February 2019 Articles

I love two things about this post. First, it shows how Rogue Amoeba started with a proof of concept (“minimum viable product” or MVP in software speak), found that software to be valuable to the market, and then went in and significantly improved the product. And second, I love the design iterations and design thinking. Well done.

When we shipped the first version of our audio routing tool Loopback in early 2016, its powerful technology was packaged into a somewhat stripped-down interface. Because we were uncertain how large the market for this tool would be, we chose not to devote too much time to the front-end of that initial release.

By Loopback’s first birthday, it was clearly a hit with audio professionals and hobbyists alike. We knew it was time to begin planning how to flesh out the skeletal Loopback 1 into a much more refined version 2.

Well worth the read.

I don’t mind letting your programs see my private data as long as I get something useful in exchange. But that’s not what happens.

A former co-worker told me once: “Everyone loves collecting data, but nobody loves analyzing it later.” This claim is almost shocking, but people who have been involved in data collection and analysis have all seen it. It starts with a brilliant idea: we’ll collect information about every click someone makes on every page in our app! And we’ll track how long they hesitate over a particular choice! And how often they use the back button! How many seconds they watch our intro video before they abort! How many times they reshare our social media post!

Take a minute, read it.

How To Be Successful

Sam Altman ·

I’ve observed thousands of founders and thought a lot about what it takes to make a huge amount of money or to create something important. Usually, people start off wanting the former and end up wanting the latter.

Here are 13 thoughts about how to achieve such outlier success. Everything here is easier to do once you’ve already reached a baseline degree of success (through privilege or effort) and want to put in the work to turn that into outlier success. [1] But much of it applies to anyone.

The lede: “Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).”

The meat, interestingly enough in a chart caption: “This line plot shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2018, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean…Though there are minor variations from year to year, all five temperature records show peaks and valleys in sync with each other. All show rapid warming in the past few decades, and all show the past decade has been the warmest.”

Bottom line: our climate in changing. You can debate the why, and bring politics into it if you must, but temperature data is data. It is the truth. Our planet is warming at a significant pace, unparalleled in our recorded history.

See also: Earth Temperature Timeline from XKCD in 2016.

Interesting perspective. John Dingell passed away yesterday.

In my six decades in public service, I’ve seen many changes in our nation and its institutions. Yet the most profound change I’ve witnessed is also the saddest. It is the complete collapse in respect for virtually every institution of government and an unprecedented cynicism about the nobility of public service itself.

These are not just the grumblings of an angry old man lamenting the loss of “the good old days.” In December 1958, almost exactly three years after I entered the House of Representatives, the first American National Election Study, initiated by the University of Michigan, found that 73 percent of Americans trusted the federal government “to do the right thing almost always or most of the time.” As of December 2017, the same study, now conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, found that this number had plummeted to just 18 percent.

In summary:

  • An electoral system based on full participation
  • The elimination of money in campaigns
  • The end of minority rule in our legislative and executive branches
  • The protection of an independent press

Invisible Formatting

Randall Munroe · xkcd ·

I love the caption: “When editing text, in the back of my mind I always worry that I’m adding invisible formatting that will somehow cause a problem in the distant future.” So true!

If podcasts become subscription based (think Netflix for podcasts) the industry as we know it will dramatically change. Currently a podcast has a “feed” that’s similar an RSS feed. Accessible by lots of different podcast apps and technologies. If podcasts start going behind walls, its significantly reduces the access to this information. I certainly can see the business case (there’s money to be made), but it would be a significant change for the industry.

Although “dress codes” implies that they merely regulate the clothes that students can wear, we found that 77% of schools’ policies specifically prohibit the visibility of certain body parts…Policies like these have recently come under scrutiny due to the sexual tone they communicate. At best, students receive the message that those body parts are bad, should be hidden, or are important to others. At worst, dress codes go so far as to turn whole people into a collection of inappropriate body parts to cover.

As someone who was active in various aspects of student government and had visibility into the administrative functions of education, I agree that this is a subject that can be better addressed in schools. At the end of her article, Amber links to a Model Student Dress Code developed by the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for Women that I liked and would suggest to any administrator who is reviewing or updating their school’s dress code.

A follow up to the item posted on Friday.

John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who served in the U.S. House from 1955 to 2015, was the longest-serving member of Congress in American history. He dictated these reflections to his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), at their home in Dearborn, on Feb. 7, the day he died.

One of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts…

My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that — fortunately – we see much less of today.

Well worth a read in full. I especially resonated with this: “In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power — in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better).”

A titan of a scientist.

Walter Munk, who gave the Allies a strategic edge in World War II, helped nurture a university into existence, and became a living synonym for oceanography, died February 8 at his home in La Jolla, Calif. He was 101.

As a geophysicist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, Munk made groundbreaking observations of waves, ocean temperature, tidal energy in the deep ocean, ocean acoustics and the rotation of the earth. As an advocate of science and broader scholarship, Munk served as an advisor to presidents and the Pentagon and conferred with public figures including the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis. His convictions led him to refuse to sign a loyalty oath required by the University of California during the peak of anti-communist fervor in the early 1950s and his passion helped create the architecture that would become the defining style of the Scripps Oceanography campus.

Munk’s contributions to science throughout the latter half of the 20th Century and into the present century were measured not only in terms of the new knowledge his research yielded, but in the quality and diversity of the questions he considered. An ethos he expressed throughout his career was for scientists to take risks, pursue new directions, and embrace the educational value of failure.

Opportunity Rover

Randall Munroe · xkcd ·

Opportunity Rover

I love photography. Back before Instagram, I built my own photography website and tried my hand at selling prints online (my mother was my only customer — thank you Mom).

I no longer use Instagram — to me the platform commoditizes photography in a way that takes all the joy out of looking at and taking photos. Why take the time to compose, edit, and post a photo if it will only be seen for 1-3 seconds?

That said, I’m glad there are photographers out there in the world who choose to spend their time composing and sharing great photography. Apple has chosen their latest round of “Shot on iPhone” photographs — from Instagram no less — and they chose some very good pieces. I hope people continue to share beautiful compositions like these and that they find venues in which they can be appreciated.