One kind brings order to chaos. But another intensifies the chaos by dispelling hopeful assumptions that weren’t true. The disproof of the telescope conjecture is like that. It deepens the complexity of geometry and raises the odds that many generations of grandchildren will come and go before anyone fully understands maps between spheres.
“Every major advance in the subject seems to tell us the answer is a lot more complicated than we thought before,” Ravenel said.”Posted on 2023-08-24T06:38:46+0000
Elon Musk’s Shadow Rule
How the U.S. government came to rely on the tech billionaire—and is now struggling to rein him in.
“At one point in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide,” Adams introduces the architects of the Earth supercomputer. They’re powerful beings who have been living among us, disguised as mice. At first, they were motivated by simple curiosity. But seeking the question made them famous, and they began considering talk-show and lecture deals. In the end, Earth is demolished in the name of commerce, and their path to existential clarity along with it. The mice greet this with a shrug, mouth vague platitudes, and go on the talk-show circuit anyway. Musk isn’t peddling pabulum. His initiatives have real substance. But he also wants to be on the show—or, better yet, to be the show himself.
In the open letter, alongside questions about the apocalyptic potential of artificial intelligence was one that reflects on the sectors of government and industry that Musk has come to shape. “Should we risk loss of control of our civilization?” he and his fellow-entrepreneurs wrote. “Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders.””Posted on 2023-08-22T05:34:24+0000
America’s Obsession With Weight-Loss Drugs Is Affecting the Economy of Denmark
Huge sales of Ozempic and Wegovy have driven up Novo Nordisk’s revenue and market cap, leading to lower interest rates in its home country.
“Novo Nordisk’s U.S. sales of Ozempic and Wegovy have been so strong that it has had to convert dollars into kroner in unusually large quantities, raising the krone’s value relative to the euro, said Danske Bank director Jens Naervig Pedersen.
“Because the pharmaceutical industry’s exports have grown so much, it’s creating a big influx of currency into the Danish economy,” he said.
Denmark’s central bankers have responded by keeping interest rates below the European Central Bank’s, weakening the krone, said Pedersen. “Posted on 2023-08-18T06:13:24+0000
FDA issues safety alert on pregnancy tests after bust on illegal medical lab
Universal Meditech was behind an illegal lab discovered in Reedley, California.
“Earlier this year, over a dozen agencies teamed up to bust UMI's unlicensed laboratory in Reedley, which is in Fresno County. The squalid lab was found brimming with lab equipment, refrigerators, freezers, incubators, and other machinery. It contained nearly 1,000 laboratory mice, which were allegedly kept in inhumane conditions. While some were dead upon discovery, the remaining animals have since been euthanized. Authorities also found hundreds of unknown chemicals and vials of biohazardous materials, including blood and urine. Testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified at least 20 infectious agents, including SARS-CoV-2, HIV, and a herpes virus.
Authorities in Reedley were first tipped off to the lab's existence after a local code enforcement officer noticed an illegally attached garden house in the back of the warehouse, which was supposed to be used only for storage.”Posted on 2023-08-17T06:05:56+0000
How is LLaMa.cpp possible?
Recently, a project rewrote the LLaMa inference code in raw C++. With some optimizations and quantizing the weights, this allows running a LLM locally on a wild variety of hardware:
“Memory bandwidth is the limiting factor in almost everything to do with sampling from transformers. Anything that reduces the memory requirements for these models makes them much easier to serve— like quantization! This is yet another reason why distillation, or just training smaller models for longer, is really important”Posted on 2023-08-16T03:56:31+0000
She Just Had a Baby. Soon, She'll Start 7th Grade.
After the fall of Roe v. Wade, some travel hundreds of miles to get abortions. This is the story of a girl who couldn't
Heartbreaking. Probably shouldn’t have read this first thing in the morning.
“Ashley doesn’t know anybody else who has a baby. She doesn’t want her three friends at school to find out that she has one now. Regina is working on an arrangement with the school so Ashley can start seventh grade from home until she’s ready to go back in person. Relatives will watch Peanut while Regina is at work. Is there anything about motherhood that Ashley is excited about? She twists her mouth, shrugs, and says nothing. Is there anything Ashley wants to say to other girls? “Be careful when you go outside,” she says. “And stay safe.”
There is only one moment when Ashley smiles a little, and it’s when she describes the nurses she met in the doctors’ office and delivery room. One of them, she remembers, was “nice” and “cool.” She has decided that when she grows up, she wants to be a nurse too. “To help people,” she says. For a second, she looks like any other soon-to-be seventh grader sharing her childhood dream. Then Peanut stirs in his car seat. Regina says he needs to be fed. Ashley’s face goes blank again. She is a mother now.”Posted on 2023-08-14T14:26:10+0000
🔍 How To Value A Stock: The Ultimate Guide
Price is what you pay, value is what you get
“Marks also underscored the trap of mean reversion — the notion that what goes up must come down, and vice versa. This concept can drive investors to sell prematurely, securing small gains and hunting for the next underpriced stock. This relentless quest for low valuations can result in a portfolio filled with average businesses that could see a 30% uplift when market sentiment changes.
Meanwhile, transformative returns (in the thousands of percent) are usually found in long-term holds. The longer the hold, the less the exact entry-point valuation matters. What's more crucial is the choice of investment and the holding period.
In investing, just as in life, you often get what you pay for.”Posted on 2023-08-14T03:27:18+0000
Let’s stop kidding ourselves we’re a rich nation and get real… the UK’s gone bust | Will Hutton
Britain depends on the kindness of strangers to get by in the world. It doesn’t have to be like this
This is bleak.
“For those at the bottom of our society, those low incomes translate into quasi-destitution: 2 million people report going without food for at least a day in any month. Malnutrition stalks our children – our five-year-olds are among the shortest in Europe. One in three children live in poverty. It is time to stop talking and thinking of Britain as a rich country. We are poor and living on the edge.”Posted on 2023-08-14T03:13:06+0000
You’re Not Allowed to Have the Best Sunscreens in the World
Newer, better UV-blocking agents have been in use in other countries for years. Why can’t we have them here?
“For many dermatologists, these lengthy regulatory battles and widespread issues with regular usage also underline a common recommendation that tends to go unheard by patients: Sunscreen is great, and sunscreen from Europe, Australia, and Asia may be better, but even the best, most cutting-edge SPF lotion is just one part of keeping your skin healthy. Floppy hats, big beach umbrellas, or loose, high-coverage clothing might not be your ideal beach look while you’re young, but if you can mostly cover up and stick to the shade, your elderly self will thank you.”Posted on 2023-08-13T03:51:03+0000
Illinois Just Passed the Country's First Law Protecting Children of Influencers
Activists hope other states follow suit.
I still don’t get the whole concept of child influencers. I mean I get why people watch their content, but it seems kinda iffy to push it on young kids without super informed consent.
“Activists have been pushing for an expansion of child entertainer laws to include child influencers. The call for legislation has not only centered around finances, but privacy. Cam, 24, grew up with a social media presence they didn’t consent to. They say details of their life, including their first menstrual cycle and photos of them in the hospital following a car crash, were posted to their mother’s 10,000 Facebook followers. In a previous interview with Teen Vogue, Cam said “It’s easier to tell you what my mom didn’t post.”
Cam testified in support of Washington State’s HB 1627, which would allow children of influencers to request the deletion of content featuring them “from any internet platform or network that provided compensation to the individual’s parent or parents in exchange for that content.” In Cam’s testimony, they said, “when I was 9 years old, the intimate details of my first period were shared online... I plead [with] you to be the voice for this generation of children because I know firsthand what it’s like to not have a choice when a digital footprint you didn’t create follows you around the rest of your life.””Posted on 2023-08-13T02:54:48+0000
Minneapolis has a YIMBY message for America: Build more houses and get rid of suburban-style zoning and inflation will disappear
“There is no more effective way to rein in inflation than to expand the supply of affordable housing and increase housing affordability,” says Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi.
“Rent growth in Minneapolis since 2017 is just 1%, compared with 31% in the US overall, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Its share of affordable rental units and ratio of rent to income are better than most comparable US metro areas.
“There is no more effective way to rein in inflation than to expand the supply of affordable housing and increase housing affordability,” said Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi.”Posted on 2023-08-12T13:57:53+0000
80% of bosses say they regret earlier return-to-office plans: ‘A lot of executives have egg on their faces’
As some business leaders accept hybrid work as a permanent reality, others are backtracking on earlier pledges to let employees work from home.
“Kathy Kacher, a consultant who advises corporate executives on their return-to-office plans, is surprised the percentage isn’t higher.
“Many organizations that attempted to force a return to the office have had to retract or change their plans because of employee pushback, and now, they don’t look strong,” says Kacher, the president of Career/Life Alliance Services. “A lot of executives have egg on their faces and they’re sad about that.””Posted on 2023-08-12T05:19:51+0000
Squeeze the hell out of the system you have
When complexity leaps are on the table, there’s usually also an opportunity to squeeze some extra juice out of the system you have. By tweaking the workload, tuning performance, or supplement…
“Of course, I’m not saying complexity is bad. It’s necessary. Some day we’ll reach a fundamental limit of our database architecture, and before that day arrives, we’ll need to make a jump in complexity.
But until then, because we squeezed first, we get to keep working with the most boring system possible. This is by far the cheaper and more practical option.”Posted on 2023-08-12T05:16:21+0000
Scientists at Fermilab close in on fifth force of nature
Physicists believe that an unknown force could be acting on sub-atomic particles known as muons.
Exciting! Funnily timed too since the sci-fi book I’m reading also goes into new physics found at Fermilab.
“If confirmed, this would represent arguably one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs for a hundred years, since Einstein's theories of relativity. That is because a fifth force and any particles associated with it are not part of the Standard Model of particle physics.”Posted on 2023-08-11T06:23:11+0000
Two Students Shoot Down a Widely Believed Math Conjecture | Quanta Magazine
Mathematicians thought they were on the cusp of proving a conjecture about the ancient structures known as Apollonian circles. But a summer project would lead to its downfall.
““I always find it fascinating when new mathematics is born out of just purely looking at data,” Fuchs said. “Without it, it’s really hard to imagine that [they] would have stumbled upon this.”
Stange added that none of this would have happened without the low-stakes summer project. “Serendipity and an attitude of playful exploration both have such a huge role in discovery,” she said.
“It was pure coincidence,” Haag said. “If I didn’t go big enough, we wouldn’t have noticed it.” The work bodes well for the future of number theory. “You can glean understanding of mathematics through your intuition, through proofs,” Stange said. “And you trust that a lot because you spent a lot of time thinking about it. But you can’t argue with the data.””Posted on 2023-08-10T17:36:24+0000
UChicago scientists observe first evidence of ‘quantum superchemistry’ in the laboratory
Breakthrough could point way to fundamental insights, new technology
“Shu Nagata, a graduate student and co-author on the paper, added that they saw evidence that the reaction was taking place as a three-body interaction more often than as a two-body interaction. That is, three atoms would collide; two would form a molecule, and the third remained single. But the third played some role in the reaction.”Posted on 2023-08-10T05:35:17+0000
It's time to change how we cover Elon Musk
After a weekend of whoppers about X and fighting Mark Zuckerberg, the press should take a more skeptical approach
One thing that always stuck me about the US (both in the media and in the public) is how trusting people are - you hear someone say something and assume it’s the truth and don’t question it, unless they have a bad reputation. It was quite jarring as it’s the opposite in Pakistan where you assume everyone has an agenda and is out to screw you. Both extremes are bad for their own reasons, but I wish the US generally had more distrust and skepticism. Especially in the media.
“Before Musk, the person setting the day’s news agenda on Twitter was Donald Trump. As it became clear during his first campaign that Trump mostly did not tell the truth, the press corps gradually brought more scrutiny to the candidate’s statements. In some cases, cable networks stopped carrying his public appearances live, since they could not be fact-checked effectively in real time.
Musk’s broken promises have yet to reach anything near the volume of lies that Trump told as president. But given his recent track record, it’s well past time for the press to grant him an equal measure of skepticism.”Posted on 2023-08-08T02:44:27+0000
The time Michael Jordan helped a guy win $1 million
Thirty years ago, Don Calhoun got picked to try a three-quarter-court shot during a Bulls game. He made it, sending Michael Jordan and the Bulls into an all-out frenzy because he had won $1 million. Or so everybody thought.
Great human interest story. And I learned a lot about this thing that I never had before.
“The ball had grown to mean so much to him. It wasn't the signatures, or that he thought the ball might be worth something like $20,000 ... The ball became a family heirloom over the next three decades. But not in the way you'd expect. Calhoun never locked it up in a vault or even put it in a protective case in the house. He left it in the basement of his house, and Clarence and Calhoun's other three kids would dribble it and throw it around. He wanted his kids to be able to touch and feel something that had altered the trajectory of their family.”Posted on 2023-08-07T17:10:47+0000
Refreshingly different concept from the usual sci-fi short stories I’ve read in a while.
“Ransisc's nose twitched in disagreement. "I asked one of their savants the same question. He gave me back a poem by a human named Hail or Snow or something of that sort. It was about someone who stood at a fork in the road and ended up taking the less-used track. That's what the humans did.”Posted on 2023-08-07T06:14:51+0000
‘We’re changing the clouds.’ An unforeseen test of geoengineering is fueling record ocean warmth
Pollution cuts have diminished “ship track” clouds, adding to global warming
This is scary - and also really cool that it’s possible to find a causal link like this.
“In more recent work, they take this analysis a step further, calculating the amount of cooling associated with the tracks’ brightening effect and the way the pollution extended the lifetime of the clouds. IMO rules have warmed the planet by 0.1 watts per square meter—double the warming caused by changes to clouds by airplanes, they conclude in a paper under review. The impact is magnified in regions of heavy shipping, like the north Atlantic, where the disappearing clouds are “shock to the system,” Yuan says. The increase in light, which was worsened by a lack of reflective Saharan dust over the ocean this year, “can account for most of the warming observed” in the Atlantic this summer, he says.”Posted on 2023-08-07T03:56:16+0000
The Unicorn Fire Sales Ahead
Welcome back!Hopin, one of the most iconic startups of the pandemic era, said this week it sold its virtual event and webinar hosting business to RingCentral, and that its founder and CEO, Johnny Boufarhat, is stepping down. The sale marks a pitiful finale for the once-heralded startup.Similar ...
“None of this should be news to investors: More than journalists or many of the startups’ own employees, venture capitalists had the best access to the financial conditions of these startups. The writing was on the wall.”Posted on 2023-08-05T23:30:59+0000
The Coming Enshittification of Public Libraries
Global investment vampires have positioned themselves to suck our libraries dry
“I don’t have a neat solution to the fact that OverDrive has a functional monopoly in the space, or that it’s now owned by vampires. All I know to do is point at the dead canary and yell as loud as I can.
I asked my reporter friend how I might go about getting a real journalist to write about it, and she regretfully advised me that she didn’t think it was a big enough story yet to get any professional interest. Once public libraries have actually been devastated by private equity, it’ll be a story.
It will also be too late.”Posted on 2023-08-04T14:27:52+0000
Superconductor Breakthrough Findings Replicated, Twice, in Preliminary Testing
A tentative but less nebulous step toward superconductor-fueled electronics.
“The entire story surrounding this discovery is a scientific rollercoaster ride, with rogue scientists, updated papers, plus cloudy definitions and process descriptions within the paper that make replication efforts more difficult, and even a Russian soil scientist (and anime catgirl) deconstructing the original Korean paper to unveil the trademark levitation of the Meissner effect over her own kitchen counter.
We've seen movies with much less complex plots than this already. It's eerily appropriate that such a monumental discovery would be rife with drama. And we're still waiting for a definite announcement that yes, humanity has finally produced room-temperature, ambient-pressure superconductors. After that, there are plenty more physics barriers to crash through, as always.”Posted on 2023-08-03T06:40:26+0000
We're now finding out the damaging results of the mandated return to the office–and it's worse than we thought
Three compelling reports show just how damaging RTO mandates are turning out to be.
“Unispace found that nearly half (42%) of companies with return-to-office mandates witnessed a higher level of employee attrition than they had anticipated. And almost a third (29%) of companies enforcing office returns are struggling with recruitment. In other words, employers knew the mandates would cause some attrition, but they weren’t ready for the serious problems that would result.
Meanwhile, a staggering 76% of employees stand ready to jump ship if their companies decide to pull the plug on flexible work schedules, according to the Greenhouse report. Moreover, employees from historically underrepresented groups are 22% more likely to consider other options if flexibility comes to an end.”Posted on 2023-08-02T14:18:57+0000
Building and operating a pretty big storage system called S3
Three distinct perspectives on scale that come along with building and operating a storage system the size of S3.
Come for the exciting distributed systems knowledge (some seriously good stuff here), stay for the super insightful career growth advice.
“And this is probably one area of my role at Amazon that I’ve thought about and tried to develop and be more intentional about than anything else I do. As a really senior engineer in the company, of course I have strong opinions and I absolutely have a technical agenda. But If I interact with engineers by just trying to dispense ideas, it’s really hard for any of us to be successful. It’s a lot harder to get invested in an idea that you don’t own. So, when I work with teams, I’ve kind of taken the strategy that my best ideas are the ones that other people have instead of me. I consciously spend a lot more time trying to develop problems, and to do a really good job of articulating them, rather than trying to pitch solutions. There are often multiple ways to solve a problem, and picking the right one is letting someone own the solution. And I spend a lot of time being enthusiastic about how those solutions are developing (which is pretty easy) and encouraging folks to figure out how to have urgency and go faster (which is often a little more complex). But it has, very sincerely, been one of the most rewarding parts of my role at Amazon to approach scaling myself as an engineer being measured by making other engineers and teams successful, helping them own problems, and celebrating the wins that they achieve.”Posted on 2023-08-01T06:47:43+0000
If We Want a Shift to Walking, We Need to Prioritize Dignity
To make walking and rolling a desirable, everyday activity, we need facilities that are compliant, safe and dignified.
Learnt a lot about urban design from this one.
“Creating compliant sidewalks and trails is a high priority for agencies seeking to avoid litigation and serve pedestrians on the most basic level. Although that has some benefits, it isn’t enough. Whether actively undermining walkability (like removing crosswalks to achieve ADA compliance) to simply not doing enough (adding a new curb ramp to an otherwise wheelchair-hostile sidewalk), we need to go much further.
To make walking and rolling a desirable, everyday activity, we need facilities that are compliant, safe and dignified. We have many examples in our communities of great pedestrian ways — but we have a long way to go to make it universal, and truly move the needle toward walking.”Posted on 2023-08-01T03:54:44+0000