#52

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
— Dwight D. Eisenhower,  34th President of the United States

The Speed Dial - An abbreviated set of articles for the reader who has limited time.

Is Execution Where Good Strategies Go to Die?
[hbr]

Execution is an odd word. On the one hand, it means “the carrying out of a plan or course of action.” On the other, it means, “the carrying out of a death sentence.” When leaders “execute a strategy,” they usually mean the former — putting an idea into action. But those efforts all too often end up meaning the latter. Execution is often where strategies go to die.

 

Software 2.0
[medium]

I sometimes see people refer to neural networks as just “another tool in your machine learning toolbox”. They have some pros and cons, they work here or there, and sometimes you can use them to win Kaggle competitions. Unfortunately, this interpretation completely misses the forest for the trees. Neural networks are not just another classifier, they represent the beginning of a fundamental shift in how we write software. They are Software 2.0.

 

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You've Ever Met
[gizmodo]

Behind the Facebook profile you’ve built for yourself is another one, a shadow profile, built from the inboxes and smartphones of other Facebook users.

 

Management/Culture

What Are Self-Organising Teams? (2014)
[infoq]

“The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams”, the Agile Manifesto announces. This raises a few questions: What are self-organising teams? Why do we need them? What difference do self-organising teams make? How can we support self-organisation? Could there be any way to help this special kind of teamwork to emerge?

 

Development/Releases

Try to see things from a manager's perspective.
[queue.acm]

The view at the top is different. And having been on both sides of the org chart, I have a new perspective. The lessons below are ones I wish someone had shared with me in my moments of frustration with upper management earlier in my career.

 

The cargo cult of versioning
[akkartik.name]

All software comes with a version, some sequence of digits, periods and characters that seems to march ever upward. Rarely are the optimistically increasing versions accompanied by a commensurate increase in robustness. Instead, upgrading to new versions often causes regressions, and the stream of versions ends up spawning an extensive grapevine to disseminate information about the best version to use. Unsatisfying as this state of affairs is to everyone, I didn't think that the problem lay with these version numbers themselves. They're just names, right?

 

Technical

Seamless Google Street View Panoramas
[research.googleblog]

This new algorithm was recently added to the Street View stitching pipeline. It is now being used to restitch existing panoramas on an ongoing basis. Keep an eye out for improved Street View near you!

 

News/Other

The Lava Lamps That Help Keep The Internet Secure
[youtube]

At the headquarters of Cloudflare, in San Francisco, there's a wall of lava lamps: the Entropy Wall. They're used to generate random numbers and keep a good bit of the internet secure: here's how.

 

Security Breach and Spilled Secrets Have Shaken the N.S.A. to Its Core
[nytimes]

A serial leak of the agency’s cyberweapons has damaged morale, slowed intelligence operations and resulted in hacking attacks on businesses and civilians worldwide.

 

Transformative automation is coming. The impact is up to us
[bostonglobe]

Automation will transform our work, our lives, our society. Whether the outcome is inclusive or exclusive, fair or laissez-faire, is up to us. Getting this right is among the most important and inspiring challenges of our time — and it should be a priority for everyone who hopes to enjoy the benefits of a society that’s healthy and stable, because it offers opportunity for all.

 

Free Money: The Surprising Effects Of A Basic Income Supplied By Government
[wired]

Between fatherhood, football practice, and classes, though, he couldn’t squeeze in much part-time work. Michelle had taken an entry-level job as a teacher’s aide at a local childcare center right out of high school, but her salary wasn’t enough to support the three of them.

Then the casino money came.

 

Raqqa’s dirty secret
[bbc]

The BBC has uncovered details of a secret deal that let hundreds of IS fighters and their families escape from Raqqa, under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces who control the city.

 

U.S. soldier in Niger ambush was bound and apparently executed, villagers say
[washingtonpost]

The case has received enormous attention in the United States because of conflicting accounts over whether the soldiers were on a low-risk patrol or had changed plans and set out in pursuit of Islamist insurgents. Questions also have been raised about why the team was lightly armed, given the danger in the area.

 

Turning the Optical Fiber Network into a Giant Earthquake Sensor
[spectrum.ieee]

Optical fibers can do more than transmit data—they can actually sense what’s going on around them, including the earliest rumbles of an earthquake.

 

Meet the People Who Listen to Podcasts at Super-Fast Speeds
[buzzfeed]

"I have often, when finding out about a new podcast with a large back catalog, made myself a 100-hour-plus playlist to catch up."

 

Want to escape poverty? Replace pictures of Jesus with Xi Jinping, Christian villagers urged
[scmp]

Thousands of Christians in an impoverished county in rural southeast China have swapped their posters of Jesus for portraits of President Xi Jinping as part of a local government poverty-relief programme that seeks to “transform believers in religion into believers in the party”.