It’s Saturday, October 24 2020.
There is just over a week left until the U.S. Presidential election, which is not just the U.S. Presidential election, it’s a whole bunch of other critical elections, too.
I’m trying something different this time - there are two versions of this episode - the free subscriber version is the shorter, preview version, and the supporter-subscriber one goes into more detail.
This is the free version! Thank you for being interested in what I write about.
On with the show:
A few notes on speech and language: Martin Krzywinski [tweet] has been putting together analyses of the U.S. Presidential Debates. The tweet of Krzywinski’s that I saw made the observation that Donald Trump “drags his opponents down to his level”, that “without Trump’s Trump’s interruptions, Biden’s speech grade level rose by 2.2 in his second debate town hall, while Trump’s remained the same at 3.8/3.6.
I’ve written more on this in the supporter/subscriber edition.
Via Andy Baio [tweet], Gowalla [relaunch, wikipedia] has relaunched! Gowalla was a location-based game that came out in 2007 (ah, the SXSWi days), back when the iPhone was new and everyone thought location-based stuff was going to be the future. (Yes, it was (would be?) the future. In about ten years.)
But! Gowalla is back now! And I always had a fondness for Gowalla because it was more game-like than Foursquare. I mean, it was mildly more gamelike than Foursquare because it was more about collecting different kind of stickers in general, whereas Foursquare was about collecting stickers from specific kinds of checkins. Gowalla had the whole loot-drop RNG thing going on, and Foursquare felt like a very elementary gamification and leaderboard thing what with its mayorships. All three of them were precursors to the early iterations of Pokemon Go. (And in my opinion, part of the reason why those early iterations of Pokemon Go were so frustrating).
More on this, and on FourSquare’s ubiquitous computing, ambient audio experiment, in the supporter/subscriber edition.
I have been idly wondering about alternate histories as a way to think about how and where things might change now. I mean, clearly in a way that takes into account a completely different ecosystem and systems, but more as an interesting way to think about what preconditions might be.
For example, was there ever a window in which, in the U.K., the BBC could’ve had a different posture toward the internet, with the result being publicly owned and funded critical infrastructure? [tweet]
A bunch more on this in the supporter/subscriber edition.
Ohhhh do I have opinions about this essay, Pure Programming [via Michael Tsai]. It’s about, in general, how hard it is to… I don’t know. Use software to solve problems? At scale? For people? It starts with the realization that there’s a bunch of bureaucracy to deal with in getting something out on to Apple’s App Store, which, you know. That’s true. But then:
The entire internet is increasingly burdened by various governments, corporations, and everything in-between. Users can already feel the pain to some extent – every time we dismiss another GDPR pop-up or navigate to Amazon’s website (not their iOS app) to buy a Kindle book, we can feel hints of bureaucracy adding arbitrary hurdles to our technology. But as a developer… that’s where it hurts.
This gradual centralization & regulation has been happening for several years, and it’s a double-edged sword. It’s bad for attracting a particular personality of programmer to certain types of companies, but some rules are necessary as the software industry matures & becomes more influential in the lives of billions of people. It’s also a small price to pay in exchange for access to the best product-distribution network ever… However, it’s still important to articulate this changing reality, if only to inform prospective engineers.
The essay is as much as it is about capitalism and being able to profit from one’s labor as it is, I don’t know, unbridled freedom to use software to create and to make that available to other people.
But, you know, I think it misses the point by several orders of magnitude: “some rules are necessary as the software industry matures & becomes more influential in the lives of billions of people” dares me to be hyperbolic in response. I mean, everything matures, so sure, let’s accept that. “More influential in the lives of billions of people”. I mean, really? Can we talk about how influential or critical or unavoidable software is in the lives of everyone? Why is this particular piece of the world, of the human experience different?
Why it is Important that Software Projects Fail is a 2008 article by Dr. A Berglas, which puts forward the idea that since software makes bureaucracy easy/easier, then they must fail, because otherwise… there’d be less work to do: “We now see why it is so critical to society that software projects fail. The boundless creativity of politicians and bureaucrats to develop new and more complex regulation is bounded only by the bureaucracy's inability to implement them. The absolute size of the bureaucracy is constrained by external factors, so the only effect of automation can be to increase bureaucratic complexity.”
Venture capital (specifically, Andreesen Horowitz) thinks that the next big innovation in social play will come from tabletop games and includes an appearance of my brother and Naomi Alderman’s Zombies, Run! as an example of a “hybrid audio-fitness game that defies categorization” which is a very nice compliment.
RFC 8890: The Internet is for End Users, from the abstract: “This document explains why the IAB believes that, when there is a conflict between the interests of end users of the Internet and other parties, IETF decisions should favor end users. It also explores how the IETF can more effectively achieve this.”
A $900m accidental payment at Citigroup was because of a software modernization issue.
Okay, that’s it for today. How are you doing? I’m nervous. And it’s the weekend, whatever that means.
As ever, I love getting notes and I always make sure to reply to them, even (and especially?) if they’re just saying hi. So, hi!