I received a mass email today from a friend who had managed to accidentally create multiple LinkedIn accounts, and as a result, his connections were fragmented. The email instructed people to switch over to a particular account.
As I followed his instructions, I wondered if Windows might one day feaure a "Repair Social Networks" menu item.
This coming Friday, May 26th, will be my last day at Danger. It's the end of a more than six year ride, one which contained a lot of ups, and some downs, but most importantly, the people on the ride with me were the best you could ever hope for. I learned a lot, I grew a lot, and I had an amazing time. My deepest thanks goes out to everyone I've worked with over the years.
A short while after that, I'll take up a new position at Microsoft, in their mobile group. Definitely shifting corporate gears a bit, I know, but the group I'll be working in is highly entrepreneurial, so it's a good fit for me. At the moment, I can't say much about what we're working on, but there's definitely some cool stuff underway. Stay tuned.
Last week, as I was dressing into a suit (sadly for a funeral), I found myself wondering why male hackers (in the classic sense) don't like getting dressed up. It's well known that hackers hate suits -- just take a look at the jargon file entry for starters. And I've often heard a tie referred to as a "thought noose" (although interestingly google doesn't turn up anything relevant for that phrase).
However, dressing in a suit has several features which fit hacker sensibilities:
There's a lot of technical gear required, and it's often expensive.
There's a lot of associated jargon (four-in-hand, half-Windsor, cap-toed, notched lapel, grosgrain, repp, etc).
Certain aspects require a good bit of skill (tying the perfect knot, for example).
Picking an outfit is creative within fixed, established limits, similar to many programming challenges.
Looking at it that way, you'd think hackers would flock to Brooks Brothers, and yet they don't. The reason is this: hackers are notoriously counter-cultural and rebel against whatever norms you put in front of them. Since hacking evolved in the '60s, it makes sense that the hackers of that era would choose to stay away from The Man's sartorial norm. And that would certainly hold over into the '80s, a decade defined by the power tie.
But what about now? Not only has every tech company gone to business casual, but even the executives dress way down. So what could be more anti-establishment than wearing a suit? Heck, put on a bow tie and you'll really be sticking it to them. Hackers, stop following out-of-date traditions, pick up a copy of Flusser's Dressing the Man, and cut your own path.
I'm ashamed to admit that, until yesterday, I was unaware that Yo La Tengo was from Hoboken. A lot of interesting things come from that tiny city. (I've been obsessively listening to "Autumn Sweater".)
I typically like a lot of what Seth Godin writes, but his post today is the most ignorant thing I've ever heard him say. In the post, he says "Pythagorus [sic] and his followers...didn't realize that they should have been working on calculus instead
of messing around creating and polishing stuff that no one needed or
cared about [specifically, perfect numbers]."
Seth, that's the whole point of pure mathematics -- to survey the landscape, find connections, and add to our knowledge of mathematics as a whole. Applications may come later, or may not come at all. That's fine. You can't know if it will be useful unless you've been there and explored. Your statement about studying perfect numbers is akin to saying, "Why waste time surveying a mountain if we're never going to build a mall there?"
There are thousands of stories about math research that at first seemed "useless", only to have amazingly important consequences and applications later on. Number theory, which includes the study of perfect numbers, seemed pretty stupid -- until cryptography came up. Without people having studied prime factorization, you wouldn't feel safe making purchases over the internet.
More near and dear to my heart is knot theory, which I studied in graduate school. It's essentially the mathematical study of how to determine if two knots are the same. Could anything sound more dumb? People worked on this, without any application, for a hundred years. And then suddenly, biologists realized it was very useful for understanding DNA replication (among other things). Dang, didn't see that one coming.
So come on, Seth. Pure research gets a bad enough rap from the American Idol-watching public without having a smart guy like you only thinking short-term.
Someone recently told me that, when looking interviewing with a
company, he looks at their LinkedIn ratio: the number of current
employees registered with LinkedIn vs. all employees registered for
that company, past and present. Even though that contains severe sample bias (since people switching companies are more likely to
register with LinkedIn), he still thought it was useful. I'm
unconvinced, but it's an interesting use of the service.
From management's perspective, Jeeves had morphed from an endearing
mascot to an exasperating albatross. That's because the butler's image
conjured memories of a long-bygone era when Ask.com promised to deliver
simple answers to questions posed in conversational language.
The question-and-answer approach never worked like engineers
envisioned, prompting Ask.com to shift direction. The company now
believes its search tools are as good, if not better, than Google's --
a message that Berkowitz believes would be difficult to convey as long
as Jeeves stuck around.
"Never worked like engineers
envisioned", indeed! When Ask Jeeves first appeared, I was working for a stodgy financial company back in Atlanta. One day, while trying to get to the bottom of a thorny compiler problem, I innocently asked Jeeves: "What is peephole optimization?" (*)
Jeeves came back with: "Did you really mean to ask: Where are the best places to cruise for gay men in Alabama?" I was pretty sure I hadn't meant to ask that, no.
Later that day, I mentioned this experience to my friend Colleen. Being much more clever than I am, she wondered how Jeeves would respond if you asked "Where are the best places to cruise for gay men in Alabama?". We tried it, and Jeeves came back with the same question, but also with: "Did you really mean to ask: Which cruise ships have the best sanitation?" Once we stopped laughing, we put that question back in, and then another, and another, until we finally ended up in some steady-state with a question about finding nude photos of wrestlers. Ahem.
Via con Dios, Jeeves.
(*) For the nerds: yes, I knew what peephole optimization was, but the compiler seemed to be doing an awful lot of code movement, so I thought I'd read more about it. It actually turned out to be an issue with the build system, not the compiler -- the wrong source was getting compiled.
The Senate hearings on network neutrality were going on this week. I'm hoping like hell that Congress understands the ramifications of mucking with the network, but testimony like the following [pdf] (from Vint Cerf, now at Google, like everyone else) may not be particularly persuasive to most Senators:
Network neutrality need not prevent anyone – carriers or applications provider – from developing software solutions to remedy end user concerns such as privacy, security, and quality of service. The issue arises where the network operator decides to place the functionality in the physical or logical layers of the network, rather than in the application layer where they belong. Such a move is contrary to many of the fundamental architectural principles of the Internet. In particular, attempting to solve applications issues at the physical layer violates the layered, modular nature of the Net. With a few very narrowly-tailored exceptions – such as defending against network-level denial of service attacks or router attacks – altering or blocking packets within the network is inconsistent with the end-to-end design principle. The end result is the insertion of a gatekeeper that – even arguably under the best of intentions – disrupts the open, decentralized platform of the Internet.
It's amusing to picture the Senate getting down with the 7-layer model. I would love to flip on CSPAN-2 and catch a Senator saying, "Mr. Whitacre, I really don't understand why AT&T insists on making this a layer 3 issue, when this is clearly a layer 7 issue!"
It looks like GTalk now lets you save chats to your GMail account, something I brought up in a post a year ago. This was a smart, easy way to increase the value of GTalk.
I think Google's best bet for GTalk adoption, though, is to push the bot angle -- that is, turn GTalk into a platform as they have with many of their other offerings. AIM, MSN, and Y!IM all try to discourage end-user bots, which is truly foolish. It creates an opportunity for Google to introduce bots to the general IM public, who will think that Google invented them and will rush to switch.