Thursday, 16 January 2014

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Someone Else’s Algorithm

According to the majority of apparel retailers my body is shaped in a way they don’t expect. A little slimmer here and a little longer there puts me between sizes. For may years, it was so rare to find clothing that actually fit – that I forget what sizes I was even looking for. And I spent many years with a dresser filled with someone else’s pants. These days, I know what sizes I’m looking for and I know the places absolutely don’t carry them. Half the battle.

This past week, C and I were reading Lauren Ipsum for bedtime story. It’s a fun, 130 page, Alice-in-Wonderland-esque story introducing computer programming concepts to kids. Huge kudos to the authors for presenting concepts like The Wandering Salesman, abstraction, jargon, and root cause analysis in an approachable, delightful manner. C and I both found it great fun.

As the story was winding down, the following passage grabbed and shook me hard. I paused reading out-loud, held back a “DAMN STRAIGHT!”, and dog-eared the page:

“His algorithm makes sense for him, but maybe not for you. It’s tempting to jump on the first answer that comes along. But a lot of the time it’s not the best. That’s why you have to keep your head on.”

“Why didn’t anybody say anything?”

“…No one is going to live your life for you, girl.”

Someone else’s algorithms – just like their pants – most likely don’t fit you and could introduce more problems. Conway’s Law reminds us of this as well.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

“You’ve Got to Build Bypasses”*

“We’re way too dependent on the Un-Internet., which behaves somewhat like the Internet, but has chokepoints that can cut off the flow. The whole point of the Internet, from the point of view of the US Govt, was that it couldn’t be cut off this way.” – Dave Winer

* for those of you unfamiliar – the title of this post is a line from Douglas Adams’ brilliant Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Boyd’s Annual Opt Out

“While I’m away, my lovely procmail file (aka “filtering software”) will direct all of my email to /dev/null (aka “the permanent trash”). I will not be reachable. The only person that I stay in contact with while I’m gone is my mother because it’s just too cruel to my mom to disappear entirely. Twitter and my blog will also loudly proclaim my MIA-ness. But the bigger issue is that I will return to a zero-inbox. Nothing sent to me during my email sabbatical will survive. All senders will receive a lovely bounce message saying that their message” – Dana Boyd

“I do feel guilty not personally responding to these people to say that I’m unavailable but that’s precisely the point… My boss gets it; my collaborators get it; my friends get it. And they like me a lot better when I’ve taken a vacation recently.” – Dana Boyd, How to Take an Email Sabbatical

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Dave’s Opt-out Improves the Opt-in

You may remember:

“I’m on vacation, and I’ve deleted your message — really” – Dave Thomas

Dave’s follow-up:

“Since I returned from vacation, the quality of email I receive has improved, and the quantity I receive has dropped. I still enjoy interacting with all the people I need to interact with, and I still get to answer all the questions that need answering. It just seems that my inbox is somehow more focussed.” – Dave Thomas

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Like but Verify

“Now the fascinating thing about the Internet is that it has in theory made it easy to take a verification step and check source information instead of cascading based on others’ actions….But the Internet has also made it that much easier to spread unverified information with a single click (reblog, retweet, like). The state of the art today is that spreading is easier than verifying which means that we are getting more, not fewer information cascades. That is especially true because with social networks we are observing the actions of friends or at least people we know (instead of random strangers) and are thus more likely to copy their actions.” – Albert Wenger

Unfortunately, the metrics used in measuring success conflict with the notion of verification. Verification slows down the number of “shares”. Worse, the interfaces within the sites offering these voting gestures (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Hacker News, Google, etc) make it far more difficult to verify and the make the gesture – than to just make the gesture.

Then again, this issue only exists for people using these sites. In the same way, the MPR interrupting regular programming with a pledge drive is only an issue for listeners.

Monday, 10 October 2011

DiveIntoMark Opts-Out


The requested resource
is no longer available on this server and there is no forwarding address. Please remove all references to this resource.” – 10 Oct 2011

Breaking inertia is hard work. It puts up a good fight, has the upper hand, and knows when you’re not serious.

This is why the Atkins diet starts with an Induction phase and the U.S. Army starts with bootcamp.

Want to make a big change? Want to break inertia? You gotta seriously fuck shit up right from the start. And hold it for 30 days.

Go Vegan.

Deactivate your Facebook.

Turn off the radio.


Stop engaging that person that makes you feel badly about yourself.

Disengage that aspect of your life that no longer makes you profoundly and annoyingly giddy.

Drop 410s on your websites.

Opt out.

Mark Pilgrim’s work was inspiring. His departure should be equally inspiring.

(Mark – if you’re interested in providing background material for the Opt Out book – my email’s in the right column. Thanks.)

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Thursday, 1 September 2011