"Unlike a rusting highway bridge, digital infrastructure does not betray the effects of age. And, unlike roads and bridges, large portions of the software infrastructure of the Internet are built and maintained by volunteers, who get little reward when their code works well but are blamed, and sometimes savagely derided, when it fails. To some degree, this is beginning to change: venture-capital firms have made substantial investments in code-infrastructure projects, like GitHub and the Node Package Manager. But money and support still tend to flow to the newest and sexiest projects, while boring but essential elements like OpenSSL limp along as volunteer efforts. It’s easy to take open-source software for granted, and to forget that the Internet we use every day depends in part on the freely donated work of thousands of programmers. If open-source software is at the heart of the Internet, then we might need to examine it from time to time to make sure it’s not bleeding.”
Silicon Alley technologist.
This is my personal blog. Links to my work and social networks can be found on the About page linked below.
Pet peeves in mathematical writing
- When the explanation of a statement is omitted and replaced with the word “clearly” or “obviously.” At least give people it’s not so “clear” or “obvious” to a reference, or refrain from implying the reader is a moron if they do not know the basis from which you’re making your claim.
- Using the Greek letter mu in a statistics formula to mean anything other than the mean. This will cause, me at least, temporary confusion.
- When sigma is used as a variable in a formula used by computer scientists. Every time I look at your formula I will have to think more to figure out that your sigma is a variable and not the start of a summation.
A friend and I both started working in spaces devoid of sunlight this week, and both found ourselves more sad than usual. Avoid. I am presently contently hacking by a window.
A Visit From Richard Stallman
Last night Richard Stallman spoke to a standing room only NYU Courant lecture hall consisting of hackNY fellows, alumni, and other members of the NYC tech scene. It was a very surreal experience to be introduced to, and shake the hand of, the creator of software so many people (myself included) use.
The things that surprised me about RMS are the following:
- He is funny. He addressed a serious issue, free software, but made clever tech jokes along the way that made the lecture entertaining. At one point he dressed up like Jesus and spoke of “the church of Emacs.” “A” for effort. I’m really glad hackNY ‘13 had our two biggest emacs users in the front row.
- He is a good activist. I really, really, respect him for being so adamant in fighting for free software. It is rare to find anyone who will fight that hard for what they believe in. People give him a hard time for being so strict about his speaking accommodations, but in the history of activism you need to be extreme to have people meet you in the middle. He also had great, well prepared, arguments for opposition to his opinions during the Q&A. And he was able to raise $260 during an auction for a stuffed animal.
- I didn’t find any parts of his talk extreme. He talked a lot about surveillance, but given all the NSA leaks lately, his words ring very true.
- He liked the pasta at Vapiano. After the talk we took him there, along with some of the ISOC-NY crew and the hackNY ‘13 class. For some reason I thought since he’s been all over the world he’d turn his nose up at it, but he said it was good. He also took the time to socialize with the fellows at dinner, which he didn’t have to do, but was definitely a once in a lifetime experience that I am grateful he offered.
It was a great night. I’ve always been partial to this movement, but as someone who is not a operating systems engineer, I did not know how to get involved. After hearing this talk, I decided I am going to try to experiment with free software licenses instead of opensource software licenses. You can read the argument for free software (instead of open source) here.
Today in NYC Tech
In lieu of a longer post (which is coming, promise), here’s a bit of a picture of what my days are like now:
- Talked to a VC at 9 AM (way earlier than Jentime)
- Lifted weights
- Grabbed a gyro with a friend
- Am now spending the day coding and doing math while wearing a viking helmet.
Years ago, Gail Ennis, the CMO of analytics giant Omniture, told one of us that users of the company’s content optimization tools had to temper machine optimization with human judgement. Left to its own devices, the software quickly learned that scantily clad women generated a far higher click-rate on web pages than other forms of content. But that click-through rate was a short-term gain, offset by damage to the brand of the company that relies on it…Humans do inspiration; machines do validation.
— Lean Analytics, by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz