What I Read This Week: 2022-47
Don’t Call Yourself A Programmer, And Other Career Advice by Patrick McKenzie
“Engineers are hired to create business value, not to program things” and “your most important professional skill is communication” Patrick writes, adding that “the dominant quality which gets you jobs is the ability to give people the perception that you will create value; this is not necessarily coextensive with ability to create value.”
Operating well – what I learned at Stripe by Sam Gerstenzang
Changing strategy feels like progress but it usually isn’t. It’s fun to talk about strategy. It feels like you’re having a huge impact when some new insight changes everything. And changing strategy feels like an easy lever to pull when things aren’t moving fast enough or you’re bored. But, most of the time, it’s a chaotic waste of time for the team and delays real progress. Spend the extra time upfront to get the strategy right. Set the right metrics to understand whether you’re making progress. And then iterate on the tactics constantly.
Bullshit Software Projects by Adam Gordon Bell
On jobs that you are required to do, yet secretly believe is pointless and should not need to be performed.
What Disney can learn from Elton John
You have to hand it to Sir Elton John. Not only is he the only musician ever to have top-ten hit singles in Britain for six decades in a row. He is also a rare septuagenarian megastar who knows how to bow out in style. On November 20th at a relatively tender 75 years old, he performed what he said would be his last ever concert in America at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. One of the showstoppers was “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, the theme song for graceful retirements. If only Disney, who live-streamed the event on Disney+, had been listening.
Anti-Luddism by Marc Tarpenning
All this brings me back to the original Luddites. In reality, the Luddites weren’t resisting new labor-saving technology; they were protesting the mill owners’ new labor practices, which impoverished them and left them as serfs to the factory owners. Under the hood, people’s seeming fear of technology is often the tip of the iceberg, and the iceberg is a thicket of social practices that are overdue for an update.
To recover from our covid-scarred world and meet the challenges of climate change, inequality, and resource limitations, we’re going to have to embrace lots of new science, new technology, new foods, and different ways of living and working. It is going to take everything and everyone we’ve got. We can’t be squeamish about adopting new technologies. Instead, we need to adopt technology with clear heads, and ensure this next revolution doesn’t leave a segment of the population as serfs in modern-day textile mills.
Little Languages Are The Future Of Programming by Christoffer Ekeroth
We also think that creating languages that fit the problems to be solved makes solving the problems easier, makes the solutions more understandable and smaller, and is directly in the spirit of our “active-math” approach. These “problem-oriented languages” will be created and used for large and small problems, and at different levels of abstraction and detail.
Being proactive is the key here: instead of merely adapting to the world, terraforming it to our needs is something that firmly believe in. Planning Domain Definition Language (PDDL) and Prolog are two of my favourite languages in that regard, and I’m planning to learn more about Erlang too.
Systems Software Research is Irrelevant (2000) by Rob Pike
Too much phenomenology: invention has been replaced by observation. Today we see papers comparing interrupt latency on Linux vs. Windows. They may be interesting, they may even be relevant, but they aren’t research.
In a misguided attempt to seem scientific, there’s too much measurement: performance minutiae and bad charts.
By contrast, a new language or OS can make the machine feel different, give excitement, novelty. But today that’s done by a cool Web site or a higher CPU clock rate or some cute little device that should be a computer but isn’t.
The art is gone.
Is it though? This HN comment by ekidd from 2021 enumerates the advances since (cherry-picked again):
- iOS and Android: Power-efficient mobile systems, wakelocks, etc.
- Modern browser environments, with high degrees of isolation.
Android is great, first and foremost by being a reasonably open platform in many senses of the term and enabling affordable smartphones to many whose only computing device is an Android phone, and second by helping us get rid of UNIX myopia while being built on Linux.
Browsers are awesome, being the most successful cross-platform software platform out there that is open and have multiple competing implementation some of which are also free. The developer tools that are now part of every major browser also brought introspectability back—yes, Smalltalk-78 had it for a while but it was an exception, not the norm.