#56

Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better.
— E. W. Dijkstra, Software engineer

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

A Taxonomy of Troublemakers for Those Navigating Difficult Colleagues
[firstround]

The heaviest hitters and rainmakers are often the very people stirring up the most trouble. Wouldn't it be great to be able to salvage the good parts and minimize the bad?

 

The Theseus Paradox Of Software
[corgibytes]

While the voyage only took place once a year, the vessel had to remain seaworthy for hundreds. If a ship can’t stay afloat, then it’s not really doing it’s most important job. While “drydocking” a boat to fix it is an option, it also shouldn’t be the standard practice for how changes are made.

 

How the U.S. Is Making the War in Yemen Worse
[newyorker]

The conflict has killed at least ten thousand civilians, and the country faces famine. Why are we still involved?

 

Management/Culture

Is Anyone In Your Company Paying Attention to Strategic Alignment?
[hbr]

The best performing companies are often the best aligned. But who in your company is paying attention to how well aligned your strategy is with your organization’s purpose and capabilities?

 

Impatience: The Pitfall Of Every Ambitious Person
[dariusforoux]

And waiting is one of the hardest things in life. But if you take a close look around you, you see many examples of people who waited for the right opportunity.

 

Development/Releases

To Serve Man, with Software
[blog.codinghorror]

Software is easy to change, but people ... aren't. So in the new year, as software developers, let's make a resolution to focus on the part we can change, and keep asking ourselves one very important question: how can our software help people become the best version of themselves?

 

Operating Behind the Power Curve
[blog.cleancoder]

Too many software teams operate behind the power curve all the time. Rotten code is induced drag. These teams have created so much induced drag that it takes a huge effort to make any forward progress.

 

Technical

Evolving search recommendations on Pinterest
[medium]

Pinterest is all about helping people discover ideas to try in real life, whether it’s a recipe to cook, a product to buy or a trip to take. Search is a key part of discovery, and we handle billions of queries every month.

 

In a Confusing World, Context is Key — A Times Intern Sets Out to Improve Search Results
[open.nytimes]

The past few years have seen the rise of “context-aware” systems: technologies that can predict your intentions based on information about your environment. If you ask Google’s intelligent personal assistant, “How tall is that building?” it will use your phone’s GPS to see what buildings are near you and guess which building you are asking about. Or, if you add “pick up milk” to the Reminders app on your iPhone, you can choose to have the app remind you the next time you are within a block of a grocery store.

 

News/Other

Iran has driven Israel and the Gulf Arab states together
[washingtonpost]

The threat from Tehran has made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict secondary.

 

America’s Fastest Spy Plane May Be Back—and Hypersonic
[bloomberg]

A successor to the iconic SR-71 Blackbird could cruise at speeds near Mach 6—but is it a real plane or a pipe dream?

 

United Airlines saves 170,000 gallons of fuel by using lighter paper on inflight magazine
[latimes]

What difference can an ounce make on an airplane? If you are United Airlines, with 4,500 flights a day, an ounce can add up. The Chicago-based carrier said it recently began printing its inflight magazine, Hemisphere, on lighter paper, cutting 1 ounce from each magazine. It now weighs 6.85 ounces.

 

What Happens to Astronauts During a Government Shutdown?
[theatlantic]

How NASA scales down to a skeleton crew when Congress misses a big budget deadline

 

Ed Sheeran's 'Shape of You': Making 2017’s Biggest Track
[youtube]

How Ed Sheeran, Johnny McDaid and Steve Mac made the most-streamed track of 2017.

 

The raw water craze threatens to undo one of our major public health achievements
[washingtonpost]

The very existence of the market for raw water stands counter to that idea. When the rich willingly pay a premium for water, the rationale for keeping the water supply of ordinary people clean and inexpensive will eventually disappear, which could create a public health nightmare.

 

Beyond the Rhetoric of Algorithmic Solutionism
[points.datasociety]

If you ever hear that implementing algorithmic decision-making tools to enable social services or other high stakes government decision-making will increase efficiency or reduce the cost to taxpayers, know that you’re being lied to. When implemented ethically, these systems cost more. And they should.

 

Parents now spend twice as much time with their children as 50 years ago
[economist]

One analysis of 11 rich countries estimates that the average mother spent 54 minutes a day caring for children in 1965 but 104 minutes in 2012. Men do less than women, but far more than men in the past: their child-caring time has jumped from 16 minutes a day to 59.

 

Kazakhstan Cheers New Alphabet, Except for All Those Apostrophes
[nytimes]

The authoritarian leader’s talent for balancing divergent interests, however, suddenly seems to have deserted him over an issue that, at first glance, involves neither great power rivalry nor weighty matters of state: the role of the humble apostrophe in writing down Kazakh words.

 

The Year Robots Backflipped Their Way into Our Hearts
[technologyreview]

A robot revolution has begun. Intelligent machines now routinely patrol malls, hospitals, and highways, and the machines are becoming increasingly proficient at everything from picking fruit to performing surgery. Automation is set to transform our lives.

 

China's top paper says U.S. forcing China to accelerate South China Sea deployments
[reuters]

China’s top newspaper, decrying Washington as a trouble-maker, said on Monday U.S. moves in the South China Sea like last week’s freedom of navigation operation will only cause China to strengthen its deployments in the disputed waterway.

 

Flu virus killing more than 100 people per week
[cbsnews]

 

Podcasts/Books

Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
[goodreads]

When British producer Peter Pomerantsev plunges into the booming Russian TV industry, he gains access to every nook and corrupt cranny of the country. He is brought to smoky rooms for meetings with propaganda gurus running the nerve-center of the Russian media machine, and visits Siberian mafia-towns and the salons of the international super-rich in London and the US. As the Putin regime becomes more aggressive, Pomerantsev finds himself drawn further into the system.