Smart Disorganized (incoming)

November 27, 2015

Dave Winer

A better WebSockets demo

After a few weeks' experience with WebSockets in JavaScript, I've put together a better demo that shows how they are used in a real application.

 All the demos I found left out an important part, how to know, from the client, if the server disappeared, and more commonly how to know from the server if the client disappeared. Once you have both these under control you can achieve the promise of WebSockets, with an always-open connection and the server piping data back to the client as soon as it's available. 

Here's the new demo app, client and server:

GitHub: betterWebSocketsDemo.

I plan to use this code in, that's why I want a code review. If you know what's going on with WebSockets please have a look and let me know if you see anything wrong, or inefficient. Thanks!!

November 27, 2015 07:32 PM

Mark Bernstein


Well, I said that I’d drive my Accord until the wheels fell off. Eventually, one did. In a 21-year-old car, some infirmities are to be expected. So, I have a cute little new car.

I waited too long. Buying cars all the time is a terrible waste of money, but I internalized that to mean that putting up with unreliability, discomfort, and a certain amount of hazard was a good idea. It’s not. The new thing moves better. It brakes a lot better. When you turn it on, it just turns on: no muss, no fuss. It’s got airbags, and it’s got airbags for the airbags, and it’s got a color TV camera so you can admire your parking prowess. In the morning, it sees my cell phone in my pocket, they have a brief chat while I'm fastening my seatbelt, and they arrange to pick up my audiobook where I left it last time. (I know, you folks know this, but nobody told me!)

Buying a car is a pain in the neck. I spent eight weeks learning too much about cars, and noticing cars. I don’t usually notice other cars, but now I see Fits and iAs and Mazda 2s and Yaris’s. The other day coming home from Eastgate, I paused in Medford because a car was parking outside the pizza joint – a boring white car, actually, doing a very timid and poor job of parking, except this time I noticed that the car was a Maserati and if I were parking a Maserati en route to picking up a pizza in Medford Square, I might not make a stylish job of it either.

I don’t know anything much about cars, but I do know a bit about computers. If the computer you use every day is more than 3 years old, it’s time to start thinking about replacing it.

November 27, 2015 05:48 PM


Linda’s been reading Proust, and Michael Dirda extolled Jeremy Irons’ reading of the audiobook, so Lolita has been accompanying me in the car for the last few weeks. I’ve started the book any number of times, dating back to high school; this time I made it through.

Time has changed Lolita. It’s clear that, in 1955, this was meant to shock: now, it’s disturbing, but not a lot more disturbing than any number of contemporary mysteries. Formally, this is a thriller; it might actually be more difficult today to get literary recognition for the thriller than it was when On The Road was still two years into the future.

November 27, 2015 05:46 PM

Funny Girl

In 1963 or so, Barbara decided to enter the Miss Blackpool beauty contest on a whim. She has won, and faces a year of opening stores and parking lots. Barbara doesn’t want to be Miss Blackpool: she wants to be the Lucy of I Love Lucy. So, she resigns the honor and catches a train to London, where she sells perfumes.

If this sounds like the setup for a 30-minute sitcom, you’re catching on.

One thing leads to another, as things do. Eventually, she meets two gay writers who have pitched a series about Modern Marriage to the BBC. They succeed. One thing leads to another. A jolly good time for everyone: Hornby has a voice, it's a terrific voice, and this is all a ton of fun.

November 27, 2015 05:43 PM

Dave Winer

Is Medium the threat to WordPress?

I've heard it said that the new release of WordPress is a response to Medium, something I hadn't thought of at first. After pondering it a bit I decided that if it is, it's misguided.

Medium might be a threat to WordPress, if there were no Facebook. But Facebook is there, and WordPress's customers are under a lot of pressure from Facebook, given that many of them are news publishers, and if WordPress wants to keep them, they need to evolve to help them survive the challenge, by keeping the independent and open web both independent and open.

Medium must also be a little freaked about the Facebook juggernaut. After all, what does Medium do that Facebook doesn't already do on a much larger scale?

Please go back to Hoder's excellent piece, which I think should be right up there with Barlow's Declaration, as one of the seminal pieces of the web, even though it was written just this year. It reminded me that what Facebook is offering is not the web and it isn't the blogosphere, although at first you might be tempted to say it is. (I did say that myself in a discussion on Rebooting the News a few years back, I was wrong.)

Both Medium and WordPress offer the ability to link from a word to another page. As Hoder reminds us this most basic of features of the web. I called this Holding Hands in Cyberspace in 1996. It is the central idea in my Rule of Links piece I wrote for the inaugural BloggerCon. Yes, Facebook provides links in the rarely-used Notes feature. But the typical Facebook post doesn't have them.

Also, both WordPress and Medium offer discovery, as does Facebook with its timeline, although Medium's is better developed. WordPress clearly understands that it needs to provide this function. I would like to see them lead their customers into producing their own rivers. I see this as essential to not letting Facebook run away with the whole thing.

WordPress and Medium are small competitors to Facebook, and both have an investment in the open web. I'd like to see them work together to strengthen the open system against dominance by the silo. I think it's really not a good idea for them to view each other as the enemy. Later, when and if the web survives the challenge, we can talk about them fighting each other for dominance. 

This is an instance of the Prisoner's Dilemma which was so well described by Benjamin Franklin: "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." It seems Franklin understood the tech industry, even in the 18th century. blush

November 27, 2015 03:57 PM

Post-Thanksgiving binge

The first season of The Leftovers was a slog, although the last couple of episodes are really good. Now I'm through the first three episodes of season two, and I'm in full binge mode. Being a holiday weekend, I might just blow off work and watch the remaining five, and then patiently wait for the last two before moving on to something else.

I tried to get into Halt and Catch Fire, but I just can't do it. I have two disadvantages: 1. I am a programmer, so I know that a lot of the technology plots don't make much sense and I find that unsatisfying and 2. I was in the tech business in the period they're covering, and again, I don't believe any of the crazy bullshit they were doing in the show. It has a few moments here and there that are compelling, but not enough to make up for my disappointment and sometimes even disgust at the shortcuts they take.

One more thing, here's a list of twelve bingeable shows from The Verge. Lots interesting stuff on the list. I've watched Lost, the last show they recommend, and I liked it when it was on broadcast TV, but am pretty sure I wouldn't recommend it for a binge. I also watched the first episode of the Man in the High Castle, and I really didn't like it, maybe because I have read the Philip K Dick novel it's derived from, which was wonderful. I may give it another try based on their recommendation. 

November 27, 2015 03:40 PM

November 26, 2015

Lambda the Ultimate

Static vs. Dynamic Languages: A Literature Review

We've mentioned some empirical studies of programming languages a few times, but I haven't seen a comprehensive list we can use as a reference.

Fortunately, I just came across this pretty decent overview of existing literature on how types impact development. Agree or disagree with Dan Luu's position, the comprehensive list warrants a front-page post in my opinion.

One point worth noting is that all the studies used relatively inexpressive languages with bland type systems, like C and Java, and compared those against typed equivalents. A future study ought to compare a more expressive language, like OCaml, Haskell or F#, which should I think would yield more pertinent data to this age-old debate.

Part of the benefits of types allegedly surround documentation to help refactoring without violating invariants. So another future study I'd like to see is one where participants develop a program meeting certain requirements in their language of choice. They will have as much time as needed to satisfy a correctness test suite. They should then be asked many months later to add a new feature to the program they developed. I expect that the maintenance effort required of a language is more important than the effort required of initial development, because programs change more often than they are written from scratch.

This could be a good thread on how to test the various beliefs surrounding statically typed and dynamically languages. If you have any studies that aren't mentioned above, or some ideas on what would make a good study, let's hear it!

November 26, 2015 07:19 PM

Dave Winer

The View Source command of

Did you notice there's a View Source command in the popup menu for each top-level message?

For example, here's the source of the previous post, a podcast about outliners and MS Word. You can see it's in JSON. And it contains all the replies to the post.

JSON is a simple text-based language that's roughly equivalent to XML. It's designed to be easy to process in JavaScript code, but you can read and write it from virtually any language or environment. It's a portable way of sharing computer-oriented information, and like XML it's also human-readable.

I needed this feature to help me debug the software, and decided to leave it in, because it might be useful in other contexts.

November 26, 2015 02:01 PM

Tim Ferriss



“I find that being in a good mood for creative work is worth the hours it takes to get in a good mood.” – B.J. Novak

This episode covers principles and tactics for creating amazing careers, comedy, writing, and much more. Hilarious stories weave it all together.

My guest is B.J. Novak (@bjnovak), best known for his work on NBC’s Emmy Award-winning comedy series “The Office” as an actor, writer, director, and executive producer. He has appeared in films such as Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks. He is also the author of the acclaimed short story collection “One More Thing” and the #1 New York Times Best Seller “The Book With No Pictures” (great Christmas gift), which has more than one million copies in print. Last but not least, he is co-founder of The List App.

In other words, he does a lot and does it well. What are the habits, tools, and routines that help him to do this? That’s what we explore in this conversation.


Want to hear another podcast from a comedian? — Listen to my conversation with Whitney Cummings. In this episode, we discuss turning pain into creativity (stream below or right-click here to download):

This podcast is brought to you by Vimeo Pro, which is the ideal video hosting platform for entrepreneurs. In fact, a bunch of my start-ups are already using Vimeo Pro. WealthFront uses it to explain how WealthFront works. TaskRabbit uses it to tell the company’s story. There are many other names who you would recognize among their customers (AirBnB, Etsy, etc.) Why do they use it? Vimeo Pro provides enterprise level video hosting for a fraction of the usual cost. Features include:

  • Gorgeous high-quality playback with no ads
  • Up to 20 GB of video storage every week
  • Unlimited plays and views
  • A fully customizable video player, which can include your company logo, custom outro, and more

You get all this for just $199 per year (that’s only $17 per/mo.). There are no complicated bandwidth calculations or hidden fees. Try it risk-free for 30 days. Just go to to check it out. If you like it, you can use the promo code “Tim” to get 25% off. This is a special discount just for you guys.

This podcast is also brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service, led by technologists from places like Apple and world-famous investors. It has exploded in popularity in the last 2 years and now has more than $2.5B under management. In fact, some of my good investor friends in Silicon Valley have millions of their own money in Wealthfront. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams.

Check out, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you—for free–exactly the portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Or, as I would, you can set it and forget it.  Well worth a few minutes:

Mandatory disclaimer: Wealthfront Inc. is an SEC registered Investment Advisor.

Investing in securities involves risks, and there is the possibility of losing money. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Please visit Wealthfront dot com to read their full disclosure.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: In this episode, we discuss how a good mood impacts productivity. What situations do you find most difficult to overcome, and what techniques have you tried to reestablish a positive mindset? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

  • Download the app and follow BJ Novak
  • B.J. Novak’s suggested podcasts:

The Great Debates | Intelligence Squared

Tim: Man on Wire | Project Nim

BJ: Catfish |  To Be and To Have | The Overnighters

Twitter | Facebook 

Show Notes

  • Why do so many people migrate from Harvard to Hollywood? [6:42]
  • What happened the year after B.J. Novak graduated from Harvard [13:07]
  • How B.J. got Bob Saget booked for his event, and how it opened the door to Hollywood [14:12]
  • Stories and tips for getting started as a stand-up comedian [21:52]
  • On becoming a writer-actor [29:07]
  • The tipping point for when The Office became a success [31:12]
  • Lessons learned while working on The Office [33:37]
  • The experience of working with Steve Carell [35:47]
  • The writing process for The Office: Blue Sky Period [36:42]
  • How to maintain positivity and other creative productivity advice [40:15]
  • Note-keeping habits and the creative process [44:12]
  • What B.J. Novak’s freshman seminar at Harvard on comedy writing would look like [49:12]
  • What B.J. Novak’s freshman seminar at Harvard on screenwriting would look like [54:32]
  • Why B.J. wanted to create an app [58:42]
  • Describing the app [1:02:12]
  • Top lists [1:08:22]
  • Rapid fire questions:
    • Who comes to mind when you think of the word successful? [1:13:32]
    • What was your senior thesis? [1:13:52]
    • Most gifted books [1:14:37]
    • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? [1:15:37]
    • Do you have any bad habits that you’re working on? [1:16:22]
    • Are their words or phrases that you overuse? [1:17:05]
    • Best purchase that you’ve made in recent memory for less than $100 [1:18:52]
    • Favorite documentaries [1:19:36]
    • How to ‘power up’ in the morning [1:21:47]
    • Is there a particular time of day when you do your best writing? [1:24:00]
    • Examples of good comedy writing TV shows [1:24:42]
    • What historical figure do you most identify with? [1:25:15]
  • Advice to an aspiring comedy writer [1:27:02]
  • Advice to your 30-year-old self [1:29:47]

People Mentioned

by Tim Ferriss at November 26, 2015 12:13 AM

November 25, 2015

Dave Winer

Podcast: Outliners vs MS Word

A bunch of people were discussing outliners vs MS Word on Facebook the other day, and I was just working on one of my apps, in my outliner of course, and I wanted to offer a real user-point-of-view of why it's so much better to edit structures in an outliner than in a word processor.

Not talking about quick memos, but projects you're going to work on for months or years. Where the quality of the organization and note-taking determines how far you can go, re complexity.

It's one of the reasons I am able to build such complex software structures, but the end result turns out to be something people can use.

So I recorded an 11-minute podcast on the subject of outliners. I talk mostly about how I use an outliner to write and manage code that I work on over many years. 

PS: This was a Facebook post earlier today.

November 25, 2015 11:05 PM

Another test of replying to posts...

Hello again.

I have been working on the editor, and have implemented a few minor fixes and one major fix. It should look and feel quite a bit tighter now. 

So if you have a moment...

  1. Log into the site choosing the last command in the menu at the right of the menu bar. If necessary.
  2. Choose Reply from the popup menu next to my name, above.
  3. Enter a little text, a Thanksgiving greeting perhaps.
  4. Click on the text to edit it.
  5. Click the thumb-up icon to Like this post.
  6. Like your own reply! blush

Please report any problems. 

Thank you!

November 25, 2015 09:02 PM

Let Hoder talk to you for a bit...

Did you read Hoder's piece about saving the web?

He was in jail in Iran for six years, while the flow of the web was taken over by social media. That gave him a unique perspective on what was lost.

If you haven't read it, and you love the web, please clear 15 good minutes and sit down with a cup of coffee or whatever you like to drink and listen to him and think. 

And yes, it is ironic that he put the piece on Medium, where they are hoping to do a bit more of the same unpleasantness to the web. But at least they support real hyperlinks unlike Twitter and Facebook.

November 25, 2015 07:54 PM

Interview fake Trump

I have a solution for TV re Trump.

Instead of interviewing Trump himself, allowing him to talk over your challenges to his lies, just interview recordings of Trump, and interrupt him whenever you see fit.

The way Jon Stewart used to do it on Daily Show.

You don't need to give him, the person, actual air time.

November 25, 2015 07:15 PM

Greg Linden

Quick links

What has caught my attention lately:
  • Tog (of the famous Tog on Interface) says Apple has lost its way on design: "Apple is destroying design. Worse, it is revitalizing the old belief that design is only about making things look pretty. No, not so! Design is a way of thinking, of determining people’s true, underlying needs, and then delivering products and services that help them." ([1] [2])

  • Good advice on adding features to a product: "'Great or Dead', as in, if we can't make a feature great, it should be killed off." ([1])

  • Great data on smartphone and tablet ownership. Sometimes it's hard to remember that only five years ago most people didn't have smartphones. ([1])

  • Advice for anyone thinking of doing a startup. Here's the conclusion: "So all you need is a great idea, a great team, a great product, and great execution. So easy! ;)" ([1])

  • Related, a Dilbert comic on the value of a startup idea ([1])

  • "People might think that human-level AI is close because they think AI is more magical than it actually is" ([1])

  • "VCs hate technical risk. They’re comfortable with market risk, but technical risk is really difficult for them to reconcile." ([1])

  • Google finds eliminating bad advertisements increases long-term revenue, concluding: "A focus on user satisfaction could help to reduce the ad load on the internet at large with long-term neutral, or even positive, business impact." ([1] [2])

  • "Crappy ad experiences are behind the uptick in ad-blocking tools" ([1])

  • On filter bubbles, a new study finds algorithms yield more diversity of content than people choosing news themselves ([1] [2] [3])

  • Facebook data center fun: "The inclusion of 480 4 TB drives drove the weight to over 1,100 kg, effectively crushing the rubber wheels." ([1])

  • Great data on who uses which social networks ([1])

  • "One of the great mysteries of the tech industry in recent years has been the seeming disinterest of Google, which is now called Alphabet, in competing with Amazon Web Services for corporate customers." ([1])

  • "Maybe part of AWS value prop is the outsourcing of outages: when half the net is offline, any individual down site doesn't look as bad." ([1])

  • "87% of Android devices are vulnerable to attack by malicious apps ... because manufacturers have not provided regular security updates" ([1])

  • Fun maps showing where tourists take photos compared to locals ([1] [2] [3])

  • Multiple camera lenses, an idea soon coming to mobile phones too? ([1])

  • Another interesting camera technology: ""17 different wavelengths ... software analyzes the images and finds ones that are most different from what the naked eye sees, essentially zeroing in on ones that the user is likely to find most revealing" ([1])

  • And another: "Take a short image sequence while slightly moving the camera ... to recover the desired background scene as if the visual obstructions were not there" ([1])

  • Useful to know: "Survey results are mostly unaffected when the non-Web respondents are left out." ([1])

  • Surprising finding, meal worms can thrive just eating styrofoam: "the larvae lived as well as those fed with a normal diet (bran) over a period of 1 month" ([1])

  • Autonomous drone for better-than-GoPro filming? ([1] [2])

  • "We see people turning onto, and then driving on, the wrong side of the road a lot ... Drivers do very silly things when they realize they’re about to miss their turn ... Routinely see people weaving in and out of their lanes; we’ve spotted people reading books, and even one [driver] playing a trumpet." ([1])

  • A fun and cool collection of messed up images out of Apple maps. It's almost art. ([1])

  • SMBC comic, also applies to AI ([1])

by Greg Linden ( at November 25, 2015 07:38 AM

November 24, 2015

Bret Victor

November 23, 2015

Dave Winer

About (coming soon)

A few notes about the new blogging software I'm working on.

It continues on the same approach I took with Manila, and refined with Radio UserLand. A home page from which everything radiates. 

A focus on simplicity, an intense level of factoring to reduce the number of steps it takes to post something new or edit an existing post.

I wanted the fluidity of Twitter and Facebook. It should be just as easy to create a new post as it is to write a tweet, of course without the 140 char limit.

Here's a screen shot of me editing the initial version of this post.

The central innovation of Manila was Edit This Page. I take that one step further in this product. If you see something that needs changing, just click, edit, Save. This is easier than Facebook, and of course editing posts is not possible in Twitter.

I think of this as the first post-Twitter post-Facebook blogging system. 

The motto of the software: Blogging like it's 1999!

The name of the product:

A picture of a slice of cheese cake.

PS: This is a post.

November 23, 2015 09:38 PM

New version of WordPress

The new version of WordPress -- released today -- is a Node app.

And they have a Mac desktop app.

I've tried them both, and they're really nice, and it's still WordPress. 

The product has the same familiar organization and structure. 

At the same time I'm finishing my own Node-based blogging system. It's really cool that WordPress is running in the same environment. There may be some interesting integrations possible as a result. 

But first I have to ship. :->

November 23, 2015 09:32 PM

The problem is America, not Trump

People are saying that the Trump campaign is turning Nazi.

I'd like to offer another theory. 

It's turning American.

We in America paint the past as a Norman Rockwell painting. White, suburban, not too rich, but not poor either. Everyone dresses well. Grandpa smokes a pipe and grandma makes  great apple pie. The kids play musical instruments and baseball.

But that is not our past. 

We brought Africans to America to be our slaves. They didn't need yellow stars because their skin color was enough of a label. We beat them, chained them, murdered them, all the things Nazis did to Jews, over a much longer period of time. 

We took our land from Native Americans and killed them too.

We victimize people because of where they come from, how they dress, what books they read, the god they worship, for being too liberal or loving the wrong person. We have done some terrible things here. So you don't have to go to Germany for prior art. There's plenty of it right here in the U.S. of A.

The problem isn't Trump. He's an opportunist. If people voted on issues, he would be a fountain of issues. But they don't. They vote for people who make them feel good and powerful and deserving of love.

The problem isn't Trump, it's America.

November 23, 2015 01:24 PM

20 vs 60

I listened to an interview on NPR this morning with violinist Itzhak Perlman. They asked if he knew more about the violin now, as he turns 70, than when he was 20. 

He said "no, but.." and paused.

At this point my brain filled in the answer.

"But I know myself much better!"

Turns out that isn't what he said, but it's still an important idea that I'd like to pass on to my younger friends (I am 60). 

When you're 20 you don't even really see yourself. You and the world are the same thing. That's why young people feel there is such a thing as absolute right and wrong in all cases. The world seems simple. It's all about me! And anything that I don't like obviously is wrong, and anything I do like is equally obviously right.

What happens as you grow older is that this sense of being everything can fade away, and as it does, other people and things become visible. You see that there are lots of different types of people, with different experiences, different ways of viewing the world. You can delight in this, and learn from it, and use it to further define yourself. 

At 60, I often laugh at myself: "Oh that's just something Dave does."

That would have never occurred to me at 20.

On the other hand, not to say there aren't wonderful things about being 20. Everything is so fresh and new, the world and time seem unlimited, and your abilities. Falling in love at any age is a miracle.  And there are rewards that only come from knowledge and experience. 

PS: I'm also a better writer at 60. wink

November 23, 2015 01:13 PM

John Udell

Trello: Collaboration is in the cards

The aha moment that led to Trello, says its creator Joel Spolsky, was a series of "customer visits to see how people were using Excel."

His findings, gleaned while Spolsky was a program manager on Microsoft Excel team in the early '90s, won't surprise you. People didn't do much calculation in their spreadsheets, but they did a whole lot of 2D layout. Excel was, and remains, a great example of a user innovation toolkit -- a product that's malleable enough to enable its users to reshape it according to their needs.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

by Jon Udell at November 23, 2015 11:00 AM

Tim Ferriss


Will green background, picture by Sam Deere

Will MacAskill (Photo: Sam Deere)

“We want to disaggregate benefits and aggregate costs.” – William MacAskill

Will MacAskill (@willmacaskill) is an Associate Professor in Philosophy at Lincoln College, Oxford. Just 28 years old, he is likely the youngest associate (i.e. tenured) professor of philosophy in the world.

Will is the author of Doing Good Better and a co-founder of the “effective altruism” movement. He has pledged to donate everything he earns over ~$36,000 per year to whatever charities he believes will be most effective.

He has also cofounded two well-known non-profits: 80,000 Hours, which provides research and advice on how you can best make a difference through your career, and Giving What We Can, which encourages people to commit to give at least 10% of their income to the most effective charities. Between them, they have raised more than $450 million in lifetime pledged donations, and are in the top 1% of non-profits in terms of growth.

He is one of the few non-profit founders who have gone through Y Combinator; for-profit companies get $120,000 for 7% of equity; as a non-profit, 80,000 Hours got $100,000 for 0% of equity.

In this episode, we discuss his story and a ton of actionable tips, including:

  • Why “following your passion” in a career is often a mistake.
  • Thought experiments: Pascal’s Wager versus Pascal’s Mugging.
  • Why working for a non-profit straight out of college is also a mistake.
  • How it’s possible to “hack” doing good in the same way you would a business.
  • Implications of artificial intelligence.
  • The best ways to really evaluate if you (or charities) are going good in the world.
  • The reasons donating to disaster relief typically isn’t the best use of your money.
  • Why ethical consumerism typically isn’t a great way to do good.
  • Running a non-profit in the Harvard/Navy SEALs of startup incubators: Y Combinator.


Want to hear another podcast related to philosophy from a world class philosopher? — Listen to my conversation with Sam Harris. In this episode, we discuss his daily routines, the Trolley Scenario, and 5 books everyone should read (stream below or right-click here to download):

This podcast is brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service, led by technologists from places like Apple and world-famous investors. It has exploded in popularity in the last 2 years and now has more than $2.5B under management. In fact, some of my good investor friends in Silicon Valley have millions of their own money in Wealthfront. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams. Check out, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you—for free–exactly the portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Or, as I would, you can set it and forget it.  Well worth a few minutes:

Mandatory disclaimer: Wealthfront Inc. is an SEC registered Investment Advisor.

Investing in securities involves risks, and there is the possibility of losing money. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Please visit Wealthfront dot com to read their full disclosure.

This podcast is also brought to you by Mizzen + Main. These are the only “dress” shirts I now travel with — fancy enough for important dinners but made from athletic, sweat-wicking material. No more ironing, no more steaming, no more hassle. Click here for the exact shirts I wear most often. Don’t forget to use the code “TIM” at checkout.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What is your favorite charity and why do you donate? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • The significance of the colleges within Oxford [7:30]
  • How do you answer the question, “what do you do?” [8:05]
  • How to take a scientific approach to doing good [9:25]
  • Common mistakes when giving [10:40]
  • The differences between, CharityNavigator, and a framework for examining the quality of charitable organizations [11:45]
  • On the effect of disaster relief [13:10]
  • Will MacAskill’s approach to becoming the youngest tenured philosophy professor in the world [14:33]
  • MacAskill’s philosophy role models [23:05]
  • On Peter Singer and the Trolly Scenario [26:20]
  • On the decision between charity spending for the poorest of the poor and investing in future generations [47:25]
  • The characteristics of a selfish charitable event [55:50]
  • Suggestions for activities that charities should stop doing [58:45]
  • The story of being accepted as a non-profit Y Combinator company [1:02:20]
  • The most important skills and information learned at Y Combinator [1:06:45]
  • Most common debates with participants and partners at Y Combinator [1:13:15]
  • Where do your favorite philosophical frameworks have trouble in the real world? [1:16:35]
  • On the different motivations between non-profit and profit-driven Y Combinator [1:19:35]
  • Is it better to give now or give (more significantly) later? [1:23:20]
  • Why pursuing your passion might be a mistake [1:29:05]
  • Most gifted books [1:35:15]
  • Will MacAskill’s daily meditation practice [1:38:40]
  • Daily rituals: breakfast, fitness, and valuable sleep practices [1:43:45]
  • Favorite documentaries and movies [1:57:35]
  • If you could put a billboard anywhere and write anything on it, where would it be and what would it say? [2:03:20]
  • Thoughts on artificial intelligence [2:03:50]
  • Will competitive drive and the desire to generate wealth override a safe method of developing artificial intelligence? [2:10:35]
  • What existential threat to mankind worries you the most or is the most underrated? [2:14:00]
  • Advice to your 20-year-old self [2:16:20]
  • A framework for making important life decisions [2:18:05]
  • An ask of the audience [2:23:10]

People Mentioned

by Tim Ferriss at November 23, 2015 02:00 AM

November 22, 2015

Alex Schroeder

Encryption Hard

So, I’m trying find the public key of somebody I need to email. But it won’t work. Here’s what I get when searching for a key from the command line:

alex@Megabombus:~$ gpg --search-key
gpg: searching for "" from hkps server
gpgkeys: HTTP search error 60: SSL certificate problem: Invalid certificate chain
gpg: key "" not found on keyserver
gpg: keyserver internal error
gpg: keyserver search failed: Keyserver error

Uh oh. SSL certificate chain invalid? Are they using stuff I disabled in my SSL setup? Is this a man in the middle attack?

No email tonight, I guess!

Tags: RSS

November 22, 2015 09:29 PM

Dave Winer

Podcast: Why Trump might win

A ten-minute podcast explains why Trump is the best bet to win the Republican nomination for President. And also, it's scary to think he might even be elected President.

It isn't about him, it's about us. Spoiler: The problem is that our lives are meaningless. We are desperately searching for meaning. Trump may be the only candidate that gets this.

They say it's a platitude that it's not about them, it's about you (the voters) but it's correct. The lock is the electorate, and the winner is the one with the best key. For now, that's Trump, and to a lesser extent Bernie Sanders. 

November 22, 2015 07:35 PM

Bump me baby!

Here's a feature request for Facebook and Apple.

  1. You know how the Apple Watch bumps you when something happens. I like that feeling. It's a Pavlovian thing.
  2. It would be really cool if there was a bump every time someone Liked something of mine on Facebook. No message, no explanation. Just a bump. 

November 22, 2015 07:21 PM

Trump happens

There used to be gatekeepers that made sure the crazy candidates looked crazy, but now they get to go direct. 

Trump is what happens when social media becomes the platform for discourse. 

I always thought Sources Go Direct was a good thing. But like all good things, there's a dark side too, I guess. Trump makes enough people feel good about themselves to quite possibly make him the Republican nominee. 

Then the question is what's left of the Republican Party after that? 

And of the United States too. 

See also: Why Trump might win.

November 22, 2015 06:53 PM

How to get flow

Here's a tip for publications looking for flow over social media..

  1. Write interesting articles about how people use social media.
  2. Even better, write stories about people are making money using social media.
  3. Best of all, how they are getting screwed on social media, both in the good way and the bad.

November 22, 2015 05:32 PM

Do I use Medium?

Hendrik Jeremy Mentz:  "I like how @davewiner uses @medium: short, pithy bursts. See his posts on war and terrorism in particular."

Reading this was weird because I don't think of myself as posting to Medium, or that I am using Medium. More accurately, my posts fllow from to Medium through RSS.

Then I thought about it a bit, let it sink in, and realized it appears to others as if I am posting there, so it's legit. I do use it. They read it there and that's how they experience my writing.

This is going to take some getting used to. 

November 22, 2015 05:06 PM

The Knicks are fun again

Carmelo wasn't on last night but the Knicks won anyway.

This Knicks plays like a team. 

It has air supremacy, now with two big men, Lopez and Porzingas.

Porzingas changes everything. He makes shots from all corners, 3-pointers, sky hooks. No one is tall enough to block him, but he blocks shots gets rebounds and putbacks, and all around dominates. He's been in the NBA one month, so you have to wonder where he goes from here.

The Knicks always needed another star so the pressure wouldn't all be on Melo. Now they have it. And as a result all the other Knicks are playing better. 

The Knicks are a hard team to defend this year. And that makes all the difference. And they're much more likely to get a second chance after missing a bucket.

Most important to this long-suffering Knicks fan, they're fun to watch! 

November 22, 2015 04:58 PM

My basketball karass

  1. I should have a basketball karass, a group of 20 or 30 people I like to go to games with.
  2. Every game should have an official place on the net.
  3. When I go there I see my basketball karass and I can ask questions or make observations, or just scream about the Knicks.
  4. My karass pals are mostly a virtual thing, but sometimes we all get on a plane and go to a game together, at an arena.
  5. I want this now, but it'll probably all happen in the next few years.
  6. I'd like to get a plug in for my site. It's the best place for news about the NBA. 

November 22, 2015 01:22 AM

November 21, 2015

Alex Schroeder

Fountain Pen

These days, I’m taking notes with a fountain pen. I asked for one for my birthday in April and got a LAMY studio imperialblue with an F nib. I used this pen to draw the faces for my Face Generator using T10 blue ink. And I’m still using it. When I looked at the notes I scanned, yesterday, I was reminded of all the note taking I’m doing on those notebooks with my fountain pen. There is an anachronistic pleasure in it. :)


November 21, 2015 07:57 PM

Dave Winer

New start for discourse on Scripting

I just made the next round of changes in the way Scripting News. Now you can reply to any post, by logging on via Twitter. 

For now, it's open to anyone with a Twitter account. I plan to add a couple of layers of moderation, similar to the conventions we had when I was using Disqus for comments. Only the software will enforce a maximum length, and comments will visible to the author of the post (i.e. me), not public by default. 

I've been doing this since the late 70s, so by now we know how this stuff works. If you have a wide-open comment system you attract trolls and spammers, and they keep the interesting ideas out. I am only interested in ideas and new facts. Not in recitals of talking points from MSNBC or Fox. Or CNN. Or anyone. I like thoughts. Not a "moral parade."

But for now I'm happy that the system seems to be working, however awkwardly. Lots of room for polish and thoughtful features. 

Still diggin! 

November 21, 2015 03:16 PM

November 20, 2015

Dave Winer

This is a test

If you're seeing this in an RSS reader or on Medium, please click this link if you want to help me test my new CMS. 

  1. Click the menu in the upper right corner, sign on via Twitter, the last command.
  2. Choose Reply from the popup menu in the byline of the post, A little box should open up below the text. 
  3. Type something like Hello World in that box and press Return.
  4. Then you should see the text on the page with your name above it.
  5. If you click on the text you should be able to edit it. Press Return to save changes. 
  6. If you like it, click the Thumb-up icon to like it. (You know how that works.)

If it blew up on you somewhere in all that, please accept my apologies!

November 20, 2015 07:19 PM

Change at home, not far away

It is becoming clearer that attacking ISIS in Syria makes as much sense as attacking Iraq did after 9/11. The source of the problem was in the US, not in Iraq. Just as the source of the problem in Europe is in Europe. 

We can see it more clearly from our side of the ocean. Doesn't make it any easier to deal with. 

And our problem in the US was and is in the US. The problem here is that oil and war make too much money for big corporations, and we're too comfortable in our spoiled lifestyles. 

Maybe software can eat that problem too, but I kind of doubt it. blush

November 20, 2015 04:52 PM

Alex Schroeder


Uns hat Chur sehr gefallen. Der Brambrüesch war auch nicht schlecht. Claudia war halt mitten in der Chemotherapie und konnte keine längere Wanderung unternehmen.


November 20, 2015 03:53 PM

Lambda the Ultimate

BWK on "How to succeed in language design without really trying"

A talk by Brian Kernighan at The University of Nottingham.

Describes all the usual suspects: AWK, EQN, PIC. Even AMPL. I was wondering which languages he had in mind when he mentioned that some of his creations were total flops. I'd love to learn from those!

The talk is a fun way to spend an hour, and the audio would be good for commuters. For real aficionados I would recommend reading Jon Bentley's articles on the design of these languages (as well as CHEM and others) instead.

November 20, 2015 03:50 PM

Dave Winer


I've heard that because of the 140-char limit, Twitter is filled with poetry and that if the limit were eased, there would be no more poems.

November 20, 2015 12:14 PM

Lambda the Ultimate

Compilers as Assistants

Designers of Elm want their compiler to produce friendly error messages. They show some examples of helpful error messages from their newer compiler on the blog post.

Compilers as Assistants

One of Elm’s goals is to change our relationship with compilers. Compilers should be assistants, not adversaries. A compiler should not just detect bugs, it should then help you understand why there is a bug. It should not berate you in a robot voice, it should give you specific hints that help you write better code. Ultimately, a compiler should make programming faster and more fun!

November 20, 2015 05:11 AM

November 19, 2015

Alex Schroeder

Being a Man

Travis Scott said on Google+: “It’s International Men’s Day, which is a time I like to reflect on the positive things about masculinity, being a man, and having men in our lives. I’d like to hear all kinds of perspectives, with this additional challenge: say it with honesty and without snark. Dig deep and tell us what you appreciate about men and masculinity!”

I said: My father, good male friends – the thing I like about male culture is that it is acceptable to enjoy physical activity with no talking. We can meet and play or hike or ride a bike or run, and we might talk, or not talk, or talk nonsense, but the shared activity in itself communicates well being, harmony, lack of conflict, sympathy, joy of life, appreciation, encouragement, inner peace. I love that.

As for masculinity these days, and where I am these days, I’m happy to notice that there are not a lot of expectations imposed on my masculinity that I notice. I can work part time, I can cook and clean the house, my wife can work full time, my wife can drive the car, we can have no kids, I don’t need to be smarter, I don’t need to make all the decisions, I don’t need to plan our holidays, I don’t need to have any mechanical skills, I don’t have to drive a car, I don’t need to play team sports involving a ball, I don’t need to laugh at awkward jokes. I am at peace with being a man.

When a friend has left, Claudia might asks, “How is he?” I’ll answer, “He’s doing OK.” She’ll ask, “What did he say?” I’ll say, “Not much.” Incredulous, she’ll ask, “Didn’t you ask?” I’ll say, “No, of course not.” She’ll shake her head and laugh. But I’ll know that in that moment, when we did things, in that moment of doing, there was no need for words. There was no need to talk about our feelings because our feelings were inscribed into our grinning, our yelling, our waving of controllers, our jumping up and our little victory dances… It was a timeless moment of joy.

Tags: RSS

November 19, 2015 08:24 PM

Dungeon World

So, I wrote a few posts about Dungeon World in the recent past and then I ran a game, last Monday!

How did it go? It went well. I had six players, a bit of a language split – three native English speakers and three native German speakers and two of them sometimes had trouble understanding some of the stuff on the character sheets. That was unfortunate. On of the players had been a backer and had both soft-cover and hard-cover books with him where as I just has some print-outs and the sheets by Maezar. I also offered my players to use the Freebooters of the Frontier sheets instead, but since nobody had a strong opinion about that and the backer didn’t know about Freebooters, I dropped it. I guess I still used some moves from Perilous Wild behind the screen and it was good.

What about prep? Prep was OK. I had a map, I had some ideas, I had some dangers and discoveries listed, two fronts, dooms, stuff was going to happen but for a 3h One Shot including character generation, I’d say I was slightly over-prepared in terms of map and settlements and slightly under-prepared when it came to dangers and discoveries. I should have had longer lists of cool stuff. I also started the game with the party in a swamp on the way to a barrow, the ranger posited that he had been following tracks, soon it was determined that there were smaller tracks following the larger tracks (announcing future badness) and soon we had a fight with six player characters vs. ten froglings. I think that fight could have been a shorter. Using ten enemies was a bit much.

What about feedback? The players said they liked it. At first, the lack of a turn structure might have been strange but I guess it worked. The two mostly German speaking players weren’t as active as they might have been, perhaps. But I know one of them from another campaign where he’s also not one to take center stage – and sadly, one prone to looking at his phone a lot, during the game. I didn’t feel too bad about him getting less spot light.

What about my own feelings regarding player agency? Tricky. Comparing it to my old school sandbox games, I’d say many things were similar or the procedures resulted in a similar experience for players.

  • there was a regional map with lairs and sources of evil and going to particular places had consequences
  • there was no dungeon map and as time was running out, I shortened it dramatically – moving to the final chamber in no time; but adjusting to time constraints is something I do all the time
  • my traditional dungeon prep sometimes starts with a sort of point-crawl between interesting locations that are barely described; the rest is improvised – and it didn’t feel very different from my perspective; perhaps also because the dungeon was super small in the end: entrance, water filled corridor, central chamber

Some pictures to illustrate my points.

Traditional point crawl dungeon:

My Dungeon World prep:

Also note the terrible mix of German and English in my notes. ;-)


November 19, 2015 07:23 PM

Dave Winer

Places that send you away

Nick Bilton writes about Nick Denton and Ninja.   

He says publishers struggle when they try to be tech companies. 

Meanwhile Medium is kicking ass, imho -- and Nick (Denton) should be playing that game too. There's an opening for someone in publishing to challenge Twitter and Facebook in news distribution. It might as well be Denton. But it could just as easily be the Washington Post, or really any publisher who has some flow and a name with which to bootstrap a news system. 

The key feature of such a news system is this: point off-site. 

The same way My Yahoo kicked ass. The thing they were willing to do that other publishers weren't was to point to articles from their competitors. So you would go to Yahoo to find stories on CNN or MSNBC. Sounds weird to the ears of a publisher trying to create a destination site that's sticky. 

But it is the way of the Internet -- People return to places that send them away. How do you think Google did it? Twitter? Facebook? They served as flow distributors before they were originators of news.  

Now that Gawker is doing a restart, now would be a great time for them to get into the flow distribution business. Make a place that's great for getting the latest news whether or not it originates from Gawker. We can do a lot better than Twitter, Facebook, Google and Apple in this area. A lot!

And before you get all cynical, think -- that's how new things start on the net, by breaking rules that were once considered sacred and delivering value to people with minds.

November 19, 2015 03:32 PM

Podcast: The JavaScript console, hubris

A podcast about developing with a couple of ideas. 9 minutes.

  1. If you are using a browser-based product as part of a development team, or for a developer you like, it's helpful to learn how the JavaScript console works. I explain what it is and briefly how it works. 
  2. I also tell the story of how nice it is when you make a big change to a product and it Just Works.

Postscript: This bit of hubris cost me. At the time I was bragging about it, the home page of my blog was broken as well as the display of the podcast itself. Murphy works in mysterious ways! 

Your humble servant,

Uncle Davey

PS: I just noticed that the RSS feed hasn't been updating. Oy! 

November 19, 2015 03:07 PM

November 18, 2015

Dave Winer

America's origin story

Fred Wilson sent a pointer to a comment on his blog from a young woman whose family emigrated to the US during the Gulf War.

A number of comments.

  1. This is the origin story of America. Every one of us who is not Native American can trace our origin to a story like that one. 
  2. The US always responds the way the governors are responding. I grew up in a resentful environment in post-war NYC. My grandparents told of being shot as they crossed a frozen river in Ukraine, running from the Nazis. 
  3. Wave after wave of emigrants come, many through NYC and leave behind a richer country. This process defines who we are. That's the US. And the resentment is part of the US too. 
  4. Nothing ever is easy when it comes to human beings!

November 18, 2015 07:45 PM

Mark Bernstein

Birthday Supper

  • ifs and buts (candied nuts) ❧ grissini ❧ onion focaccia
    • purple basil smash
  • Savory Dutch Baby pancake
    • Cotes de Gascogne
  • Carrot ginger soup
    • Chardonnay
  • Pastrami and cole slaw
    • Champagne
  • Roast beef ❧ Lamb heart posole
    • Gigondas
  • Salad
  • Cheese
    • Côtes du Rhône
  • Milk and Cookies and Juice (basil ice cream, cookies, port)

November 18, 2015 04:09 PM

Queen Lucia

A very strange book about the social life of a provincial British town between the wars, and the bitter contest between Lucia Lucas and Daisy Quantock for social preeminence. The arrival of an opera singer, a young woman of real accomplishment and genuine seriousness, throws the silly social life of Riseholme into confusion, and many parties are required before things work themselves out.

The events and attitudes depicted in this witty but unreal book would, in fact, be entirely real and far more interesting if translated to the environment of a contemporary middle school. Times change.

This was highly praised by Michael Dirda, and I picked it up in my search for a path to understand and really enjoy Wodehouse. It's pleasant enough, but it looks like I need a different path.

November 18, 2015 04:09 PM

Dave Winer

Re-thinking the 1999 blog in 2015

My next project is to do a model story page.

(The page you're reading right now is a story page.)

I always rush through this part quickly, and I did this time too. There are too many other fires to put out to focus too much on what a story page looks like and what it does.

This time around the story page is going to have new features that harken back to Manila, but with the benefit of knowing how the blogging market shaped up.

Tumblr, WordPress, Twitter and Facebook of course didn't exist when we did Manila, but they do now.

November 18, 2015 03:56 PM

JSON is to XML as what is to Node?

When Adam Bosworth evangelized me on using XML in 1998 it was simply a way of representing data in a text-based format. Data in XML could go anywhere that text could, and that was a big deal, because the web was booming, and the thing it was best at was transmitting text.

I was reluctant to get involved, because it was being run by a bunch of big companies, and I had recently seen what they can do to simple ideas with the OpenDoc consortium. All of a sudden they become confusing messes when they get involved. They have their reasons, I don't want to get into that now. 

I was told no matter what, I could use XML in the simple mode, with no schema or query languages, just as a way of transmitting data over text.

Sure enough the complexities came, but I held the line, with three simple formats: XML-RPC, RSS and OPML -- none of which built on the architecture astronaut protocols invented by the W3C working groups.

17 years later I would be in a meeting with people I really respect and they said loudly and passionately that they hate XML, for all the reasons I was concerned about in 1998. My point is and was, we've done a lot of building on XML, and the way we use it is exactly as if it were JSON, so really we're doing the same thing with XML that we're now doing with JSON. (All my new formats are JSON, but there's a huge base of continually updating data that's in the XML formats we use.)

The moral of the story is this. Watch out when you commit to a platform that has a major flaw. The flaw in XML was that it was being run by a consortium of large companies. And in Node it's the the way we do async calls, which I've come to love, the same way a smoker loves the way smoke burns his throat (spoken as a former smoker) and a victim of Stockholm Syndrome comes to love his tormentor. 

I think I've done more complex async stuff in Node than 99.999 percent of the people who use it. I am kind of proud of this, though I know as a language implementor myself, none of it is necessary. The underlying OS could hide the messy details from the programmer. And get this, I have no doubt that a replacement will come along, very different from Node in every way, so none of our code works, but it will solve this problem in a neat way, burying the async stuff in an OS layer where it belongs, and all of a sudden we'll be using a backwater, semi-obsolete environment. I worry about this a lot. 

In tech we love to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and I have left a trail of hard-won victories behind me. It would be a lot easier if there was only one syntax that does what basic XML does. But we have two. And for the same reason, I see trouble ahead for Node. 

November 18, 2015 03:25 PM

Reinventing Business

A "Reinventing Business" Presentation in Czech in 2014

Here is one of the last versions of the "Reinventing Business" presentation I gave before Reinventing Organizations jumped me forward in my understanding of this whole project.

This was given during the Geecon Conference in Prague in 2014. One thing it shows is the value of using big fonts on your slides, since the videographer could just point the camera at me and the screen and capture everything.

Reinventing Business during Geecon Prague, 2014

by (Bruce Eckel) at November 18, 2015 12:26 AM

November 17, 2015

Dave Winer

Yes, I remember ImageReady

Interesting piece by Zeldman about Adobe deprecating Save For Web

  1. Yes indeed I remember ImageReady.
  2. My web graphics act still hasn't recovered from its demise.
  3. PhotoShop is way too much for me. I have tried to use it and failed. I need less than what ImageReady did. But it worked for me.
  4. I am a programmer, so I need to work with bitmaps. But I am not a photography editor.
  5. Before ImageReady, I used Canvas. That's also gone. (I see that it's back, but I doubt it's the same simple little program I used in the 80s. There's no way a $599 graphics program is what I need or could use.)
  6. Nowadays I use the Preview app. It's missing a few big features I would love to have. But it does transparency, cropping and resizing. 
  7. I wish there was a market for what I do with a paint program, but apparently there is not. Like Zeldman, I hate changing to a new tool, when the old tool was so comfortable. But I'm glad to see Adobe maintains Save For Web, recognizing that there are workflows built around it. It's much much worse in DeveloperLand where the people who maintain the system code change the rules radically every few years, instantly obsoleting huge code bases. 

November 17, 2015 10:02 PM

More mass transit for the Bay Area?

Wouldn't it be smart for Google and Facebook and Apple et al, to get together and do something about the traffic quagmire in the Bay Area?

They do all these fantastic projects, self-driving cars, virtual reality, curing heart disease, but don't they all get stuck in traffic all the time, trying to get basically anywhere around the Bay? It's got the worst traffic, not only because it's growing so much, and it sprawls instead of building vertically, but also because right in the middle of the metro area, where downtown should be, there's a huge body of water! Almost every car trip has to deal with that. There are only a few ways across the bay, and those are the choke points in the traffic system. (Seattle has this problem too, Lake Washington.)

New York, where I grew up, and where I live now, has a much more rational layout, several big grids, numbered streets and avenues. New York is also more densely packed, so trips tend to be shorter than in California. And where they have limited mass transit, New York is virtually covered with it. 

November 17, 2015 09:46 PM

War is best done slowly too

In my last post and in the Facebook and Twitter adjuncts we talked about things that are best done slowly. 

The one thing everyone agreed on is love. In all its aspects. Anything worth savoring should be done slowly, with all senses activated. Love is the most pleasurable thing that, done well, is done slowly.

Another thing that should be done slowly, but almost never is, going to war. We're in another of those moments. No time to spare. Emotions run high. Close the borders, start bombing the enemy. No time to waste! 

But there is time to waste. It's incredibly easy to start a war, and gut-wrenchingly hard to end one. Waiting for the bombs to drop could be excruciating for your enemy. They might have trouble convincing the folks at home that they need to go to war. But when you start dropping bombs on their homes, the mood changes quickly. Classic example: Pearl Harbor. 

Take your time starting wars. And if possible, don't. You hear so many people say that we're in an existential fight with ISIS. No we're not. Not yet, if ever. They're actually a very small entity, that's fighting lots of battles at home that have nothing to do with us. They want to fight with the United States because that will help build support in Iraq and Syria. Things would go better for us if we stopped paying so much attention to them. 

IMHO of course, YMMV.

PS: If one of the Paris terrorists got there via United Airlines then 21 U.S. governors would ban all UA flights into their states. Right?

November 17, 2015 07:28 PM

Software is better if made slowly

What if software, like many things, is better if it's made slowly, with care and attention to detail?

Truth: It is. 

Problem: Tech culture says the opposite.  

Maybe that's why so much software is so shitty

Another truth: The faster you think you're inventing the future, paradoxically the slower you are. Because you'll have to make a whole new pass to solve the problems you rushed by in this iteration. This assumes a constant level of competence, empathy, vigilance and creativity.

PS: I asked for examples of things that are better done slowly on Facebook and Twitter, and the response was fantastic!

November 17, 2015 03:44 PM

American is crazy

Oy the governors and their prohibitions on non-Christian Syrians. I imagine there won't be many immigrants affected by this and it's probably illegal, but you have to wonder what's next. After 9/11 people were hunting Hindus, that's how clued-in some of our Fellow Americans are (not). Ugh.

November 17, 2015 02:23 AM

Tim Ferriss


The Tim Ferriss Show with Jon Baird and Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner (@modernwest) is an internationally renowned filmmaker. He is considered one of the most critically acclaimed and visionary storytellers of his generation. Costner has produced, directed, and/or starred in memorable films such as Dances with Wolves, JFK, The Bodyguard, Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, Bull Durham, Open Range, Hatfields & McCoys, and Black or White, among many others. He has been honored with two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and an Emmy Award.

This episode also features Jon Baird, the author and illustrator of the novels Day Job and Songs from Nowhere Near the Heart. He is the co-developer, along with Costner, of the Horizon miniseries.

Their first book collaboration is a beautiful tome — The Explorers Guild: A Passage to Shambhala. Kirkus described it: “With its colorful cast, exotic locales, and intertwined fates, the book slowly addicts. A rousing throwback whose spinning plates never stop, even at the end.”


Did you enjoy this podcast? — If so, don’t miss my conversation with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In this episode, we discuss psychological warfare and much more. (stream below or right-click here to download):

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I used them to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body, and I’ve also had them help with display advertising and illustrations. If you want a more personalized approach, I recommend their 1-on-1 service, which is non-spec. You get original designs from designers around the world. The best part? You provide your feedback, and then you end up with a product that you’re happy with or your money back. Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade.  Give it a test run…

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite Kevin Costner movie and why? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

  • Learn more about Agitainment and Rick Ross:

Website | Instagram | Facebook

Show Notes

  • The origins of Kevin Costner [6:01]
  • On being raised in a conservative Baptist family [8:08]
  • Work ethic and lessons learned from his father [16:46]
  • The near-death experience during Costner’s first audition [23:56]
  • The story behind being cast for The Big Chill [33:26]
  • Kevin Costner’s self-talk for the the seemingly impractical goal of being an actor [36:01]
  • Advice for his younger self [40:06]
  • On his scariest scenes [40:56]
  • Explaining the ‘let us suppose’ scenes in JFK and working with Oliver Stone [45:46]
  • How Kevin Costner deals with burnout [48:46]
  • On managing the challenging aspects of fame [56:31]
  • The story behind Dances with Wolves, working with Michael Blake [57:46]
  • Mistakes made as a young director [1:06:25]
  • Why write The Explorers Guild? [1:11:00]
  • Jon Baird and the origin of The Explorers Guild [1:12:00]
  • The aesthetic thinking behind The Explorers Guild [1:19:10]
  • The process of working together to create The Explorers Guild [1:21:30]
  • Describing the ideal reader for the book [1:26:30]
  • What type of writers have most influenced Jon Baird’s storytelling [1:29:50]
  • When Kevin Costner thinks of the word “successful,” who is the first person who comes to mind and why? [1:40:50]
  • Kevin Costner’s favorite documentary [1:42:40]
  • Overcoming bad habits and equestrian stunt work [1:44:05]
  • Important historical figures for Kevin Costner [1:47:50]
  • Telling the story of Tatanka [1:48:50]
  • If you could have one billboard anywhere, where would it be and what would it say? [1:50:45]
  • Advice to his 30-year-old self [1:51:20]
  • Kevin Costner’s ask of the audience [1:52:15]

People Mentioned

by Tim Ferriss at November 17, 2015 12:42 AM

November 16, 2015

Dave Winer

We care more about French lives

I was wondering the same thing, why do we care more about death in Paris than we do about death in Beirut, and is it acceptable? 

First, a life is a life. A French life is worth exactly as much as a Lebanese life. 

But the United States and France are close allies. We fought on the same side in both World Wars. France was an ally of ours going all the way back to the American Revolution in our war against the British. We have a defense pact with France. An attack against France is an attack against the United States. 

So yes, to Americans a French life is special. 

But there is more to say. 

The war that this is another in a series of battles in was started by the the west. When it started is subject to debate. But the lives lost in Iraq and Syria every day in huge numbers, far larger than the number of lives lost in France, can be traced to our terrorist attack on Baghdad in 2003. You don't think it's terrorism? Our government called it Shock & Awe. Sounds like terrorism to me. 

But when France is attacked in this war, it's closer to us than an attack on Beirut, even though there are many Americans for whom Lebanon is closer to home than Paris. 

There are millions of points of view on this. It's muddled, it's a mess. Like war always is. 

November 16, 2015 10:34 PM

Disabling menu items in jQuery

As I was testing my new CMS, a user pointed out that he could choose commands that were disabled and they would run. That's why it's good to have other people testing, because this isn't something I, as a user, would ever think to do.

It's not harmful, because there are protections on the server, but it is wrong and embarrassing. 

Today I fixed the problem once and for all. 

And I wanted to make it public and point to it here so no one else has to reinvent this little wheel. 

Thanks Google et al for indexing the gist containing the source. 

November 16, 2015 06:00 PM

Fog Creek – Interview with Steve Klabnik

In, we chat with developers about their passion for programming: how they got into it, what they like to work on and how.

Today’s guest is Steve Klabnik, Community Team Lead on the Rust core team. Steve is a Rails committer and prolific Open Source contributor, who has authored ‘Designing Hypermedia APIs’, ‘Rust for Rubyists’ and ‘Rails 4 in Action’. He also regularly writes about software development on his blog.

Steve Klabnik
Location: Brooklyn, New York, US
Current Role: Rust Community Team Lead at Mozilla

How did you get into software development?

I don’t like to tell my story without a disclaimer: I’m pretty much the living embodiment of a particular stereotype and one that I consider fairly harmful. You don’t have to follow my particular path to be successful, and I know many prominent developers who were very different than me.

I first became aware of computers when I was seven. My uncle was a software developer, and when he brought a computer home to show his parents (my grandparents), what he did, I happened to be present and was made aware of this wonderful machine and the possibilities it offered. After seeing Adventure, I was hooked. My family pooled some money together and got me one of those computers from the back of a Sears catalog, that hooked up to your TV. It had a GW-BASIC interpreter on it, and I spent most of my time playing around with it. Eventually, I graduated to C, then C++, then Java.

Later on, I went to college for CS. I dropped out to do a startup. Like most, it imploded, and I went back and finished because I wanted to go to grad school for English. I got accepted, but it didn’t work out for other reasons. I still kind of wish I had done that, to be honest.


Tell us a little about your current role

If you were to read my literal job description, it’s ‘Write documentation for Rust at Mozilla.’ But I also do a significant amount of community work, advocacy, and support. I spend a lot of time going to conferences, talking with people about Rust and how they can use it to improve their lives, answering questions on forums and in IRC, and similar kinds of things. The Rust project is split up into teams, and I’m the team lead on the community team.

Basically, I am a channel from you to Rust: that might be through reading the docs that I’ve written, that might mean to get answers to questions, that might mean the person who I can complain to. I’m not the only such avenue, but I’m there.

One key thing about the way that I live is that it’s mostly centered around flexibility. This has a lot of drawbacks, but a lot of advantages.

So, for a rough sketch: the mornings are largely the same. I may not be in the same country, timezone, or place, but the first thing I do is drink some coffee. I then open up my email and look at all of the stuff from overnight. I have all emails turned on in GitHub, and I at least skim everything. I then review my new PRs and comment on anything else that I feel I should. Next, I open up HN/Reddit/ and give everything important a read-through. I have a real love/hate relationship with these sites. The Rust sub-reddit is pretty great, but the more general stuff has a lot of problems. But that’s where users are, and I want to help people, so if I want to be helpful, I can’t really choose where people congregate. Anyway, if there are certain threads that are important, I’ll leave them open in tabs, and check in throughout the day.

The rest of the day, it depends. If I’m at a conference, I’m often doing conference stuff. Regardless of where I am, I try to write at least a little bit of documentation for something somewhere. Even if it’s just one method, with examples – it’s about keeping momentum. Doing a little bit each day means that eventually, a lot of work gets done! If I’m at home, I’ll try to tend towards bigger stuff, and if I’m at a conference, I’ll try to lean towards smaller things.

I try to walk for at least half an hour each day. It forces me to take a break, and stretch my legs a bit, and while it’s not exactly strenuous exercise, it’s something.

I’m trying to find more time to properly read books. I read ‘stuff’ a lot, but I have a pretty huge backlog of things I want to read, so it’s hard.

In the evenings, I’ll work on my endless parade of side projects. I have too many of these, I need to wrap some of them up before starting more. But it’s more fun to start projects than finish them…

Sometimes, I get to take some time to participate in my only real hobby, the Android: Netrunner card game. My friendly local game store has been undergoing renovations, and my weekly meetup doesn’t happen in the summer, so it’s been a bit less as of late.

My days tend to end with a glass of whiskey and some Netflix. I like dumb comedies, after spending all day with my brain highly engaged, watching something too cerebral is just too much work.


When are you at your happiest whilst coding?

When my language and tools don’t get in my way, and help me instead. Also, when my dependencies have good documentation.

What is your dev environment?

I have a Lenovo ThinkPad T440s that I really enjoy. I run Debian Jessie on it, with XMonad as a window manager, though I want to switch to wtftm at some point, just haven’t bothered. I use a very minimal Vim setup, and 95% of the time, I’m using bash, vim, and git. Check it out:

$ history | awk 'BEGIN {FS="[ \t]+|\\|"} {print $3}' | sort | uniq -c | sort -nr
    358 git
    137 cd
    114 vim
     70 cargo
     63 ls
     36 make
     31 rm
     26 rustc
     20 sudo

I really like listening to pop music while I work. Upbeat, happy, and doesn’t take any mental resources to process.


What are your favorite books or resources about development?

They’re talks more than articles, but I recently took a few hours on a Saturday and watched “Growing a Language” followed by “Simple Made Easy.” They compliment each other nicely, I think.

One of my favorite software development books ever is “Working Effectively with Legacy Code.” It’s like a shining beacon of hope, in a land of messy codebases. You can improve a huge legacy project. This book will show you how.

What technologies are you currently trying out or want an excuse to try?

The thing I’m most excited about in this particular moment is unikernels. They’re one of the first new technologies that remove abstraction, rather than adding yet another layer, and may even lead to there being a more diverse set of operating systems, which is a space that’s been dominated by less than five players for a long, long time.

The Rumprun unikernel has some basic support, but many Rust projects depend on things that don’t necessarily work, so I’ve been trying things out and submitting patches. I’m pretty sure that I am the first person ever to get a website running in a Rust unikernel, given that I had to submit bug fixes to upstream projects to get it to work. :) Still figuring out deployment, though.

In order to figure out said patches, I pretty much just asked questions on IRC. I’m new to Rumprun, and BSDs in general (which it’s built on top of), so it was really important.

What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself starting out in development?

Don’t listen to people who say a particular thing is “too hard.” Hard is relative! What’s hard for you can be easy for others. For example, many people look down on front-end development, but frankly, I think that stuff is ridiculously difficult, and I’m glad other people think it’s easy so that I don’t have to do it. :) And in the other direction, low-level programming is easier than many make it out to be. Don’t be afraid to dive in!


Thanks to Steve for taking the time to speak with us. Have someone you’d like to be a guest? Let us know @FogCreek.

Recent Interviews

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by Gareth Wilson at November 16, 2015 12:00 PM

Alex Schroeder

Middle East

I haven’t written much about politics in years. I just read the newspaper and cringe. Sometimes I feel like I should “share” links – but with whom? Nobody on Facebook seems interested because it’s friends and family and coworkers and students from many years ago. Nobody on Google+ seems interested because most of the people I know there are there for the gaming with the exception of a small number of information sources, in other words, information just flows in one direction. Nobody on Twitter seems interested because I’m mostly following journalists and politicians and when I finally realized this, I figured there was no point in sharing anything because they don’t read what I’m sharing. Information just flows in one direction.

Luckily for me – unluckily for you, perhaps :) – this blog not only serves as a platform to share information, it also serves as my externalized memory. Which is why I’m trying to push myself to post interesting links here instead of on so-called “social” media – gated communities that will one day be replaced by something else, taking all the information down with them.

I really need to find links to sources outside of Google+ since the inevitable sunsetting of G+ will drag down all those links as well.

Tags: RSS

November 16, 2015 06:59 AM

November 15, 2015

Dave Winer

Twitter be bold

I wanted to get a feel for what it was like to view Twitter as a shareholder would. So a few weeks ago I bought $30K worth of Twitter stock. For me that's a lot of money. And it did shift my perspective.

Watching last night's Democratic debate, and the events around the Paris bombing, it's inescapable how ingrained into global communication Twitter is. It is the way leaders communicate with each other and the world. There must be a continuing role for such an entity. It's stock should be growing, as its presence in the world grows.

I think Twitter is stalled as a business entity until it does something to dramatically reconfigure itself. Instead of trying to attract advertisers, it seems it could offer membership features. 

Hundreds of millions of people have Twitter IDs. Those are free. But what could Twitter offer as an incentive for people to pay, say $140 per year, for new features.

November 15, 2015 02:20 PM

Mark Bernstein

Sons Of Martha

Up at 8 on birthday morning, doing tech support for people, not all of them notably polite, who don’t explain their problem in a way that would let someone help.

Simple service, simply rendered” may have been a mistake. I’m beginning to understand the wisdom of, “your call is very important to us.” Too soon old, too late smart.

November 15, 2015 01:55 PM

Dave Winer

Watching HRC

Watching Hillary Clinton on the debate last night, I got a different picture of what it's like to be a woman trying to stand up as an equal in a competitive situation. 

The men kept interrupting her, especially Bernie Sanders. He would get to ramble on in complete thoughts, being highly repetitive, and she couldn't even finish a sentence without Sanders saying something. 

Yes, he had challenged her integrity, and she had every right to respond, and as a voter I wanted to hear her response, the way she wanted to tell it. Instead she had to try to fit in rushed sentences between Sanders interruptions. We never really got her answer to his challenge.

She clearly couldn't risk telling Sanders to shut the fuck up, because that would have created a whole new angle of attack. She's pushy. Shrill. Domineering. Etc. 

Part of this might be that she's way ahead, and unless something ridiculously terrible happens, she's going to win. If you're winning, why risk getting into a fight with someone who's far behind. 

But I think a good part of the discomfort is gender roles. This alone would be a good reason to have a woman President. We might be a little more generous with other women. 

November 15, 2015 01:30 PM

Alex Schroeder


Joey Lindsey recently asked on Google+ about adventure prep.

My answer: I start with a theme or a particular need based on the campaign. Then I draw a map, perhaps a rough one, perhaps just a point crawl, based on some visuals I want in my game. I’ll often add doodles to bridge the time between interesting ideas. They don’t come so fast, sadly. The doodles also serve as visual reminders for later. At the same time, I start thinking about the monsters and make a big random list of them. Sometimes there are small lists per area or level instead of a single big one. Most of these monsters also have a lair where they’re guaranteed to be. Then I’ll roll for treasure and I usually accept what the table tells me. If the campaign setup requires a particular item to be here, then I’ll add it as well.

The order of these elements will sometimes vary. I might also start with the doodle of a monster, add stats, make a list, and then draw a map. Rolling up treasure always comes last, however.

Some recent examples:


November 15, 2015 10:54 AM

November 14, 2015

Mark Bernstein


Joe Spork is a mild and middle-aged restorer of Victorian clockwork. His father was a criminal mastermind, and his grandfather was a legendary clockmaker. An old lady hires him to fix some toys; a somewhat shady friend puts him onto a strange and inscrutable automaton of doubtful purpose but immense sophistication.

Then the old lady is nearly the victim of an assassination attempt, and she turns out to be a retired but still very capable secret agent – Emma Peel in her late 80s. Our friend is murdered, Joe Spork is framed, and we’re off to the races.

Nice writing, nifty plotting, intricate world-building. What else could you wish for? As in The Gone-Away World, everything hinges on a super-villain, and while the nemesis is not quite as undeveloped as he was in Harkaway’s previous novel, Shem Shem Tsien is a bit too awful. Still, the uprising of all London’s thieves for one last glorious battle is a thing to behold.

November 14, 2015 05:23 PM

Dave Winer

The lie we tell ourselves

We in the west tell ourselves lies about the meaning of terrorism such as what happened in Paris yesterday and in NYC in 2001.

"They hate us because we're free." <-- Lie. 

They hate us because we're at war with them. 

Last night's "terrorism" could be seen as an act of war, a war we started. 

The lie is that we don't do to people in the Middle East thousands of times more killing over a much longer period.

It's scary to think what would happen if they got as good at attacking our cities as we are at attacking theirs.

November 14, 2015 04:18 PM

November 13, 2015

Dave Winer

If you were Beethoven

Imagine if you were Beethoven.

You are one of the greatest composers of all time.

Then you lose your hearing.

You keep going. 

See also: Hedy Lamarr.

November 13, 2015 11:35 PM

Big wheel keep on turning!

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!

I just did another transition of the Scripting News RSS feed.

I've been doing this at least once a year for the last 18 years.

Time flies when you're having fun.

So if you're reading this blog in an RSS reader, this feed has been quiet for the last few weeks while I've been getting ready for the transition.

You will notice that there are a lot of new items in the feed right now.

That will settle down, again, once the transition is complete.

If you have any trouble with the new feed, please post a comment here

As they say..

Still diggin!

November 13, 2015 05:22 PM

Re Donald Trump

The way I look at it is we'll be dead pretty soon either way. And then if we have any existence at all, time will stretch out into billions of years, and over that period of time, our little world is doomed no matter what. If it happens five years after I'm dead or 5 millions, it makes no difference to me. The day is coming, whether or not Donald Trump is an opportunistic asshole, which he certainly is.

November 13, 2015 04:45 PM

A tale of WebSockets and JavaScript

I had a problem with the liveblog that was solved by WebSockets.

At first I was using longpolling to handle updates. Basically each time you load Scripting News, it connects with the server with a request that doesn't return until there's an update to the content on Scripting News, or it times out.

I did it this way because I had lots of experience with longpolling, and had code that worked. But it had a problem.

If I had two tabs open in Chrome and both were waiting for a longpoll to return from the same server, the browser would get confused and only one would get the response. So to get the update you'd have to reload the page. Which defeats the purpose of having a live connection.

I wondered if WebSockets would work better. 

So I implemented WebSockets support on the server, using the nodejs-websocket package, and hooked up a test app to the server, and launched three instances in separate tabs in a single Chrome window. And I held my breath.

It worked! I suspected the browser guys might have tested this case, and the bet paid off. So I adapted the Scripting News home page app to use WebSockets, and all is good. 

I celebrated in a tweet last night when I got this working. wink

As they say.. 

Still diggin!

November 13, 2015 03:58 PM

News orgs have become app devs (and that's not good)

I don't think the news orgs realize that they are now, to Facebook and Apple, developers. This relationship, therefore, isn't new for the tech industry. There's lots of prior art. 

Yes platform vendors need developers because they need apps. 

But they don't need any individual developer. 

One thing I've learned after many years trying to be a developer for corporate platforms is that people don't listen to their friends, they listen to their competitors. 

So if the news people think they have any leverage over the platform vendors, I suspect they will be surprised.

The only hope they have is to own their distribution system.

No, I still don't think it's too late. But it is later. And eventually it will be too late. 

PS: To be clear, I don't mean that the are literally app developers, I mean they play the role of app developers in the news ecosystem as configured by Facebook and Apple.

November 13, 2015 03:24 PM

To be Hedy Lamarr

What must it have been like to be Hedy Lamarr.

You're creating something new, that can't exist in today's world, you know it's going to kick ass, but not only won't you live to see it implemented, no one you talk with has any idea what you're talking about.

November 13, 2015 12:53 AM

November 12, 2015

Dave Winer

I saw Matchstick Men recently and really liked it. 

Ridley Scott and Nicolas Cage. Sweet story. No spoilers on this one. 

I'm thinking of watching it a second time, but I'm not sure. 

November 12, 2015 11:59 PM

Daniel Murphy, take the deal

Daniel Murphy should accept the Mets offer

I think this is a lot like JR Smith turning down the option on the third year of his contract. He over-estimated how much value the rest of the NBA gave him. He was lucky to have a guarantee from a team like Cleveland. He needs a strong leader like LBJ to keep him from fucking up. In a similar way, Murphy shines in NY in a way he won't shine anywhere else.

He belongs here. It's a great offer. Take it, and kick back. You can live your whole life, in great style, on that one paycheck.

November 12, 2015 11:34 PM

Bingo bongo bingo

I have a new programming phrase rolling around in my head: Bingo bongo bingo. I don't know where it came from. It might be from the movie Inside-Out.  I say it when I'm getting ready to try something to see if it works. Bingo. Bongo. Bingo. If it works, I say it again. Makes me laugh for some reason. I know I'm weird. wink

November 12, 2015 06:06 PM

Kristaps, local news, fans, bloggers and rivers

File this under mainstream news orgs and rivers.

Every local news org should have a river for each of their major sports teams. This would encourage local fans to start blogs, and would give reporters a whole other dimension to report on. 

Now when they talk about fans they'll have some actual fans in mind.

I'd esp like to follow a Knicks river from the Post, NYDN or NYT because the story is quickly becoming how did we get so lucky with Kristaps Porzingas. He's a 7'3" player who owns the inside and can make a long shot at the buzzer from way downtown. He's amazing. Hope he doesn't get injured. 

November 12, 2015 05:10 PM

Alex Schroeder


On Google+, Amber Yust linked to this post by Kate Heddleston: Argument Cultures and Unregulated Aggression. As I started reading, I kept thinking about other forms of broken interactions online. I’ve seen Kristian Köhntopp defend Linus Torvalds’ style on Google+ (Code of Conflict, Fuck the Community) and Martin Seeger defend civility in the comments. I’ve seen annoying comments in my discussions of role-playing game on Google+ that annoyed me. I’ve seen aggravating comments in my discussions of politics on Facebook. Sometimes I wonder whether my own comments cause similar discomfort to others.

Identifying problems and avoiding them:

The single most important issue is a lack of charitable reading – that is, when we read things that irritate us, we jump to unwarranted conclusions. The simplest of these is that the author of what we just read is an idiot. And from there, everything else follows. We might leave a comment revealing our opinion of the idiot author, for example. This is not going to end well.

  • Don’t write that comment you thought of
  • Don’t post that comment you just wrote
  • Don’t defend that comment you just posted

When reading an annoying posts, I try to read it again in a jovial voice. Perhaps the author is laughing or winking while they say the words they wrote?

Sometimes, Occam's razor comes to mind. We read some idiotic words online. Here are two hypotheses that we might posit: 1. the author is an idiot, or 2. the author is a joker. The first hypothesis usually leads to a large number of questions such as: “why aren’t all posts by this author idiotic?” Or, “why aren’t all the people that comment on this author’s posts idiots?” Or, “how can they have a partner?” Or, “how can they have a job?” Clearly, even if this post is idiotic, this person must be likable under different circumstances. A climate change denier can still be a good grandfather.

Some possible explanations I usually try to think of:

  • This person has trouble explaining themselves and that’s OK
  • This person hasn’t thought it through and that’s OK
  • This person is so enthusiastic, they don’t see how they’re insulting everybody else and that’s OK
  • This person likes to write like a robot and that’s OK
  • This person is so set in their ways when it comes to this, there’s just no reaching them and that’s OK

I think the important part of “and that’s OK” is that it offers us a way out. This conversation doesn’t need to continue. We don’t need to engage. There is no last word to be had.

This doesn’t mean that I have to accept all the garbage people throw around, but it offers a counter move that is oblique.

me: talking about a topic…
somebody: exaggerates my point and takes it down
me: ?

Exaggerating a point to take it down is taking down a straw man. I don’t enjoy polemic debates. If nobody is ready to learn, then there should be no debate. There might be a point to having two people unwilling to learn debate a topic for an audience willing to learn – politicians are usually unwilling to learn in a debate. They still debate a topic because they’re convinced that their audience is willing to learn. If neither of the two people talking nor their audience is willing to learn, then the debate should stop. There’s no point.

My preferred reaction in these situations:

  • Talk about my feelings: I don’t enjoy this kind of discussion
  • Talk about rhetorics – check out the list of fallacies on Wikipedia

We’re changing the topic. We’re no longer talking about the topic I originally wanted to talk about.

Alternatively, the discussion ends, there.

Sadly, this may not be enough. If people persistently annoy you, you need to change your social circles. Unfriend them, uncircle them, block them. If you don’t, then you’re setting up an asshole filter – all the nice people will go away, unwilling to engage, and you’re left with the idiots. That is, the people that might be nice and friendly when you talk to them in person, but when when they leave comments on your posts, they are aggravating and you seem to be unable to change this pattern.

On Wikipedia: Principle of charity, Principle of humanity.

Tags: RSS

November 12, 2015 09:02 AM

Decyphering Glyph

Your Text Editor Is Malware

Are you a programmer? Do you use a text editor? Do you install any 3rd-party functionality into that text editor?

If you use Vim, you’ve probably installed a few vimballs from, a website only available over HTTP. Vimballs are fairly opaque; if you’ve installed one, chances are you didn’t audit the code.

If you use Emacs, you’ve probably installed some packages from ELPA or MELPA using package.el; in Emacs’s default configuration, ELPA is accessed over HTTP, and until recently MELPA’s documentation recommended HTTP as well.

When you install un-signed code into your editor that you downloaded over an unencrypted, unauthenticated transport like HTTP, you might as well be installing malware. This is not a joke or exaggeration: you really might be.1 You have no assurance that you’re not being exploited by someone on your local network, by someone on your ISP’s network, the NSA, the CIA, or whoever else.

The solution for Vim is relatively simple: use vim-plug, which fetches stuff from GitHub exclusively via HTTPS. I haven’t audited it conclusively but its relatively small codebase includes lots of https:// and no http:// or git://2 that I could see.

I’m relatively proud of my track record of being a staunch advocate for improved security in text editor package installation. I’d like to think I contributed a little to the fact that MELPA is now available over HTTPS and instructs you to use HTTPS URLs.

But the situation still isn’t very good in Emacs-land. Even if you manage to get your package sources from an authenticated source over HTTPS, it doesn’t matter, because Emacs won’t verify TLS.

Although package signing is implemented, practically speaking, none of the packages are signed.3 Therefore, you absolutely cannot trust package signing to save you. Plus, even if the packages were signed, why is it the NSA’s business which packages you’re installing, anyway? TLS is shorthand for The Least Security (that is acceptable); whatever other security mechanisms, like package signing, are employed, you should always at least have HTTPS.

With that, here’s my unfortunately surprise-filled step-by-step guide to actually securing Emacs downloads, on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Package Sources Are HTTPS Only

By default, Emacs ships with its package-archives list as '(("gnu" . "")), which is obviously no good. You will want to both add MELPA (which you surely have done anyway, since it’s where all the actually useful packages are) and change the ELPA URL itself to be HTTPS. Use M-x customize-variable to change package-archives to:

`(("gnu" . "")
  ("melpa" . ""))

Step 2: Turn On TLS Trust Checking

There’s another custom variable in Emacs, tls-checktrust, which checks trust on TLS connections. Go ahead and turn that on, again, via M-x customize-variable tls-checktrust.

Step 3: Set Your Trust Roots

Now that you’ve told Emacs to check that the peer’s certificate is valid, Emacs can’t successfully fetch HTTPS URLs any more, because Emacs does not distribute trust root certificates. Although the set of cabforum certificates are already probably on your computer in various forms, you still have to acquire them in a format usable by Emacs somehow. There are a variety of ways, but in the interests of brevity and cross-platform compatibility, my preferred mechanism is to get the certifi package from PyPI, with python -m pip install --user certifi or similar. (A tutorial on installing Python packages is a little out of scope for this post, but hopefully my little website about this will help you get started.)

At this point, M-x customize-variable fails us, and we need to start just writing elisp code; we need to set tls-program to a string computed from the output of running a program, and if we want this to work on Windows we can’t use Bourne shell escapes. Instead, do something like this in your .emacs or wherever you like to put your start-up elisp:4

(let ((trustfile
        "\\\\" "/"
         "\n" ""
         (shell-command-to-string "python -m certifi")))))
  (setq tls-program
         (format "gnutls-cli%s --x509cafile %s -p %%p %%h"
                 (if (eq window-system 'w32) ".exe" "") trustfile))))

This will run gnutls-cli on UNIX, and gnutls-cli.exe on Windows.

You’ll need to install the gnutls-cli command line tool, which of course varies per platform:

  • On OS X, of course, Homebrew is the best way to go about this: brew install gnutls will install it.
  • On Windows, the only way I know of to get GnuTLS itself over TLS is to go directly to this mirror. Download one of these binaries and unzip it next to Emacs in its bin directory.
  • On Debian (or derivatives), apt-get install gnutls-bin
  • On Fedora (or derivatives), yum install gnutls-utils

Great! Now we’ve got all the pieces we need: a tool to make TLS connections, certificates to verify against, and Emacs configuration to make it do those things. We’re done, right?



It turns out there are two ways to tell Emacs to really actually really secure the connection (really), but before I tell you the second one or why you need it, let’s first construct a little test to see if the connection is being properly secured. If we make a bad connection, we want it to fail. Let’s make sure it does.

This little snippet of elisp will use the helpful site to give you some known-bad and known-good certificates (assuming nobody’s snooping on your connection):

(let ((bad-hosts
       (loop for bad
             in `(""
             if (condition-case e
                     bad (lambda (retrieved) t))
                  (error nil))
             collect bad)))
  (if bad-hosts
      (error (format "tls misconfigured; retrieved %s ok"
    (url-retrieve ""
                  (lambda (retrieved) t))))

If you evaluate it and you get an error, either your trust roots aren’t set up right and you can’t connect to a valid site, or Emacs is still blithely trusting bad certificates. Why might it do that?

Step 5: Configure the Other TLS Verifier

One of Emacs’s compile-time options is whether to link in GnuTLS or not. If GnuTLS is not linked in, it will use whatever TLS program you give it (which might be gnutls-cli or openssl s_client, but since only the most recent version of openssl s_client can even attempt to verify certificates, I’d recommend against it). That is what’s configured via tls-checktrust and tls-program above.

However, if GnuTLS is compiled in, it will totally ignore those custom variables, and honor a different set: gnutls-verify-error and gnutls-trustfiles. To make matters worse, installing the packages which supply the gnutls-cli program also install the packages which might satisfy Emacs’s dynamic linking against the GnuTLS library, which means this code path could get silently turned on because you tried to activate the other one.

To give these variables the correct values as well, we can re-visit the previous trust setup:

(let ((trustfile
        "\\\\" "/"
         "\n" ""
         (shell-command-to-string "python -m certifi")))))
  (setq tls-program
         (format "gnutls-cli%s --x509cafile %s -p %%p %%h"
                 (if (eq window-system 'w32) ".exe" "") trustfile)))
  (setq gnutls-verify-error t)
  (setq gnutls-trustfiles (list trustfile)))

Now it ought to be set up properly. Try the example again from Step 4 and it ought to work. It probably will. Except, um...

Appendix A: Windows is Weird

Presently, the official Windows builds of Emacs seem to be linked against version 3.3 of GnuTLS rather than the latest 3.4. You might need to download the latest micro-version of 3.3 instead. As far as I can tell, it’s supposed to work with the command-line tools (and maybe it will for you) but for me, for some reason, Emacs could not parse gnutls-cli.exe’s output no matter what I did. This does not appear to be a universal experience, others have reported success; your mileage may vary.


We nerds sometimes mock the “normals” for not being as security-savvy as we are. Even if we’re considerate enough not to voice these reactions, when we hear someone got malware on their Windows machine, we think “should have used a UNIX, not Windows”. Or “should have been up to date on your patches”, or something along those lines.

Yet, nerdy tools that download and execute code - Emacs in particular - are shockingly careless about running arbitrary unverified code from the Internet. And we are often equally shockingly careless to use them, when we should know better.

If you’re an Emacs user and you didn’t fully understand this post, or you couldn’t get parts of it to work, stop using package.el until you can get the hang of it. Get a friend to help you get your environment configured properly. Since a disproportionate number of Emacs users are programmers or sysadmins, you are a high-value target, and you are risking not only your own safety but that of your users if you don’t double-check that your editor packages are coming from at least cursorily authenticated sources.

If you use another programmer’s text editor or nerdy development tool that is routinely installing software onto your system, make sure that if it’s at least securing those installations with properly verified TLS.

  1. Technically speaking of course you might always be installing malware; no defense is perfect. And HTTPS is a fairly weak one at that. But is significantly stronger than “no defense at all”. 

  2. Never, ever, clone a repository using git:// URLs. As explained in the documentation: “The native transport (i.e. git:// URL) does no authentication and should be used with caution on unsecured networks.”. You might have heard that git uses a “cryptographic hash function” and thought that had something to do with security: it doesn’t. If you want security you need signed commits, and even then you can never really be sure

  3. Plus, MELPA accepts packages on the (plain-text-only) Wiki, which may be edited by anyone, and from CVS servers, although they’d like to stop that. You should probably be less worried about this, because that’s a link between two datacenters, than about the link between you and MELPA, which is residential or business internet at best, and coffee-shop WiFi at worst. But still maybe be a bit worried about it and go comment on that bug. 

  4. Yes, that let is a hint that this is about to get more interesting... 

by Glyph at November 12, 2015 08:51 AM

November 11, 2015

Dave Winer

To Bill Gurley re the Knicks

Last night I was switching back and forth between the Republican debate and the Knicks game vs the Toronto Raptors. 

The Knicks were playing well. And a funny thing was happening. The other guys were respecting the hell out of Kristaps Porzingas, and that meant some of the pressure was off Melo. The Knicks have needed this for a long time. So the game was interesting, and in very uncharacteristic fashion the Knicks won in a squeaker at the end. Last year they would have lost this game.

Here's a highlight of Porzingas being an animal, rushing through the defense to put back a missed Knicks shot. The best part was Clyde's reaction. With glee, he said "that was nasty!" It was. You can tell he loves Porzingas. That's a good sign because Clyde is in many ways the heart of the Knicks, at least for the fans.

Knicks fans suffer. We have most inept ownership in the NBA. And we have a star who's a bit of a baby, who might be growing up, a little. And because it's basically the only NYC team, and it's such a big place, we have all kinds of fans. It's a team that both Mets and Yankees fans share. And we know that Mets fans do not like Yankees fans, and vice versa (although it's hard to know why they don't like us, we're such nice people).

Yankees fans feel it is their right to win every season, and they do it by spending the most money on the best players. Mets fans, well we do it differently, let's just say. 

Bill Gurley who is according to his Twitter profile a devoted Golden State Warriors fan, the current NBA champs, apparently thinks all Knicks fans booed when the team drafted Porzingas earlier this year. I don't think that's the case at all. I know quite a few Knicks fans, and some of them even are Yankees fans, and I don't think any of us booed. We might have wondered where this guy came from (Latvia) and why Phil Jackson chose him. 

See, we haven't been all that impressed with Jackson and his Triangle Offense. Last year we had the second worst record in the NBA. That's something because more than a few teams were deliberately tanking. But this year, with the exception of Melo, we're looking at a team that was built totally by Jackson. And it's not bad. We're hopeful. Might see some good basketball this year at the Garden. And for this Knicks fan, that's enough. Really.

So Bill, it's not consistent with my philosophy, or the Knicks philosophy, to boo our team. Sure there are some assholes who do. Don't forget Silicon Valley has Larry Ellison and a bunch of nice guys. This is New York, the largest city in the United States. A melting pot. And you don't have to be a true fan to wear a Knicks jersey. 

So please, love your Warriors, we sure are impressed with them! But please don't question our loyalty to our team. That's just not cool. 

November 11, 2015 03:21 PM

Fog Creek

Using TimeBlocks to Increase Maker Efficiency – Tech Talk

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Using TimeBlocks to Increase Maker Efficiency and Transparency – Tech Talk

In this Tech Talk, Anders Thue Pedersen, founder and CEO at TimeBlock, explains a lightweight, Agile working method created with makers in mind. He describes his own personal experience in using it to organize work at his own company and how it can improve project efficiency and transparency, between makers, managers, and clients.

About Fog Creek Tech Talks

At Fog Creek, we have weekly Tech Talks from our own staff and invited guests. These are short, informal presentations on something of interest to those involved in software development. We try to share these with you whenever we can.

Content and Timings

  • Introduction (0:00)
  • Theory Behind the Method (2:46)
  • How The Method Works (7:03)



I’m going to talk a little bit about TimeBlock, which is an agile working method I stumbled upon or invented, whatever you want to call it. The reason for my invention was actually that I had a project that failed catastrophically in December last year, and I was really wondering what was happening, why it happened. I went on Christmas vacation for 14 days, and I was really thinking that I had to stop being self-employed, stop running a company since this wasn’t the first time that a project failed. I didn’t really have any insight into why some of my projects went really well and some of the projects went really bad. During my 14 days of vacation, I realized I wanted to give it another try, and I thought a lot about what had happened with the latest project. One of the things that really inspired me from other companies like Buffer and Baremetrics is the transparency. I’m running a pretty transparent company myself, but I realized during the vacation that my workers, my employees, weren’t as transparent with me, especially about what they did get done and what they did not get done, how fast they were moving forward, and in what direction.

So on January 5th this year, I made a lot of changes in how we were working. Three weeks later, I realized that I had started to sleep really well. I used to always worry about stuff with my company, with projects, timelines, deadlines, resource allocation, and after running this way for three weeks, I’ve got a clear overview of my entire company. At the same time, my employees were happier. They were more satisfied, and they did 25 to 33% more work, working the same hours or less. I started talking to people about what I did, and people started copying me. I was like, I’ve got to do something about this. It’s turned into the TimeBlock method. Of course, we are building a website to support it; an IT support system, but I’m not going to talk about that today. I’m just going to talk about all the learnings and how we actually run our company now, and a lot of other companies also run. That’s the introduction. That’s how we invented it.

Theory Behind the Method

First of all, let me start out by talking a bit about one presumption and a requirement. First of all, the presumption, which is kind of strange to talk about, but it’s really important to know, is that most people or all people hopefully, go to work to solve a problem and do a good job. By this, I mean, if you’re building software, you go to work to build the best software that you can, to really perform 110%, to be proud of what you’re doing, to be able to go to a conference or two, family dinner, and talk about what you’re doing with a proud wife. In reality, in many companies, people only get to deliver around 70% of that. They do a lot of other stuff which isn’t in their job description.

The other thing I’ve discovered are people don’t talk about as much is about being in flow. The thing about flow, which you know, is a fantastic feeling. The most important thing is that, if you get interrupted, it takes… Really recent research has proven that it takes up 25 minutes to get back into flow after being interrupted, such as a few minutes. That’s the basics of the method, is that we want people to be able to do their job really well, and we need people to be able to get in flow to perform.

We have two kinds of people in most companies. We have Makers; programmers, you and I, for example. Makers need to be in flow. And again, flow requires that you have a task that takes a couple of hours. You have a lead-in and lead-out of 10 to 30 minutes, so you can’t jump from one flow to another. You can go from programming one piece of software to another just like that. You need a break for that, and we also know flow enhances the performance a lot, 10 to 100 times. Some stuff you cannot get done if you are not in flow. It’s just impossible to do really complicated, cognitive stuff if you’re not in flow.

On the other hand, we have managers. They need overview and insight. A manager is basically hired to make sure that there’re no fires anywhere in the company. To do that, they need transparency from their Makers. They need honesty, and they need some valid estimates and a valid feedback.

What I realized is happening in most companies, is that we have managers who want this overview and insight, and we have these makers who want to have calmness and quietness to work. This difference in need creates a kind of a battle between those two. The best way to really talk about it is to see how we’re working now. This is my calendar from February. A classic manager’s calendar with multiple meetings, double-bookings, etc.. In the same week, this is one of my maker’s weekly schedule. What happens is that Tuesday morning when Marcus, my maker comes to work, he says hi to all the others, gets his coffee, drink the coffee, check his emails, answer important stuff, and around 9:30 he sits down with his task at hand, and really starts to dig into the software. At around 10:00 he hits peak flow. He knows he has around two hours until lunch, and he really is looking forward to being in flow and creating some magical software. If any of you know how it is to be in flow, you also know that it’s a really wonderful feeling to be in flow. The thing is when Marcus gets to around 10:00, and hits peak flow, my meeting is over. I go over to Marcus and say, “What about this … What about that … ?” This interrupts Marcus and he has to go out of flow to answer me.

How The Method Works

The way TimeBlock works is this: we divide a week into 10 blocks. One block from your morning until lunch, one from lunch until you go home. A block is not necessarily all the time. It’s not from 9 to 12, which is our normal morning time, around 9, but it’s one task that requires a flow. For me, a sales meeting could be one or two hours, and then the rest of the time I will not be able to go in flow twice in a block. It’s not possible for me to go into a good flow twice in three or four hours. I can only do it once. That’s why we divide the week into these 10 blocks.

When we get a project, we divide it into TimeBlocks. It’s very important that it’s the makers who divide the project into TimeBlocks. Me as a sales person, or the customer, or a manager, defines the project or the tasks. I often come with a bunch of screenshots for the makers that I’ve created with the customer and designer. Then the maker defines the need, the TimeBlock for each of the tasks in the project.

Another thing that’s really important is that the maker themselves plans the week. The manager sets the deadline, says this project is more important than this project, but the maker themselves plans the week. This is really important because this gives the makers autonomy. It gives the makers the option to divide a project into TimeBlocks where there’s room at the beginning and the end for mastery. If you have seen anything by Dan Pink, his talk about drive, or motivation, you know that makers really need three things to be happy: purpose, automation, and mastery. Letting the makers define how much they can do in a TimeBlock and not having it be a specific amount of hours, but just these blocks makes them more internally motivated. Also, a task can’t be longer than two TimeBlocks, so if you have a task that takes a week, you have to write 10 different, or five different time blocks for it. The reason for this is that when you have to get something done every day, it’s much easier to stay on track, and it’s also much easier to see if you are going over or under your allocated time. Every day you’ll know, did I get done today what I planned, or am I lagging behind. If you’re lagging behind, you should always inform others involved in the project.

Besides this, we take every task we get from our clients and divide them into TimeBlocks that we’re planning to do in the week, we also have a Monday meeting. In every Monday meeting, each person talks about last week, what did we get done and what not. If one of the makers or me didn’t get something done, we start by talking about why we didn’t reach our goals. Why did we not reach this TimeBlock? We talk about what we have learned, do we need to have the IP address of some server or something like that, before we actually should have planned the TimeBlock. Were multiple people working on the same project and we didn’t talk together Monday morning who did what, so we worked in a different direction?

Most importantly of all, we talk about what we will do differently this week. We frame it like if I had to do the same task this week, what would I do differently, because we have to learn from our mistakes. After that, we talk about what we are going to do this week, what TimeBlocks we have planned, what tasks we are planning to reach. Often, I will come with a client’s request for something to be done and we’ll shift TimeBlocks around. The makers themselves will help each other reach the goals. Again, getting the makers to plan the week and plan who will do what. It’s much more relevant than me trying to figure out who is best at doing different stuff.

After the Monday meeting, we inform everybody about what we’re doing. We email everybody internally on the team, and we email our clients, our customers about what we’re doing. Everybody is informed Monday morning about what will happen this week and every project where there is something that could go wrong, people are informed on what have been done or not. If somebody during the week is lagging behind and realizing they won’t be able to finish a TimeBlock, then they always have to email it to the team and the customer that they won’t be getting this stuff done. Everybody’s informed really early about deadline creep or scope creep.

That’s it. That’s basically the method, the short version of it. There are some minor details, but that’s how it’s done.

by Gareth Wilson at November 11, 2015 01:46 PM

November 10, 2015

Dan Bricklin

The Frankston Challenge

This morning I went for a normal check up with a healthcare provider I hadn't visited in a few years. The receptionist handed me a clipboard with paper forms to fill out to "catch up" -- nothing pre-filled out. Luckily, I was given a very sharp pen -- the fields were often way too small (when you live in "Newton Highlands" you need a lot of room for "City"). When I got to the section on "Pharmacy" I remembered that that office had sent a prescription a previous time to the wrong location (same street and company, wrong city and address). To make sure this time, I needed the address and phone number. I took out my cell phone to look it up. One bar. Very slow and dropped connectivity. I found the address but gave up on the phone number. I saw across the room a little sign with "WiFi" written on it. I guess I could have gotten up and followed the info to connect to their wireless router, if I trusted it, but I was too lazy. I left the field blank.

This was a reminder of what I call "The Frankston Challenge". As Bob Frankston has written repeatedly over the years, we need to have ambient connectivity that works everywhere without a prior relationship or human intervention to get past sign-in screens. (For example, see: Understanding Ambient Connectivity.) Yes, there was Internet connectivity where I was (in a normal office building in a major suburb on a busy street right near I-95/Rt 128), but it wasn't good enough or easy enough to answer a simple question quickly. For the laptops that the doctors and nurses used it was no problem -- they had already keyed in the special codes. For a new mobile device walking into the office, it was trouble like waiting for an old dialup modem to connect or nothing.

In the world of the Internet of Mobile Things (IoMT) you want to be able to just connect. Mobile Things include smartphones, tablets, wearables, automobiles, and so many coming things. They move with (or on) you, or on their own. The connectivity environment around them changes. The Frankston Challenge is very real for them today.

For example, you can't, as Bob points out, require a pacemaker or wearable reporting info to doctors and other systems to be pre-authorized with wireless carriers and WiFi access points everywhere the person might go. You don't want to have to pull out a keyboard (and maybe a credit card) to authorize connectivity when you feel tightness in your chest.

This problem won't be solved overnight. Bob has been working constantly to bring this to people's attention. For me, though, I'm in the world of making systems for business people to build apps that run on tablets and phones that move around with the users. We can't wait. This means that we won't have reliable connectivity everywhere, even where you would expect it. We have to build our systems to tolerate loss of connectivity. A consultant may be visiting a client's retail site or factory, or a repair person out in the field fixing a pump or transformer. The apps they run that replace the paper clipboard with something better and more tied into the flow of their tasks must be able to run offline.

We at Alpha Software have been working steadily to make disconnection-capable apps easier to build so that can be the default configuration. This is especially true for data capture applications. Not necessarily ignoring connectivity when available, but not becoming useless when it isn't.

A final irony. The office building where my doctor worked was the same one were my old company, Software Arts, had rented some space back in the early 1980s. It was across a parking lot from our main building. We used a centralized computer for timesharing to run our whole business. We had a very early Ethernet system installed to give "high-speed" connectivity to the terminals on everyone's desk. There was coax cable everywhere. (This was very early in the history of Ethernet and the IBM XT was just coming out.) To connect the "remote" office hundreds of feet away, we had a trench dug under the parking lot (and then paved over) to run cable to that other building. We had high-speed connectivity there. Today I parked within a few feet of that trench. Connectivity was still a challenge over 30 years later.

November 10, 2015 11:32 PM

Long time no blog

It's been a long time since I posted here on my blog. I've written a couple of essays that appeared on the main web site, and I've tweeted a lot (as @DanB), and even did some podcasting as part of the Adventures in Alpha Land podcast series, but not much here. My day job at Alpha Software has continued to keep me very busy with other things.

You may have missed my Alpha WatchBench app for Apple Watch. See "How Alpha WatchBench Came About" on my main web site.

November 10, 2015 11:30 PM

Dave Winer

Washington Post got me there

I wanted to know what time and channel the Republican debate would be on.

  1. I did a Google search
  2. The first hit was a Washington Post article.
  3. I clicked the link. In the second paragraph it told me it was on Fox Business at 9PM Eastern.

I can't tell you how many times I want to know how to watch a show and that kind of search does not yield a result.

The only way the WP could have done better is if they told me what the channel number is on TWC in Manhattan. 

November 10, 2015 10:07 PM

Tim Ferriss



“We’re not very good at understanding what it is that we really want. We’re extremely prone to latch onto suggestions from the outside world.” – Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) is many things, but I think of him as a rare breed of practical philosopher.

In 1997, he turned away from writing novels and instead wrote an extended essay titled How Proust Can Change Your Life, which became an unlikely blockbuster.

His subsequent books have been described as a ‘philosophy of everyday life’ and subjects include love, travel, architecture, religion and work. His other bestsellers include Essays In Love, Status Anxiety, and The Architecture Of Happiness. More recent works include The News: A User’s Manual, which looks at the impact our obsession with checking news has on our minds, and Art as Therapy, co-written with the art historian John Armstrong.

In 2008, de Botton helped start The School of Life in London, a social enterprise determined to make learning and therapy relevant in today’s uptight culture. His goal is (through any of his mediums) to help clients learn “how to live wisely and well.”

In our wide-ranging conversation, we cover many things, including:

  • Real-world versus academic philosophy
  • The value of rituals and tribes
  • Practical pessimism
  • “Ordinary genius”
  • The magic of pomegranates
  • Lesser-known modern thinkers
  • Why “mean” is often simply “anxious”
  • His favorite Japanese pens
  • And much more!


Want to hear another podcast related to emotional intelligence? — Listen to my conversation with Brené Brown. In this episode, we discuss vulnerability and home run TED talks (stream below or right-click here to download):

This podcast is brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. I have used them for years to create some amazing designs. When your business needs a logo, website design, business card, or anything you can imagine, check out 99Designs.

I used them to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body, and I’ve also had them help with display advertising and illustrations. If you want a more personalized approach, I recommend their 1-on-1 service, which is non-spec. You get original designs from designers around the world. The best part? You provide your feedback, and then you end up with a product that you’re happy with or your money back. Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade.  Give it a test run…

This podcast is also brought to you by Vimeo Pro, which is the ideal video hosting platform for entrepreneurs. In fact, a bunch of my start-ups are already using Vimeo Pro. WealthFront uses it to explain how WealthFront works. TaskRabbit uses it to tell the company’s story. There are many other names who you would recognize among their customers (AirBnB, Etsy, etc.) Why do they use it? Vimeo Pro provides enterprise level video hosting for a fraction of the usual cost. Features include:

  • Gorgeous high-quality playback with no ads
  • Up to 20 GB of video storage every week
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You get all this for just $199 per year (that’s only $17 per/mo.). There are no complicated bandwidth calculations or hidden fees. Try it risk-free for 30 days. Just go to to check it out. If you like it, you can use the promo code “Tim” to get 25% off. This is a special discount just for you guys.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What life stressors do you wish you could handle better? What do you currently do to solve the problem(s), and what do you think is missing? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

John Armstrong | Martha Nussbaum | Jamie Oliver

Twitter | Facebook | Website | YouTube (Subscribe)

Show Notes

  • How do you answer the question, “what do you do?” [7:43]
  • How Alain de Botton started with his studies in emotional intelligence [11:23]
  • On gaining mainstream success and the importance of “proving” oneself [17:08]
  • On mixing nonfiction and fiction writing [21:23]
  • Alain de Botton’s most influential writers and books [22:58]
  • The impact of How Proust Can Change Your Life [24:38]
  • How writing a book on daily habits changed Alain de Botton’s life [30:23]
  • How to balance setting low expectations and striving to achieve great things [35:38]
  • Complex philosophy vs useful philosophy [39:53]
  • Alain de Botton’s pre-Cambridge years [59:38]
  • Best practices to help status anxiety [1:03:08]
  • Where Alain de Botton would like to be in three years [1:10:08]
  • On developing the skill of listening [1:16:23]
  • When you think of the word successful, who is the first person that comes to mind and why? [1:25:13]
  • Most gifted books [1:29:28]
  • What is something you believe that other people think is insane? [1:30:38]
  • Utilitarian philosophers, artificial intelligence and future roles of philosophy [1:36:08]
  • Favorite documentaries and movies [1:40:08]
  • What purchase of $100 or less purchase has provided the most positive effect on your life [1:41:58]
  • Valuable daily rituals and routines [1:44:18]
  • If you could put a billboard anywhere and write anything on it, where would it be and what would it say? [1:47:18]
  • Advice to your 30-year-old self [1:48:08]

People Mentioned

by Tim Ferriss at November 10, 2015 08:57 PM

Dave Winer

More intellect please

I was just Voxing with NakedJen about this, and thought I should put something here. 

 I have crossed a line, I'm totally over the big networks and wide communication. Most of it is spam. People hungry for attention, and willing to say garbage to get it.

There's almost no quality to my experience on Twitter and Facebook these days. And in the last few days, with all the crazyness about Halloween costumes and Starbucks cups, finally pushed me over the top.

I need less reach, more intellect. 

November 10, 2015 05:46 PM

A beautiful-no-ugly hack

I couldn't get Twitter to accept a PNG with a transparent background. I read that the Android client could do it, so I tried it there too and on my iPhone, and in every case the transparent part of the image would turn to white. 

I figured out how to get what I want anyway. I just created a page with the transparent image on the color background I want it look good on, then did a small screen capture, pasted it into the Mac Preview app, saved it and uploaded to Twitter, and it worked. 

It's a hack, hopefully temporary, but now I was able to get rid of the unsightly white splotches on my otherwise beautiful editor. wink

November 10, 2015 04:40 PM

Lambda the Ultimate

Breaking Through the Normalization Barrier: A Self-Interpreter for F-omega

Breaking Through the Normalization Barrier: A Self-Interpreter for F-omega, by Matt Brown and Jens Palsberg:

According to conventional wisdom, a self-interpreter for a strongly normalizing λ-calculus is impossible. We call this the normalization barrier. The normalization barrier stems from a theorem in computability theory that says that a total universal function for the total computable functions is impossible. In this paper we break through the normalization barrier and define a self-interpreter for System Fω, a strongly normalizing λ-calculus. After a careful analysis of the classical theorem, we show that static type checking in Fω can exclude the proof’s diagonalization gadget, leaving open the possibility for a self-interpreter. Along with the self-interpreter, we program four other operations in Fω, including a continuation-passing style transformation. Our operations rely on a new approach to program representation that may be useful in theorem provers and compilers.

I haven't gone through the whole paper, but their claims are compelling. They have created self-interpreters in System F, System Fω and System Fω+, which are all strongly normalizing typed languages. Previously, the only instance of this for a typed language was Girard's System U, which is not storngly normalizing. The key lynchpin appears in this paragraph on page 2:

Our result breaks through the normalization barrier. The conventional wisdom underlying the normalization barrier makes an implicit assumption that all representations will behave like their counterpart in the computability theorem, and therefore the theorem must apply to them as well. This assumption excludes other notions of representation, about which the theorem says nothing. Thus, our result does not contradict the theorem, but shows that the theorem is less far-reaching than previously thought.

Pretty cool if this isn't too complicated in any given language. Could let one move some previously non-typesafe runtime features, into type safe libraries.

November 10, 2015 02:23 PM

November 09, 2015

Dave Winer


Reading this piece about how Twitter is a pyramid scheme helped me realize that what I want more than anything is to be part of an online micro-community. One where what's fixed is not the number of characters in your posts, rather the people you directly interact with. Simple idea. There is no village for me in the real world, but maybe I can make one in the electronic world. 

November 09, 2015 09:18 PM

What is free-speech-safe?

I used a term in a tweet that I haven't defined -- free-speech-safe.

The term applies to a writing/publishing environment. 

The question becomes important as the tech industry sucks the open web into silos. This has been going on for years. 

I can publish on my own site, as I'm doing here. However, because the site uses Amazon storage, it exists here only as long as Amazon is willing to let it be here. Their record is not perfect. But it's better than posting on Facebook. Therefore it might not be possible to create an absolutely free-speech-safe environment.

The other day I posted a link to a Boing Boing article to Facebook and it rejected the post. I assume it's because the BB piece pointed to a site that they don't want people pointing to. I said that in the most neutral way possible. I haven't been told by Facebook why it wouldn't let me point to it. I have asked, publicly

Facebook is not free-speech safe, and not just because of this. They won't allow pictures of naked human bodies. They won't let people use their chosen names. There are so many things Facebook won't allow. Don't assume you're getting the whole story on Facebook. You are not. 

I honestly don't think you can publish journalism on Facebook with all the rules about what they will and will not allow. Yet journalistic organizations are publishing there. I understand why they're doing it, to reach readers. I would do it too. But we still need places where people can be totally free to speak. I believe Facebook people would want to read such a site too. They're not bad people, they're just not creating a place where free speech is tolerated. 

We've yet to create a really free-speech-safe environment for writing on the web. I think we could do a lot better than we have done, if we had the will to do it. So far it's pretty clear we don't have that will.

November 09, 2015 08:06 PM

Is another war in Iraq in our future?

I was reading the Quartz piece about the Bushes and how they have gone to war in Iraq and wondered if the leading Republican is elected, either one, will they start another war in Iraq. The scary thing is this: How could you possible guess one way or another?

With HRC, I can't imagine we would. We're even more war-averse now than we were after Vietnam, at least I hope we are. But then there is a lot of lunacy to the US these days. More than usual. 

And that might have something to do with why the military is paying to put on little military plays at sporting events. To make sure the militaristic spirit of 9/11 is alive. That, I imagine, will continue no matter who is elected President.

I think I fully understand what's happening in the US now. The super-rich of the world are looting us. They want to keep the population quiet and distracted until it's done. Once it's finished, they'll leave us with our guns to kill each other. 

One quick way to loot the treasury is to keep us at a perpetual state of war. In wars no one counts their change too carefully. 

I know it's not one of my most positive images.

November 09, 2015 04:13 PM

My icon is changing

Winter is coming. The Mets will play again in the spring, and I'll be happy.

In the meantime, my Twitter icon is changing from the Mets logo to the dogcow. That will be showing up in more places over the coming weeks, Murphy-willing.

Further info: The dogcow page on Wikipedia.

Question: Is it not possible to set the background of a Twitter image as transparent? It's really jarring when they're displayed on a non-white background.

November 09, 2015 03:49 PM

Poke to Fox News -- remember Benghazi?

I was bored last night and watched a bit of Fox News because there was nothing else on but NFL which I find even more boring. 

They had a panel of Repub and Dem consultants who all agreed that the media is in the bag for the Dems and would never scrutinize the Democratic front-runner the way they do the Republicans.

I wanted to call in a question, if they took such questions.

What about Hillary Clinton and her emails? And Benghazi? And whatever else they like to rant on about her. I guess that doesn't count? I also seem to remember something about Obama "palling around with terrorists" and the whole Swift Boat thing.

November 09, 2015 03:18 PM

The Mets ran out of gas

I was emailing with my old friend from Mac days, David Jacobs, about this year's playoffs. Dave is a Cubs fan. I am, as you know, a Mets fan. The Mets and the Cubs have never played in the post-season before this year. Dave and I have been to a lot of Bay Area baseball games together, but of course never with the Cubs playing the Mets. So this time our friendship was tested, in a very unusual way. 

Given the way it turned out, I waited a few days after the Mets loss in the World Series to contact Dave, and was careful not to make it about baseball. I sent him a link to Zach Seward's comparative review of new TV from tech companies. Dave was the original Fetish columnist at Wired, at the same time I was a columnist at HotWired. Neither of us were journalists, before or since. Anyway, I told Dave that Zach, a young man who I've known about ten years, was picking up the baton in a nice way. I sent a link to his piece.

Then of course we discussed the post-season. Dave said the Mets weren't managed well in the World Series. I had a different theory. Here's what I wrote. 

The Mets ran out of gas

Honestly the way they were playing in Sept after clinching, I was surprised they beat the Dodgers, and by the time we got to the NLCS it was a juggernaut. But you could see the certainty creep in, and that was the mistake. I think some of the Mets thought they were the Yankees!

It was the most exciting baseball for me, ever. When the Mets won in 1969 we had nothing like the Internet, and I couldn't afford to go to any of the postseason games, and I had to go to school!

And in 1986 I was totally preoccupied with Living Videotext, got to watch the games, but didn't get to experience it like this year. 2000 was like a dream. I don't know what I was doing then. But this year. Wow.

What a thrill. And I'm totally ready for next year.

The Mets have never been about winning. I'm sure you understand that, being a Cubs fan. We have that in common. 

That's why when the team actually does win it's so fucking amazing. 

And you should be totally proud of the Cubs. I loved the way they do it at Wrigley Field. It's so commercial everywhere else. They'll be great next year too.  

That seems a good place to leave it until next year. Which Cubs and Mets always understand is where greatness lives. 

November 09, 2015 02:22 PM

Fog Creek – Interview with David Miller

Ordinarily, in, we chat with developers about their passion for programming: how they got into it, what they like to work on and how. But this is – a special interview, introducing David Miller, our VP Product. David is now one of our new 4-person management team who leads Fog Creek.

David Miller
Location: New York City, NY, US
Current Role: VP Product at Fog Creek Software

How did you end up at Fog Creek?

Vanity. When the WWW was young, I was a budding poet and photographer with a technical bent. I recognized that the Web was the world’s most effective vanity press, that made me curious enough to learn about how it worked. Publishing my poems and photos lead to web pages; collections of writing lead to websites; websites led to spec’ing and building simple network apps. I started managing the development of technical projects because I’d suffered through many badly organized projects that wasted time, talent and capital. My skill-set and disposition put me in a good place to help reduce those losses. I started at a small computer games company. Then engagements at big companies: AOL, Martha Stewart, The Associated Press, and NBC, which left me very ready to come back to a small company where my efforts could more immediately impact the products and the methods used to produce them.

At NBC, I met Liz Hall’s (VP People at Trello, previously at Fog Creek) husband, Chris, who told be about Fog Creek. At first it seemed too small a company, but then I started using the products and talking to the people. Those two experiences made me think there was real opportunity in being a Creeker, so – I spent a more time talking with Rich Armstrong (previously Fog Creek’s COO); then applied; interviewed and became excited about the prospect of working in a place where the highest accolades for any employee were – smart and gets things done.


Tell us a little about your roles at Fog Creek

I’ve been the product manager for FogBugz, then for Development Tools, and now VP of Product. The core activities of my roles at Fog Creek have remained constant – define the value proposition for the customer; defend the value proposition of each product by focusing the development teams on the features or product modifications that provide the greatest value for our customers; plan and manage the lifecycle of each product; forecast the profitability of new products; maintain the viability of our existing products in the market; shepherd the teams and the ideas for new software from inception through release of the minimum viable product, and beyond to fully featured, steadily growing software. The only difference has been the scope – moving from one product to everything that Fog Creek builds.

Helping development teams focus on the value proposition feels like “the good work” because it taps into Technology’s ability to enable beneficial extensions in human capabilities. That’s the best part of working on tech projects – good tools greatly impact the quality and productive capacity of manufacturers. From shoes to cellphone applications, the availability of high-quality, reach-extending tools impacts the way people live their lives.

Some of the best things I’ve worked on include the Iteration Planner. It’s a set of features that I conceived and pitched to the FogBugz team as a strong potential addition to the value FogBugz could provide to its customers. The entire process of working with customers and developers to produce a feature set that improves an established product like FogBugz was exciting for me and continues to be rewarding.

Also, when I first started at Fog Creek, I had an opportunity to propose a road map to the FogBugz team. In order to create that road map, I read many articles on the organizational knowledge and experience that generated many of Fog Creek’s product decisions. I read about features that were born and added to the product as well as the features that never made it out of the first round of specification. I talked to developers and customers about which problems FogBugz solved well, and where it might improve. It was interesting and informative to do this sort of study of a mature product and the organization that created it. It taught me as much about the strengths and weaknesses of Fog Creek as an organization as it did about the Fog Creek opinionated workflows for allowing developers to get on with the work of creating great software.

The challenges of the role fall into three major categories against which I’ve made progress, but I won’t claim to have completely overcome any one of them:

  • First, there’s developing and nurturing better and cleaner forms of Fog Creek as an organization. That’s working to improve how we write specs, communicate with customers; test new products and features, and roll-out new functions in existing products.
  • The second challenge is not worrying about the fact that, at Fog Creek, I can’t tell anyone what to do. The major adjustment wasn’t learning to live without tyrannical power. It was learning to trust that no one expected me to exercise that kind of power. And learning that I could pursue a more collaborative mode of making good arguments; building consensus, and executing tasks to realize company goals.
  • The third is trying to help align and focus Fog Creek’s talented workforce so that the right things are done at the right time. Smart and Get’s things done is a great place to begin. Now we’re trying to advance the practice of getting the right things done at the right time, for both Fog Creek and our customers.


When are you at your happiest at Fog Creek?

I’m happiest when working with Creekers to realize advances that make our tools more valuable to our customers. That’s when great things happen – the release of Iteration Planner; removing Wasabi from our code base; the revival of lots of useful editorial content; and new projects. These are all examples of productive collaborations where Creekers were forced to confront problems and make something useful out of the confrontation. For me, that creative moment, when a person’s imagination and ingenuity converge in a solution to a problem worth solving, is beautiful and deeply rewarding.

What software tools do you use and couldn’t live without?

If good tech can be measured by how well it solves core problems then:

These all have changed the way I gather, track, plan and analyze data. At this point, abandoning any one of these would be a major disruption to the way that I interact with people and ideas which are two types interactions for which I try to optimize.

My Kindle allows me to have as many volumes in my backpack as a wealthy 19th-century American bibliophile would have in his entire library. Further, the ability to just pull books out of cyberspace from any place on earth with a cellphone signal is the sort of science fiction that a 1970’s fourth grader would have envied as he was getting his first tour of the card catalog at the local library.

FogBugz helps me organize, without any loss of detail, complex issues and contain them in the simple act of opening and closing cases. Evernote and Trello help me chunk and store ideas that used to get lost when I cleaned the napkins off my desk or out of my pockets. Google Docs has eliminated versioning issues. Also, it makes collaborating a real-time activity as opposed to a succession of sprints followed by periods of waiting in which every fear and doubt about the project catches up and re-attaches itself to my creative mind.

Biz Dev helps to keep numbers important to the success of Fog Creek ready to hand and foremost in my mind. While and Google Hangouts are great for the screen sharing, and audio capabilities. I have yet to feel real benefit from the video apart from being able to look over someone’s shoulder at their screen.

What are a few of your favorite Fog Creek blog posts?

  • File a case to save a maker interruption: It’s an important point that the rhythm of making – that process which creates value is different from queue work or planning. Within any company, making should be a protected activity, and yet organizations often try to apply the same rules to both making and request-driven operations.
  • David’s Voice-controlled desk: This is just so much fun. I watch it as a cautionary tale of how essentially rational people can be taken in by their desire to be witnesses at the bleeding edge of technology.
  • Rob Sobers talking about experiment-driven marketing: Rob is applying to marketing a lot of the basic principles that Steve Blank and the Lean Startup faction espouse as part of practicing customer-centric development. It strikes me as a viable approach that I hope we’ll use even more at Fog Creek.

What technologies are you currently trying out or want an excuse to try?

Cloud services combined with fast, light, mutable programs that nibble at large funds of data, adding, deleting, and transforming some collective knowledge of human experience. One of the early benefits of the easy communication enabled by the Web was easy collaboration with distant colleagues. I think that cloud services for storing large amounts of data, and software that runs in the cloud and can instantly enable or disable additional resources for crunching really large data sets will make scientific computing and collaboration easier and the infrastructure needed to support high-end cloud computing even more accessible to people working on hard problems with lots of data processing. I’d love to be involved in building tools to help solve those types of problems.

On the other end of the spectrum, small programs like Hubot and other chat robots, like our very own Chatterbug, come to mind. They aren’t very smart, but still manage to be very useful for reminding us of our plans, tracking tasks, and reporting out when there is a state change. This sort of service helps to maintain focus on complex problems.


Outside of Fog Creek, what do you like to do?

I read Fiction; History of ideas and inventions; books about the history and development of human exchange in both commercial economies and markets of ideas. I Climb cliffs all over the world, but mostly at my home crag – the Gunks; I write stories and poems, pieces other than emails or blog posts; And I take good photos during my travels both abroad and at large in NYC.

What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself starting out in your career?

Study more economics. Don’t repress your creativity. Embrace the strategy of using fast and light tests to determine which activities will produce the most of what you really want to see in the world.

When I started in tech there was a notion that the way to be great was to lock yourself in your parent’s garage until you emerged with a unicorn – the one perfect thing that the world really needed, but hadn’t yet realized was even a possibility. That worked for a few people but, by in large, money and talent were more often squandered than transformed by following this course. It took me a long time to come around to the notion that the method for developing life-altering tools might have at least as much science as art in it. To be sure, there is plenty of that ineffable stuff that makes art and innovation, in building great products, but the pure light of inspiration is no substitute for being methodical about your process and open to the reality depicted in your results.


Thanks to David for taking the time to speak with us. Have someone you’d like to be a guest? Let us know @FogCreek.

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by Gareth Wilson at November 09, 2015 11:07 AM

November 08, 2015

Dave Winer

GamerGate is a touchy subject

I just listened to the latest This Week in Startups podcast. It's one of the podcasts in the rotation at

The show began this week with a touchy question -- What is GamerGate? Basically most people don't want to say what it is probably because they don't want to be part of it. 

They also mentioned a product that helps you manage leads. I think I've been getting email through one of those services. I've noticed an uptick in "personal" messages from companies I've never heard of, from people who talk as if they know me. I suspect they're actually fictional people now that I've heard about this service. I guess it had to come to this eventually.

Jason Calacanis talks like Quentin Tarantino. I wonder if they come from the same neighborhood in Brooklyn. 

November 08, 2015 09:31 PM

Alex Schroeder


I’ve been thinking about Dungeon World some more. Here are some of my comments from a recent post on Google+.

It all started with me reading the answer to How to ask nicely in Dungeon World on StackExchange. The answer says: There’s also no GM move called “have a freeform social interaction.” If the GM is following the rules, this kind of stall should not happen. […] Since the “everyone looks to you to find out what happens” trigger matches, it’s now the GM’s turn to make an appropriate move, instead of falling into “time for unstructured social exchange improvisation!” habits that they have brought with them from some other game. The rest of the answer picks all the GM moves in the book and provides an explanation of how it might have gone.

When talking about my classic D&D games with others, we sometimes talked about procedures (or the lack thereof). When I tried to explain how great classic D&D was to Lior oh so long ago, he said that he would love to see some practical instructions on how to make a game interesting. Classic D&D seemed to be steeped in oral culture transmitted outside the written rules. You learned how to do it from friends, or through years of experience, or by reading and talking about it online (which is how I finally got it). As we gave Apocalypse World a try, it seemed to us that there was something here about telling us how to run a game but we just couldn’t nail it. I don’t remember whether we were just too blind to see, or too distracted by all the new jargon, or too fascinated by the moves in play books. I think that now, I’m slowly starting to get it.

There are still reasons not to like the game. The game no longer promises ever changing game play via mechanics (spells changing the adventures you can run, hit-points being replaced by saving-throws, and so on). And I still don’t quite see how the game can surprise me – how will I avoid making decisions that I feel the rules should make for me? The advice for running a dungeon basically suggest improvising a dungeon based on moves, i.e. whenever the players are at a loss, or when they fail their rolls, the dungeon grows, the monsters move, dead ends appear, signs of trouble ahead show up, and so on. “Dungeon Moves are a special subset that are used to make or alter a dungeon on the fly. Use these if your players are exploring a hostile area that you don’t already have planned completely.”

Even if I use The Perilous Wilds as my rules, these thing are still true. Except now there are more tools to work with, more specific instructions: countdowns for themes, a predetermined size, and so on. It seems to me that DW and friends are very interested in “play to see what happens” and one of the consequences is that the world is being generated as you go, based on your moves and the improvisations of the DM. That, in turn, is perhaps why my suspension of disbelief might not work as well. Or perhaps that’s simply a problem for an old school D&D player. If we’re exploring an existing place with an existing map, and existing dangers and treasures, it feels more “real” than generating things as we go. If the consequences of failure are generated by random rolls on a table, if the danger of monsters depends on the severity of my moves, then the rules can say fiction first as long as they want, I read it as DM fiat. But: This could be my D&D bias. Perhaps DW does not shirk from DM fiat as long as it follows from the fiction. Perhaps it works at the table even if everybody knows that the DM is improvising. After all, D&D also requires improvising but generally DMs will try to hide the fact that they’re doing it. The impression of impartiality is generated by dice rolling. Staying true to the fiction is presumed.

Then again, when I look at some of my recent “dungeons”, I find that I mostly think of them as interesting areas, connect one way or another, it doesn’t really matter. Plus monsters and treasure, and traps, rarely. Perhaps that’s not very far away from what Dungeon World and friends are suggesting. After all, the improvisation and dice rolling at the table is only for “a hostile area that you don’t already have planned completely.” I’m suspecting that – at the table! – my current method and the Dungeon World method with a little planning are not very different, after all.

Curious and willing to learn, in any case.

This is what a recent dungeon map for classic D&D looked like, in my campaign:


November 08, 2015 08:00 AM

November 07, 2015

Dave Winer

Why is Facebook blocking

I read an article on Boing Boing about Facebook blocking links to

Then I tried to post a link to the Boing Boing post, and there was an error posting that. Here's a screen shot.

I am surprised Facebook is doing this, I'd love to hear their side of why this is happening.

I posted a story on Facebook, with the screen shot above.

November 07, 2015 09:15 PM

November 06, 2015

Dave Winer

Facebook has an ark for news, and you and I aren't on it

Facebook is starting a new distribution pipeline next week, an app that carries news content, and unless you're one of the big media companies they invited to be part of it, you don't get to put stories into that pipe. 

No one knows how it will go. Sometimes big companies make moves like this and they go nowhere. They start something new and proprietary to replace something open to all, and the open platform proves overwhelming, and nothing changes.

But I have a feeling this is not one of those times.

Yesterday I had an idea that I wanted to get out there. Not uncommon, my blog is filled with them, but this one I put in full text on Facebook and on my blog. It had relatively big impact in the Facebook version. Not many people read it on my blog. 

But even that's not going to be good enough starting next week because there will be a second more elite tier.

So I've come to the conclusion, that most of you must come to as well, that unless Facebook decides to let me in, I have to make people come read me on my site. At least the big publishers get to make a choice. You and I have not even been offered the choice. 

BTW, if they do let me in, I'm going. I'm not taking one for the team. Done it too many times and learned I'm always the only one.

They say they plan to open it up, but we know that plans can change. If a company says they will be generous in the future, that's worth something, but not very much. You can't get a bank loan based on it, or probably even an angel investment.

We're in a prisoner's dilemma. There are a lot more of us outside than in. We're better writers, and funnier, and have more friends. But unless we hang together, as Ben Franklin said, we are sure to hang separately. This is also a common feature of the tech industry. We all feel we're the ones who will get the deal, and we bet accordingly. For most of us it's a losing bet.

November 06, 2015 07:58 PM

Fargo the TV show

I just rewatched season 1 of Fargo. It was good to get all that fresh in my mind, getting ready to start season 2.  

It's an incredible show, as good as the movie, but different in creative ways. Many of the major elements in the movie show up in the show but with different characters at different times, it's a different story, but in some ways not really. 

Both shows have a smart woman deputy and a comic bad guy, and lots and lots of colorful supporting characters and at least two or three good twists every episode. They really have a sense of timing, I forgot how good it was. 

You'd swear it was written by the Coen Brothers, but it's not. 

And it has a sense of humor oh man the jokes are incredible! wink

PS: Here's an interview with the show runner about the season finale. 

November 06, 2015 06:34 PM

What comes after staring into your cellphone?

Walking around the city of course you see lots of people with their eyes glued to their cell phone. The other day I decided to count as we walked through the East Village. About half the people whose paths we crossed were staring into the phones as they walked. 

So I wondered what comes next. And I got the answer, I think, in a comment on Facebook. People will call Uber to transport them a few city blocks, so they can devote their full attention to whatever it is that is so captivating in their phone.

I hope people are studying this, because this is a huge transformation on a societal level. No joke.

November 06, 2015 06:04 PM

Alex Schroeder

Level Limits

Gavin recently proposed replacing demi-human level limits for classic D&D with an XP penalty, on G+. Here’s what I said.

Whenever level limits for demi-humans come up I wonder: is this an actual problem at the table? I’ve been playing for years and the first cleric characters are slowly reaching level nine, now. And I’m tiring of these campaigns. The chances our campaign ending before level limits come up are far higher.

But I have a point regarding the math, too. If XP requirements double every level, then getting 50% XP simply means loosing a level. In the long run, that doesn’t make much of a difference. You could argue that this is exactly what elves in B/X D&D or Labyrinth Lord actually do: If you think of elves as splitting their XP between fighter and magic-user, then they only get 50% of their XP for their magic-user class and thus they need to gain 5000 XP to get to the equivalent of a magic-user with 2500 XP…

So, part of my argument is: “it has already been done.”

As an argument with players at the table, however, I’d simply pull out a list mapping levels to the importance of people in the world. Something short and visual, like this:

1. noobs
3. veterans, village heroes, sergeants, squad commanders
5. town leaders, captains, company commanders
7. lieutenants, second-in-commands
9. rulers of a castle, of a hex, of a tribe, barons

So basically, the level of non-magical types shows how big their domain in this campaign setting is. If the limit is 8, then ambitions are smaller than a castle. If the limit is 12, then the domain they rule can be larger: various mountain hexes. If the limit is 10, then the domain is simply a forest hex, maybe two. With no level limit, immortality or fighting the gods for divinity is the end game.

If your players agree with the power distribution of the end game, then the level limits remain. If they prefer to go for immortality and divinity, then just get rid of the level limits, no XP penalty required. You can still keep those level limits for non-player characters, if you want.

Or you could say that elves without level limits are obviously Melnibonéan overlords riding dragons and they exist and they run this place. :)


November 06, 2015 09:39 AM

Dave Winer

Don't forget the 21st century..

Must-read article on the Time Mag archive for the 20th century moving to the NY HIstorical Society. Now the question -- what are we doing for the 21st century? It won't be so easy to pick up, scattered across all kinds of experimental websites that fell by the way. Unicorns that failed to thrive. 

November 06, 2015 04:03 AM

November 05, 2015

Tim Ferriss

4HWW trip around the world

4HWW trip around the world

If you have any interest in travel, then the next two minutes of reading are definitely worth your time.

It’s been too long since I’ve done a giveaway. I’ve been thinking about a trip to Australia or Montreal, so perhaps you’d like a getaway, too?  By that, I mean a vacation of epic proportions. I’ve partnered with StackSocial and Bootsnall to offer you a free ride around the globe.  Literally.  And there are tons of runner-up prizes (see below).

For those of you who really want to win, here’s a shortcut: Each time you share your unique link, which you get upon signing up, you receive another five entries. So spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter vastly improves your odds.

Click here to sign up. Share it well, and perhaps I’ll see you on the road!

Grand Prize: The Tim Ferriss Round-the-World Prize (worth $3,355.95)

1st Runner Up: The High-Flying DJI Drone Prize  (worth $1,034.95)

All hail the DJI Phantom 2–the king of the drones and a true aerial photography trailblazer. The 1st Runner Up will take home a brand new DJI along with 7 or our top-selling tech essentials!

2nd Runner Up: The Tech-Savvy Tastemaker Prize  (worth $355.95)

Score the 7 gadgets you need this fall–all designed by top innovators, all best sellers. Power up outside with a solar battery pack, power yourself around the world with one plug, and carry it all in the stylish FYL Bag.

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Hope to share a drink with you during your adventures.  One trip like this can change your life forever, so it’s worth taking 60 seconds to toss your hat in the ring.

Good luck and pura vida!

by Tim Ferriss at November 05, 2015 04:09 PM

Mark Bernstein

Wiki Storms

An ongoing case at Wikipedia’s high court, ArbCom, was triggered by a recent article by Emma Paling at The Atlantic about Wikipedia’s Hostility To Women. That article mentions Eric Corbett, the immensely popular and influential Wikipedian who told another editor that “The easiest way to avoid being called a cunt is not to act like one.”

Civility is a central tenet of Wikipedia and the entire reason ArbCom found it necessary to sanction every editor on Gamergate’s notorious hit list. In the aftermath of the “cunt” affair, the woman to whom Corbett addressed this charming and witty remark was banned from Wikipedia. Corbett was instructed not to discuss the topic. He violated that ban to rebuke The Atlantic, and was blocked for the violation. Another administrator promptly unblocked him, ArbCom stepped in to defrock the administrator, and we were off to the races.

You’d think this would be hilarity enough for any one case. Alas, no.

  • ArbCom can’t even settle on a name for the case; it’s changed three times so far, and the current name – Arbitration Enforcement 2 -- doesn’t tell us much.
  • One of only two women on the arbitration committee was originally named as a party to the case, in a cynical ploy to remove a feminist from the deliberations. Ostensibly, she was a party because she had been quoted in The Atlantic!
  • Though the arbitrator was removed as a party to the case, she still had to recuse herself, so the ploy worked.
  • ArbCom says it can only act on evidence provided by volunteers, but no one knows precisely what the case is supposed to be about, and so no one knows what evidence is pertinent. Yesterday, ArbCom erased reams of evidence that most observers consider very pertinent to the subject of Arbitration Enforcement, evidence that officials trying to enforce arbitration decisions are subjected to systematic harassment organized by anti-feminist zealots. But apparently that’s not the evidence ArbCom wants.

This strikes me as an irregular way to proceed. The arbitrators apparently know what this oft-renamed case concerns; we don’t. The arbitrators apparently know what evidence they want. We do not, and as ArbCom has said elsewhere that they rely entirely on volunteer-supplied evidence, the consequences may be undesirable. Others have speculated that the arbitrators already know what conclusion they expect to draw in this case; I myself doubt this, because that would be efficient if nothing else, and that seems inconsistent with ArbCom’s inclinations.

The underlying problem here is not an individual but an organized effort to subvert the project in support of right-wing opposition to “political correctness” and dangerous Liberals. The Wikipedia Community is unable to address the damage this organized effort does to the “five pillars” or principles that govern Wikipedia, especially neutrality and civility which the subversives despise.

The Community is also unable to accept the damage to those pillars. The result, plainly, has been that the pillars are much bruised while very great damage has been done to what Wikipedia calls “the Community” but which clearly has fallen into pieces.

Wikipedia is supposedly governed by consensus, but most Wikipedians, including the most influential and powerful officers, appear to have a very feeble notion of consensus. I fancy there are some really useful discussions of “consensus” in 18th and 19th century Quaker writing. Where should I look? John Woolman?

November 05, 2015 03:46 PM

Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books

A delightful collection of a year’s worth of brief notes about reading by a consummate bookman, originally written as a weekly Web column for The American Scholar. Dirda’s embrace of forgotten writers and, especially, old plot-driven adventures is instructive, and his central concerns – where to put all these book? how on earth to pay for them? – are refreshingly familiar. Dirda arranges his future reading by project, with piles and cartons of books all set for the day when some long-awaited project begins; makes sense to me!

November 05, 2015 02:23 PM

Dave Winer

A film festival with NakedJen in NY

NakedJen was in town, and of course as always we went to a bunch of movies. Two of them were pretty awful, and both of them were NYT critics choice movies. The other movie, Our Brand is Chaos, got a shitty review from the Times, and it deserved it, but it was actually a really fun movie. I'll try to explain the paradox.

  1. Truth, starring Robert Redford as Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett as 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes started with a great story, how Rather and Mapes lost their jobs at CBS News for reporting a true story with some questionable documents. They really lost to Republican bloggers. I remember at the time being split, I was very much against Bush for President, and hated the way they were campaigning against Kerry, who I voted for, but I also didn't like the way the established news media dismissed the bloggers, and refused to get in the online discussion. I think in the end this is why they lost. They failed to mobilize their friends in the blogosphere. Yes it's partisan. That's life. But the movie really dumbed the whole thing down, which is my problem with the other highly-reviewed movie. We watched Redford be Redford talking a little like Rather, but the story wasn't engaging. It was a good story, but the story-telling wasn't good. No suspension of disbelief.
  2. Bridge of Spies was another all-star production, directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks, and written by the Coen Brothers (!). But it was also a dumbed-down straight-line movie that didn't engage. Later Jen and I watched the first couple of episodes of Season 1 of the FX show Fargo, that was just inspired by the Coens, not written by them, and it was a perfect illustration of what was missing in Bridge and in Truth -- anything interesting for the viewer with a mind. This might be a good movie for kids, about what the Cold War was like in the US and in Berlin (assuming it was accurate about Berlin). That and a few interesting lines here and there was all the entertainment this movie had to offer. How the Coen Brothers participated is a mystery. I can't imagine why they let them put their name on it.
  3. Our Brand is Crisis is non-stop Sandra Bullock, who we love, and will always command our attention. Sure there was a gaping huge flaw in the movie that the Times pointed out, and for that it deserves a bad review, but if they would have chopped off the last 10 minutes of the movie it would have stood up fine as a tale of American pollution of the global political process. Billy Bob Thornton and Bullock have a fantastic relationship of nasty tricks, back and forth, and some wild scenes, not all of which make total sense, but who cares since Bullock is so captivating! Lovely movie and entertaining, and a very interesting contrast to the other two. 
  4. We also watched a DVD movie The Gift, which we both recommend. You can't really write about it without spoiling it. It's suspenseful and has a thriller element to it, but that's not the actual story. I loved this movie. 

November 05, 2015 01:49 PM

Apple Watch losing its charge too quickly

Now I have a new problem with my Apple Watch. Until yesterday a charge would last two days. Now a charge lasts just a few hours. I don't think I changed anything. I tried rebooting the watch, no change. Not sure what else I can do to get the watch to reset itself, assuming this is some kind of software problem. 

November 05, 2015 01:22 PM

Why didn't Twitter leapfrog Facebook in the Like-wars?

I wonder why Twitter didn't leapfrog Facebook and offer an array of different Like-like emoji. Facebook has said they're going there. Twitter would have no installed base expectations to overcome, and they could have been backward compatible if Favorite was one of the options (with star as its icon of course). They could have made heart the default.

November 05, 2015 03:51 AM

November 04, 2015

Mark Bernstein

How To Conference

Eric Raymond is worried about cold-war “honey trap” attacks run by feminists to discredit him.

If you are any kind of open-source leader or senior figure who is male, do not be alone with any female, ever, at a technical conference. Try to avoid even being alone, ever, because there is a chance that a “women in tech” advocacy group is going to try to collect your scalp.

This is wrong-headed, but not just for the reasons you think. You should not be alone with anyone at a technical conference – especially not if you’re incredibly famous and important. If you’re alone, you’re doing it wrong. You are at the conference to meet people and to spend time with them, and if you’re really prominent, you don’t have enough time to spend much of it alone with anyone.

Yes, you can be alone when you’re sleeping, and you can canoodle all you want with your partner. Conferences are not good places for canoodling with people you don’t already know really well – especially not if you’re famous and important – because everyone will be watching you. Romance is tricky; romance in front of an audience – an audience that’s going to remember anything that goes wrong, and we all know that something usually does – is an invitation to the clown caboose.

You can be alone for a time if you must. For example, you might need to close a deal – sell a company, set the terms for a speaking gig, negotiate the conditions for a job. A conference isn’t ideal for this, but conferences bring parties together and sometimes things can’t wait. Here are the rules.

  • Always wear your name badge. Yes, even if you’re a rock star, wear your name badge. When Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer came to Readercon, they wore their name badges; you can wear them too.
    • Don’t want to stick pins in your nice clothes? Bring a lanyard. It’s classy to have a lanyard that advertises your stuff. It’s very classy to have a lanyard that advertises your friends’ stuff. It’s really classy to have a lanyard from the same conference, ten or twenty years back.
    • Wear your badge where it’s comfortable and where people can see it. It’s fine to wear it on your hip, or on the strap of your purse or laptop bag.
  • If you need to talk to someone privately, find a semi-private space – a two-top in the bar, a pair of armchairs in the lobby. Take off your badges and put them on the table, or tuck them visibly in your shirt pocket.
  • Even then, be prepared for, and respond well to, casual greetings, quick questions, and similar conference-style interruptions. If someone asks a question you can’t answer quickly, arrange to meet them (specifically) at a specific place and time, or give them an effective way to contact you later.
  • If you need more privacy than this, you should leave the conference venue entirely. At minimum, you need to cross a street -- several streets for a big event. If you’re at Moscone, for example, crossing Third Street is not enough, but Sausalito is.
  • You go to conferences to meet people and exchange ideas. While you're there, you owe a reasonable amount of time and attention to everyone who wants it. If someone wants an unreasonable share, explain. If someone is being a jerk, you can ask them to stop. Ask the conference for help if you need it.
  • Feed the students, metaphorically and literally. Don’t limit this to students you are planning to employ.

One of my first great conference experiences was AAAS 1971 in Philadelphia. I needed to buy something – a bic pen? chapstick? – at the hotel pharmacy. There was a line at the cash register. The fellow in front of my had a time-consuming request. His name was Dr. Louis Leakey, he wanted to write a prescription, and it was complicated.

I was standing in line with Dr. Leakey of Olduvai!

Sure, I’d seen lectures by Carl Sagan and a memorable debate between Margaret Mead and Edward Teller, but I hadn’t been standing in line with Margaret Mead.

Dr. Leakey wasn’t there to offer a lesson in what greatness can and cannot accomplish, or in accepting bureaucratic impediments with grace and wit; he was there to get some medicine. I couldn't be of any possible use to him, but that wasn’t and isn’t the point. He did his errand and he did the other stuff, too; that’s also what conferences are for.

November 04, 2015 09:57 PM

Dave Winer

Lost in NY

Last year I got lost on the Italian train system going from Milan to Trieste, and was helped by a bunch of different Italians none of whom spoke any English and of course I didn't speak Italian. I wondered if my country would be so concerned about the welfare of a foreigner and helpful, and this story told me, thankfully that we are. 

November 04, 2015 02:09 PM

Apple Watch goes AWOL

All of a sudden my iPhone can't find my Apple Watch.

When I go to the Bluetooth panel of Settings on the iPhone it says it's not connected. When I try to connected it says it couldn't find it and I should make sure it's turned on and nearby. It's on my wrist, fully charged, and turned on.

Any clues?


Of course as soon as I posted this, the two devices found each other and are making happy. It always seems to work that way.

November 04, 2015 02:02 PM

Fog Creek

The Problems with Open Source (and How to Fix Them) – Interview with Justin Searls

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The Problems with Open Source (and How to Fix Them) – Interview with Justin Searls

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Soft Skills for Hardcore Developers

In this interview with Justin Searls, Co-Founder at development agency Test Double, we discuss issues in open source software and what we can do about them. Justin raises problems for both consumers and contributors – like managing hundreds of dependencies to security issues and burnt-out maintainers. We dive into the efforts being made to address these and what you can do too.

Justin discusses issues like this and software development more generally on his blog.

Content and Timings

  • Introduction (0:00)
  • Open Source convenience, long-term fragility (1:33)
  • Who is Auditing Open Source Code? (5:17)
  • The Rollercoaster Ride of Maintaining Open Source Projects (7:38)
  • Recruiting More and Better Contributors (11:18)
  • Improving Communication in Open Source (12:42)
  • How Can We Help? (14:35)



Justin Searls is co-founder of Test Double. A software development agency based in Columbus, Ohio. Through his work Justin uses and contributes to a number of open source tools, and also speaks at conferences about a range of software development topics, including the talk The Social Coding Contract, which highlights some issues he sees in open source projects.

Justin, Thank you so much for taking time to join us today, really appreciate. Do you have any more to add about yourself?

There’s a lot of brokenness around us, and I think the talk that you referenced, The Social Coding Contract, is really just putting a lens on a lot of brokenness in open source. But I’m not just here to shout at the clouds and complain about stuff. I think that by building awareness we can make it better.

“In an open source team you have like a dozen people who all want to be point guard”

So your talk raises a number of issues in open source development, both for consumers dealing with dependency issues, and for maintainers resulting in burnout. But what lead you to want to raise these issues?

I think that when you really really distill things down, boil it down to just a kinda core essence. The answer to that question, is that our industry has organized itself around, essentially a lie, and that lie is that faster equals better. Anything we can do to like, faster to build an app, faster to ship into production, devs that slingcode faster than slower devs, or 10X better than … All of our orientation of how, you know technology is sold and described, and glorified in our culture, is all about how like how fast it is how fast people get stuff done. But the overall attention span is so brief that we just tend not to focus on problems.

Lets dive into a couple of these issues, you say that those building with opensource optimize for convenience, but often at the cost of long-term fragility. What do you mean by that, and has this impacted your projects.

By fragility there … What I don’t mean is that there is some sort of cabal of open source developers trying to make a mess for you. What I really mean is that when you ship something into production these days, odds are you’re running like a little tiny layer, 10 percent or less of the code that’s getting executed in production is stuff that you wrote. Most of it is a mountain high of application dependencies that you stand on top of. Some directly, some transitively that got pulled in via those other dependencies. It’s a lot of stuff that frankly we don’t understand really well. And that’s fine for getting started, because obviously you gotta be competitive, and if somebody else can get a prototype out the door quickly, you can get really fast feedback. You know?

There’s a lot to be gained from it, we just need to move cautiously to understand, okay so it’s been 3 months, it’s been 6 months. Lets actively look at how these dependencies have been serving us. Have they been a pain to use, have any died or gone out of maintenance. Like what’s the influence that they’ve had on our, the design of our code. Are we really just like writing cookie cutter code to satisfy all the APIs that we are depending on or are we really growing a domain model that very nicely fits like a glove the problem that our application’s trying to solve.

Those are the sorts of things that, you know I would kinda call fragility that’s baked in to this process of looking for something to help get us a quick start. Another facet of this that’s really interesting to me is that coming from the ruby community, where ruby on rails was really huge, or became huge almost a decade ago now. That was one big monolithic framework and that was very difficult for me to start my own framework, because I would push it up, but then I had n plus one queries everywhere. All sorts of like pain of not knowing how to it, a magical little thing. And I could remediate that on one project, and it would take a long time, and everyone would pay the price of learning rails. But on subsequent ones we could at least use that knowledge.

But nowadays I think the trend is so anti-framework, and so pro-modularization, tiny libraries that all do their own thing. We’ve all become effectively framework maintainers. Not to say everyone’s inventing their own, but we’re like curators now of like this manifest of here’s my thirty dependencies, and no one else in the world will have all thirty dependencies at exactly the same versions that you do. Which means that now the onus is on you to make sure that they all work together correctly, and if there is any interplay between the two of them that doesn’t, it is up to each project team who’s tasked with building an application to also be responsible for troubleshooting two potentially divergent dependencies that are stepping on one another.

It’s definitely an interesting perspective, I haven’t thought of that myself, as a curator of frameworks.

Yep, and it’s not like small is bad and that big monolithic stuff is good. It’s just these are the source of costs and the responsibilities and the roles that we should be thinking about. That go with maintaining something built that way.

After five to six years of working with a lot of, you know open source technology projects you start to see a lot of patterns, just do basic pattern recognition. Be like oh we’re finding like writing adapters for this third party thing is really really hard, or its API is seeping all over our project. Like how can we guard our self, and push that out, build some scar tissue between us and that dependency, because it has been found to be kinda problematic.

All those sorta good habits I think tend to grow organically, but then can only happen if people have an awareness that all these dependencies leaking all over there stuff lead design problems long term.

We often approach using popular open source libraries with the assumption of security, because anyone can read them, and with trust because they have a number of respected contributors. But you don’t buy that, why is this?

The concept that you’re alluding to, is introduced in the book called The Cathedral and the Bazaar, like fifteen years ago, maybe longer. But that was written in a time when, when most people were thinking about open source they’re thinking about really big operating systems, like Windows versus Unix. Like a total black box versus this thing that is like one or two or three major big projects that have tens of thousands of developers looking at really closely. And over the last fifteen years, everything’s inverted. Now GitHub hosts hundreds of thousands open source projects.

I think at some point we probably eclipsed the point where there were literally more libraries being used, than eyeballs looking at the actual source code of other people’s open source. So in theory that would work but the problem is that there is more projects then there are eyeballs.

The other thing that I think effects this is the stack, the open source stack that we stand on gets a little taller every year. Every year we find some new common solution to a well known problem, and we stand on it. And fifteen years ago, twenty years ago, when people were starting to grow thoughts about what open source would mean for security, well you know like openness itself for example, like you know like that’s a pretty cool library, like I’m gonna use that for how I do my network securely. But now it’s such a given that everything depends on OpenSSL, that we … You know it’s mature, its mostly settled down, there’s not a lot of maintainers, it’s not a sexy thing to invest in from a marketing perspective if you’re Facebook or Google. So it mostly just gets no attention.

Even if you are a really big company, and you understand that your openness is all working is critical to your business. You know that it’s like a Mexican standoff where every company in the world, they all depend on it. So it’s certainly like, it’s very important that someone be auditing the security of a fundamental thing like that. But it’s nobodies responsibility to do that, and no one feels that accountability. So I think that’s where we’ve really fallen on our face, where something like Shellshock happens to Bash, and it’s a program almost every developer uses, and lots of different internet of things stuff use. But zero people feel like it’s my job to go on the weekend and read up on, you know Bash to make sure that it is secure.

You describe the life of an open source project maintainer to be something of a roller coaster ride, that all too often ends with the maintainer getting burnt out. Why do you think that this is commonly the case?

On the one hand, we kinda glamorize prolific open source authors. There’s maybe hundreds of thousands of open source projects out there but there are a handful of people that are like, Hey when I’m doing some node stuff I’m gonna look for a library that TJ Hallowaychuck posted, because he’s got a lot of them, and his other ones were pretty good, so I’ll use this one too. Of course he up and left node one day, which was problematic for anyone that lived in his stack. We don’t do this intentionally, we don’t seek to live in this celebrity culture, its just when there are so many options out there, we need all the tribal markers for quality that we can find, And that person wrote a good thing, and I like their approach to something else, so I’m gonna use all there stuff. And that’s how that sorta power accrues.

Now, the second phenomena which I think is really interesting, is as personality drives so much open source adoption the asymmetric relationships just fail to scale. Like an illustration that I was thinking of is like imagine that you found a golden lemon, and it could squeeze and infinite amount of juice, so you started an open source lemonade stand. And so you squeeze all the lemonade from that lemon all day long, for anyone who wants it. And the early adopters of your lemonade stand are gonna be like whoa you’re brilliant, this is amazing. Of course they’re gonna get sick of the lemonade and move on eventually. But once the word gets out, even though you’ll have gotten that initial fame and excitement of getting a lot of positive attention; pretty soon the line’s gonna be so long that the upper bound on how much lemonade comes out is your own physical laborious painful labor. And at that point you’re at a crossroads, you have to decide like, and this is analogous to an opensource maintainer. It’s like I don’t get any distinct joy out of this anymore, I’m mostly just doing work for people for free, and they don’t really appreciate it because they’re used to it now.

So do I continue out some sort of misplace sense of duty, or do I just quit and leave people in a lurch. I think that’s how a lot of open source projects slowly atrophy and die.

How do you think we should go about fixing this?

I think that the successful long-term sustainable open source projects are ones where a community formed around them in proportion to their growth and success. And I think all parties involved need to be A, recognize that, acknowledge that, and B accept some amount of responsibility other than treating open source like a corporate welfare program. Right, so if I’m a maintainer I acknowledge that now, after writing this talk and thinking about this a lot is like, okay so this project is a hundred stars, like I really shouldn’t be the only owner on this repo or this NPM library, or this ruby gem. Lets pull in a couple other owners because other people are joining and like oh this project is a thousand stars, like lets look at a code of conduct, a governance model, you know some kinda mission statement for what this project’s about, the core tenants.

You know oh it’s at ten thousand stars, like we should probably start to have like a technical committee so I get out of the role of dictator for life. Because it’s now way bigger than what I meant for it to be. So it’s a bit of humility right, like seeding control gradually, to avoid that burn out. But then from the perspective of users, they need to be actively seeking, and accepting like, hey you know I should be contributing back to this, and I should work with my employer to make sure that I have the time to contribute back to the projects that we use, that are interesting to me. So that they have the support that they need, so that they don’t just wither on the vine and die even though hundreds or thousands of applications might continue to depend on them.

“There is never going to be a day where you feel like your thing is ready enough for public consumption… so please just publish”

What else can project maintainers do to recruit more, and better contributors, and to reduce friction for those interested and contributing?

I really like the idea of an imagined application that was like a for putting together people that have open source projects that need additional contributors, maybe they have a lot of issues, maybe like I said they’re getting more popular and they recognize this need. With people who are looking to work on open source. Maybe they want the additional visibility or the prominence that comes from having a lot of open source stuff. Maybe they just want something to program on. Maybe they just want to improve their skills.

Whatever the reason, it would be really cool if an application, say used Oauth, or a storage of your various credentials to be like hey you use this library and that library author is looking for people. Or hey you write a lot of node JS and this person’s got a node JS project that’s got this many stars, and he’s desperate for a maintainer. Something to connect these people, because I think that if you look at the network graph of people who are publishing open source, it’s too small for them to try to solve it by you know, simply tweeting out or going to a user group and being like, hey will someone please maintain this. Because usually by the time that they know to ask for help, it’s late enough that that project is no longer appealing, like its probably mostly settled down and the only work left to do is to put up with all of the random people who want basically free tech support.

Those are some ideas, but you know short of that it’s hard, it’s better to try and solve that early than solve that late.

So in problematic projects at work, we use techniques like improving documentation, retrospectives, stand ups, pair programming to overcome some of these problems. Yet you rarely see them applied in open source projects. Do you think there is a role for these, and other ways of improving communication between maintainers, contributors, and users?

So like comparing like a product team and a business versus an open source team. It’s almost like in a product team you’ll have role players who specialize in one area or the other. In an open source team you have like a dozen people who all want to be point guard. They don’t necessarily have any incentive or organization to be a role player that slots into just like one particular aspect of the project. Unless there is somebody or some group of people who are smart enough and experienced enough to be able to … Like you just did, carve out all of these individual responsibilities. Like if we don’t do these things problems are gonna happen. Like we have to individually justify because we don’t have some boss, we don’t have a paycheck coming typically. We need to justify for ourselves why these activities are important.

Then some of them are just shit work compared to other stuff. Like everyone wants to be the genius that gets to code a thing, and gets to be famous for building it. But if you look at somebody, maybe they are a great writer, and they are a great teacher and instructor. And if they wrote the documentation pages, then that would be fantastic for the community. But that doesn’t necessarily get the same accolades or glory. And so it’s contingent on everyone else on the team to lift that person up, to point out how great they are and how they’re helping.

That’s what I see on really successful open source teams. Is giving people a reason to fill those roles that isn’t just about money. Because once you put money into it, it might as well be a starupified or productified open source, in kinda you know name but not spirit only project.

What do you think of initiatives like Todo group and Ruby together, and what more do you think companies who use open source components can be doing?

I’m friends with Brandon Keepers at Github, who’s done a lot of there work through Todo group, and it sounds like in many ways, its goal is to solve a lot of the systemic problems, or at least address as a bunch of companies realizing like hey none of us individually have an individual interest in being the one to own these shared concerns, like security audits. But we understand whenever there is one we all have a huge business risk to that.

So I love the idea of them coming together, putting a little bit of funding behind it, and seeing where it goes. I don’t think that it’s gonna turn into this thing where it’s developing a lot of standards and process that other people are gonna feel beholden to. You know they might publish some examples like an example code of conduct that you could use, or something like that to help people get started.

But I think its biggest point of value is gonna be how do we solve some of these interweaving problems, that no individual person feels responsible for. When you think organizations like Ruby Together … I don’t very much about Ruby Together per se or properly, but in conversations I’ve had with other people about things like GitTip or efforts to try to put money into projects that are commonly used as support. On one hand like sponsorships like hey we’re Ruby Gems, we need hosting, you know. That is a real clear cost. Where it gets a little muddy is … I think a lot of people have great intrinsic motivators for working on open source, and when you just kind of like put a bounty on like, hey if you get this feature done, or individual sponsorships for like, hey I want this feature, as a company in this open source thing so we’re just gonna fund two months of the developer’s time.

A lot of those are really interesting, and some of them might scale, and some of them might work. But it’s important to know that there’s still this impedance mismatch. The reason anyone starts writing an open source thing isn’t to get paid, its because it scratches an itch or it’s something that they found interesting. There’s a real risk that once you start throwing money at it, whether it’s at the individual or at the specific features and issues. You’re probably going to change the incentive structure, and alter the course of where that project goes.

So I’m a little bit more cautious around the argument that open source work is labor too, and we need to be paying directly for people’s open source labor, through some kind of like patron model. Another example of that that stands out to me, is I’ve got a friend who is a very prolific open source developer, and he could totally start a Kickstarter tomorrow and raise two hundred thousand dollars a year, if he wanted. To just do open source, and he won’t do it because he’s a smart guy, and he know that as soon as he gets however many five dollar donations it takes to get up to that number. Those are gonna act like customers, like if they don’t get the feature that they want or they don’t get their bug fixed, they’re all gonna come knocking down. Then it’s that lemonade stand problem again. Of not only do they expect the free lemonade but it was five dollar lemonade, and they paid for it and they want a refund.

So all of these things sound like solutions, but I don’t think that any of them are ever going to solve the problem of code that’s written for an egalitarian reason or a non-financially motivated reason can’t just be solved by throwing dollars at it.

“Our industry has organized itself around, essentially a lie… that faster equals better”

Can you recommend any resources to those wanting to learn more about running sustainable open source projects, or those wanting to contribute to open source more effectively?

So first, when I meet people at conferences or user groups, a lot of them will come up to me, and its like a hallway confession almost. Like hey man I like all your open source stuff and I would totally open source stuff too, I’ve got this thing that I’ve been working on for like five years, but its not ready yet, its not ready to be open sourced yet. I just want to say you know … Okay bye. So like clearly they felt the urge to come and talk to me about there not yet open source thing. But they have this kind of like intention towards contributing.

What I always tell them is that there is never going to be a day where you feel like your thing is ready enough for public consumption, that you’re just gonna flick from private to public and ready the flood gates. First of all, I probably have like 200 or 300 repositories between test double and my personal account. That calculation is expensive, I just default to open sourcing absolutely everything.

You’ve never heard of 99% of my repositories, I guarantee it, because most of them weren’t that useful, maybe didn’t go great, maybe it just didn’t get viral, and a couple others did. The only reason that those ones did get successful, is because I was defaulting to open sourcing everything that I do that doesn’t have like a strict business model in front of it.

So that’s what I tell people about getting started and open sourcing. The first place is like if you just publish everything openly, that’s going to look real good when you have all this stuff to show, even if it’s not perfect.

Oh and don’t worry about people looking at your code and judging you, because a lot of people say they read open source, but like we discussed earlier about security, no one actually reads open source. Like if there’s a bug or something they look at it, but no one’s going to read your code. They’re going to see that you have thirty repositories, and that presumably they work if they have a little green badge at the top.

So please just publish. The other bit of advice about like resources for successful, sustainable, long-term, like once something’s been successful where do you look at. I don’t think that book’s been written, I don’t think that there’s a starter pack for how to build a community. At least not in the open source world, but what I would look at, is look at the non vendor-backed very successful projects. The two that are most relevant to my personal technical experience is Ruby on Rails, and even more so EmberJS. When you look at Ember, like yes there are a handful of agencies, that kinda back it and firmly sponsor it. Like obviously Tilde is the Ember company. But they’re not Oracle, there not Facebook or Google. There a smaller group of developers that just care a lot about making a ten year framework, and putting in place all of the structure that they need to build the community around it. Now look at it, there are Ember meetups, in I think like thirty different cities, we have one here in Columbus.

There’s a very strong affinity and a strong sense of ownership by even people who just use Ember. So they’ve done a great job of leveling people up, encouraging contribution, and encouraging engagement really at every level. So look at everything that they’re doing.

Justin, thank you so much for joining us today.

Thanks so much for having me, I really appreciate it.

Anyone watching this, and wants to get in touch with me directly, please don’t be shy, just justin at testdouble dot com, I’d be happy to talk to you.

by Gareth Wilson at November 04, 2015 10:26 AM

November 03, 2015

Dave Winer

The red heart for Like is a problem

A problem with the rebranding of Favorite as Like are all the historical favorites we've created, and the symbol that Twitter has chosen for Like. 

On Facebook, there is no Heart for liking. They use a thumb-up. A lot of thought must have gone into this. We like things we don't actually like, and shrug off the confusion. But labeling it with a red heart pushes it further. 

Example: You may have Favorited something about a terrorist group, but would you have clicked on a red heart? At the very least that's going to take some getting used to.

November 03, 2015 07:35 PM

Don't cry for Mets fans!

The Mets had an unexpected great post-season. 

They were long-shots against both the Dodgers and the Cubs. I don't think the Royals were better than the Mets, but they played better. Much better. Our hitters stopped hitting, and the fielders stopped fielding. We never really were that great at hitting or fielding. So next year, I think there will be a lot of changes in everything but pitching and the outfield. The infield will look quite different, I imagine.

There were exceptions, Granderson was a steady hitter, and Flores was a dependable shortstop. 

Wright, while he leads the team spiritually is playing injured, and Murphy is a liability we clearly can't afford. We need a solid defensive second baseman. Maybe that will be Flores when Tejada comes back next season.

We clearly stay with Conforto and Legares. We might have to say goodbye to Duda at first, who could become a bench hitter, or be traded to an American League team as a DH. 

Next year all the National League teams will be gunning for our Mets. It will be a very competitive and interesting year, but there will also be lots of love, because that's what we do. 

I somewhat suspect that Cespedes and/or Murphy will end up on one of the teams the Mets play in the postseason next year. That'll be interesting! wink

November 03, 2015 07:05 PM

Taking a little break for RSI

I'm taking a little break from blogging and software-writing.

My right wrist needs a break from non-stop typing every once in a while.

It's been very good for the wrist. At first it hurt more, I think that's because the numbness was subsiding, and after a night's sleep it feels so much better I almost forgot the pain. That's a good sign!

I've been dealing with this for thirty years, on and off. Basically, RSI is a bitch. But it's hardly the worst thing in the world. And we're having glorious spring-like weather in NYC right now, so there's that. wink

November 03, 2015 07:01 PM

Mark Bernstein

Getting Started With Hypertext Narrative

I’m working on some notes about Getting Started With Hypertext Narrative to accompany the forthcoming Storyspace 3.

We’ve got some galley proofs for people who’d prefer paper and who can’t wait to get started. Good news: you can have them now, they look nice, and it’s a ludicrously limited edition. Happy to sign copies, too. Bad news: you can save money and get the eBook soon, with fewer errors and perhaps with an additional chapter on the problems of nonfiction narrative.

About 220 pages. $24.95 plus shipping. Order here.

November 03, 2015 06:57 PM


The American Right loves to pretend to be a victim. At Wikipedia, of course, the Gamergate right also loves to attack. At Wikipedia, one of their spokespeople suddenly does an about-face and endorses action against bullying -- especially my flagrantly patriarchal allusions to Shakespeare!

For example attempting to belittle another author's knowledge of Shakespeare as User:Mark Bernstein has done, is an exercise, and I would say an abuse, of power. Making accusations of criminal activity against other (blocked!) editors is an abuse of power.

So, I'm in the soup for mentioning Shakespeare and for mentioning to Gamergate’s rape and death threats. (I don’t know what incident got this fellow so hot and bothered, but I was probably alluding the Milton, anyway.)

Meanwhile, the Gamergaters have spread out to attack birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger.

November 03, 2015 06:42 PM

Dave Winer

Twitter says "Favorite" is now "Like"

It's so interesting that Twitter is changing "Favorite" to "Like".

That's the gravitational pull of Facebook.

Much as Twitter and Google Reader exerted tremendous pull on blogs Facebook is pulling Twitter.  And it's the right move for Twitter. Holding on to non-interoperable terminology is just putting off the inevitable.  

I've been here before, many times myself.


  1. Can the removal of the 140-char limit be far behind? Look at this blog post by Twitter friend Chris Sacca, in a tweet, as an image. This path must be cut off. Let's get some real text reading features into Twitter itself asap. 
  2. Maybe they'll use the new Like as a signal for more algorithmic reading?
  3. I imagine there's some angst out there about this change. Haven't seen much evidence of it in my timeline.
  4. An analogy -- when the term "blog" was catching on, we were calling them weblogs. We could have insisted on using the original term, or go with the flow. We went with the flow.
  5. Another -- we had an API for our CMS but when Blogger added one, we immediately supported it, even though it wasn't as complete as ours. Because if we did, we'd have a standard, the two biggest blogging platforms were compatible. It doesn't happen very often, because usually tech companies insist that their way is the best way. I say when there's a chance to agree, take it.

November 03, 2015 05:04 PM

An idea for Gabe & TechMeme

Here's a screen shot of an item on TechMeme right now. 

I'd like to see the tweets on a separate page, expanded, so I can read them all without having to click on and load each one.

It would make it a lot quicker to get the range of ideas of people on Twitter. 

November 03, 2015 04:57 PM

Alex Schroeder


Was war ich nicht begeistert, früher.

Dann habe ich festgestellt, dass ich nichts davon gelesen habe. Verstaubt alles auf der Festplatte.

OK, den Megadungeon, der in Fight On! erschienen ist, habe ich immer wieder mal verwendet. Der hat aber auch fantastische Kritiken von Bryce erhalten. [1] [2] [3]

Aber ansonsten ist nichts hängen geblieben.

Siehe auch Periodicals bei RPG Geek.


November 03, 2015 03:56 PM

Tim Ferriss



“The FDA may see ketones as a drug. I see them as a fourth macronutrient. You have fats, proteins, and carbs. Ketones are an energy-containing molecule.” – Dom D’Agostino

Dr. Dominic “Dom” D’Agostino (@DominicDAgosti2) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, and a Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC).

He has also deadlifted 500 pounds for 10 reps after a seven-day fast.

He’s a beast and — no big surprise — he’s a good buddy of Dr. Peter Attia, my MD friend who drinks “jet fuel” in search of optimal athletic performance.

The primary focus of Dom’s laboratory is developing and testing metabolic therapies, including ketogenic diets, ketone esters and ketone supplements to induce nutritional/therapeutic ketosis. D’Agostino’s laboratory uses in vivo and in vitro techniques to understand the physiological, cellular and molecular mechanism of metabolic therapies and nutritional strategies for peak performance and resilience. His research is supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Department of Defense (DoD), private organizations and foundations.


Want to hear another podcast discussing ketosis from a world class scientist? — Listen to my conversation with Dr. Peter Attia. In this episode, we discuss life-extension, drinking jet fuel, ultra-endurance, human foie gras, and more (stream below or right-click here to download):

This podcast is brought to you by Audible. I have used Audible for years and I love audio books. I have 2 to recommend:

All you need to do to get your free audiobook and a free 30-day trial is go to Choose one of the above books, or choose between more than 180,000 audio programs. That could be a book, a newspaper, a magazine or even a class. It’s that easy. Go to and get started today. Enjoy!

This podcast is also brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. I have used them for years to create some amazing designs. When your business needs a logo, website design, business card, or anything you can imagine, check out 99Designs.

I used them to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body, and I’ve also had them help with display advertising and illustrations. If you want a more personalized approach, I recommend their 1-on-1 service, which is non-spec. You get original designs from designers around the world. The best part? You provide your feedback, and then you end up with a product that you’re happy with or your money back. Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade.  Give it a test run…

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What questions do you have about ketogenic diets that we didn’t discuss in this podcast? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

Facebook | TwitterUniversity of South Florida

Show Notes

      • How Dom D’Agostino responds when someone asks him, “what do you do?” [5:28]
      • Describing the Institutional Review Board (IRB) [9:53]
      • Research on advanced lifters in a state of ketosis [12:13]
      • Thoughts on getting big (hypertrophy) and strong while in a state of ketosis [15:53]
      • Defining ketones and ketosis [20:48]
      • The implications of fasting, nutritional ketosis and/or exogenous ketones for preventing/mitigating the onset of neurodegenerative diseases [28:23]
      • Defining cachexia, sarcopenia, anabolism, and catabolism [30:48]
      • Thoughts on the use of anabolic agents in cancer patients [34:48]
      • The advantage of SARMS instead of pre-existing low androgenic anabolic therapies [38:53]
      • To what extent is it possible to mimic the benefits of pre-chemo therapy fasting with exogenous ketones? [43:23]
      • How to accelerate the induction of ketone projection through use of exogenous ketones[49:18]
      • Ketone esters [56:13]
      • The benefits of eating exogenous ketones while in a carbohydrate attractive environment (for example, when traveling in Italy) [1:16:08]
      • What a traveling ketogenic breakfast looks like [1:20:43]
      • Reasons for using glutamine [1:25:08]
      • Thoughts on being considered a “nutritionist” [1:32:18]
      • The impact of Metformin on the survival rates of animals that have metastatic cancer [1:41:38]
      • If Dom D’Agostino learned that he had advanced cancer, what tools would he use to fight it? [1:46:18]
      • Thoughts on therapeutic fasting [2:03:03]
      • Observations of people who experiment with fasting [2:08:23]
      • Describing the risks and toxicities of consuming a cocktail of exogenous ketones [2:14:33]
      • Unusual foods or beverages that spike ketone levels [2:22:45]
      • Top resources for those seeking to learn about a ketogenic diet [2:41:33]
      • Most gifted books [2:43:13]
      • How to approach fighting Lyme Disease with the ketogenic diet [2:50:18]
      • The effect of ketosis on mitochondria [2:53:18]
      • Healing from use of antibiotics [2:55:53]

People Mentioned


by Tim Ferriss at November 03, 2015 02:57 PM

November 02, 2015

Alex Schroeder


Reading the Dungeon World chapter on fronts makes me want to rewrite the list of open plots and the todo lists for a quest or two, and the list of random upcoming campaign changes as fronts. Perhaps that would make all these things clearer to me. Now that I think about it, my campaign threats are a confusing mess of half baked ideas. They work – I think – but perhaps they’d work better if written up as fronts.

See the picture on the right for what I have for my campaign fronts. I probably have one or two more which I don’t consider to be a urgent. One thing I noticed is that the old structure of my notes was this: if you want to resurrect Arden, you need to do the following… and what followed was a list of quests, each of which I felt would make a nice adventure, should the players decide to follow up on it. The write-up as front changes the setup: if players don’t resurrect Arden, his insanity will spread, somebody else will take the throne of light and so on. I’m not sure I like this shift from “this is a sandbox and whatever you want to achieve will be full of adventure” to “the world will go from bad to worse if you don’t take matters into your own hands”. I suddenly feel like might be preparing two or three campaign arcs or adventure paths… a kind of campaign setup I tried to avoid because players end up feeling like they have less choice. Everything is falling to pieces and there is pressure everywhere and time is running out and go, go, go!

This seems to be the biggest difference in terms of how fronts work compared to my traditional preparations. In my sandbox, players get interested in things, they learn more about it, they formulate goals and then they discover all the difficulties that need to be overcome. The world is essentially static.

Sure, we like to talk about “living” sandboxes and all that but my campaign events are random intrusions where I think to myself, “an invasion of mind-flayers sounds great” and then the setting starts to change.

This process is less structured than the fronts of Dungeon World. Fronts are also tied into moves, so a failed roll by a player can advance a front.

No such thing happened in my sandboxes. People felt free to calmly consider the missions they care about and do some horse trading: “You’ll help me bring down Susrael and I’ll help you bring back the fire giant’s wife, OK?” Fronts put pressure on players and I don’t think they’ll feel as free to pick and choose because there will be consequences, always.

Anyway, I recently bought Freebooters on the Frontier, A Book of Beasts, Perilous Almanacs, The Perilous Wilds and The Perilous Wilds Survival Kit by Jason Lutes as well as Dungeon World by Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel.

Comments here or on G+.


November 02, 2015 07:08 PM

John Udell

Windows 10 hardware tale has a happy ending

I'm pretty sure I now hold the world record for most 2-in-1 Windows 10 PCs owned by a single lunatic individual.

Our story begins where it ended two weeks ago: I'd run into problems with a Lenovo Yoga 3 14 and made arrangements to return it. Then I bought an HP Spectre x360, found it had the same problem (an unnecessary Realtek startup item), solved it on both machines, returned the Yoga, and ended here:

After all these years, though, I'm still not ready to declare the 2-in-1 category ready for prime time. The shotgun marriage of conventional and touch interfaces is still awkwardly consummated -- and drivers struggle to keep up with the evolution of hardware. Maybe the Surface Book will finally show the way. Meanwhile I'll use the Spectre x360 with Windows 10, which, despite flaws, is a sweet combination. But the smug superiority I was planning to unleash on my hipster Mac friends will have to wait.
[ Part 1: Windows 10 hardware is off to a shaky start | Everything you need to know about Windows 10, in a handy PDF. Download it today! | For the latest changes and updates, see "Where Windows 10 stands right now." | Stay up on key Microsoft technologies with the Windows newsletter. ]

That was an understatement. A few days after writing that column, the HP's touchscreen became partly unresponsive. I took Spectre No. 1 back to Best Buy and exchanged it for Spectre No. 2. A week later its audio went glitchy. Thus, I exchanged Spectre No. 2 for Spectre No. 3, which works beautifully so far.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

by Jon Udell at November 02, 2015 11:00 AM

November 01, 2015

Dave Winer

We believe, we're Mets fans

Nothing to say about last night's game other than this -- the Mets lost.

As with Game 1, we were within reach of a win, and then made mistakes. Last nights' were worse. I'm not going to list them, read today's stories on, I'm sure the sports columnists will catalog them. 

It's going to be hard to come out of this. But we will, one way or another. There's always the spirit of Mookie. And Yogi. It ain't over till it's over, they both taught us. And Tug McGraw's You Gotta Believe. That's what Mets fans do, we believe. 

November 01, 2015 01:21 PM

October 31, 2015


MPI sans the mud.

This README (signed)

Hash: SHA512
What you see here is a very classic version of the GNU MPI (bignum) library.
It has been surgically removed from GnuPG 1.4.10, specifically as found at:
SHA512(gnupg-1.4.10.tar.gz) :
1) Everything pertaining to Automake was nuked, and the earth where it stood -
   Instead, we now have a conventional Makefile. It builds precisely
   ONE THING - a single 'mpi.a' library suitable for static linking into
   another project. This will turn up in 'bin'.
   Among other things, this now means that all KNOBS now reside in a
   MANUALLY-controlled 'config.h' found in 'include'.  If you are building
   on some very peculiar unix, please read it and adjust as appropriate.
   It contains ONLY those knobs which actually pertain to the code.
   The Makefile contains a 'check-syntax' - users of Emacs and Flymake
   will see proper error-highlighting.
2) ALL chip-specific ASM optimizations (including those found in longlong.h)
   have been nuked.
3) GPG-specific cruft has been amputated to the extent practical.
   The logging system has been retained, but it can be easily torn out,
   which I may choose to do in the near future.
   The I/O buffering system has been retained. I may choose to remove it
   in the near future.
   The 'secure memory' (unpageable alloc) system has been retained.
   'Localization' and all related idiocies have been nuked.
   Write hieroglyphs at home, leave them there, civilized folk
   don't need'em in their source code.
4) Other code has been altered solely to the extent required by items
   (1) and (2).
   Cruft which appears in dead #ifdefs may be removed in the future.
   Don't get comfortable with it being there.
5) Readers who wish to know EXACTLY what I changed, should get a copy of the
   original tarball and write a simple script involving 'find' and 'vdiff',
   which sadly did not fit in the margins of this page.
6) To use the library, include 'include/mpi.h' in your project,
   and statically link with 'bin/mpi.a'.
7) The original code was distributed under GPL 3, which may apply on
   your planet and is therefore included. (See COPYING.)
Version: GnuPG v1.4.10 (GNU/Linux)

You will need the V versionatron to use the ‘v-genesis’.

  1. Item (4) should read ‘(1), (2), and (3)‘ instead of ‘(1) and (2)‘.
  2. Users of modern Gnu GMP might expect a cryptographic entropy generator.  This MPI does not contain one – it was a separate subsystem. At some point I may do a similar surgical extraction for GPG 1.4.10’s entropy gatherer, but this is a very different project.

by Stanislav at October 31, 2015 06:11 PM

Alex Schroeder

Reputation, again

I’ve been thinking about a system to track reputations again and again over the years. They never seem to work as intended. The players are not too invested.

In 2009, I thought of something I called “the gods are watching you.”. If you do something to please or annoy a particular god, you gain a reputation. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. The gods will know you whether you’re building their temples or desecrating their altars. Reputation is neutral, so to say. I still like this part. The trouble is keeping track of it all.

In 2010, I proposed a system based on quests. Depending on the importance of the deed, the limit for gaining reputation would shift. To raise your reputation from +2 to +4, for example, it was no longer enough to save a life (or sacrifice a life) – you had to basically save (or destroy) entire settlements.

In 2012, I proposed to modify the system in order to allow players to roll dice. I thought that this would get players more invested. They might ask me, “Hey, don’t I get to roll my reputation die?” If I modify their reputation between sessions as part of writing the session report, it doesn’t have the same kind of impact as when we’re sitting at the table, negotiating reputation effects and rolling dice. Sadly, it still hasn’t taken off.

Today, I saw a blog post by Cecil Howe called Guilty By Association: A Simple, Visual REP System which has a little PDF with a system that allows you to keep visual track of reputation. (Also on Google+.)

                     Character: ______________

Faction             Negative     Bonus      Positive
	       ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌───┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ 
               ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ │   │ ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ 
_____________  └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ └───┘ └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ 
	       ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌───┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ 
	       ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ │   │ ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ 
_____________  └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ └───┘ └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ 
	       ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌───┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ ┌─┬─┐ 
	       ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ │   │ ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ ├─┼─┤ 
_____________  └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ └───┘ └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ └─┴─┘ 

Perhaps I should do something similar? You could keep track of both positive and negative elements and get a clearer picture. Perhaps if we had a sheet at the table, they’d be more invested?


October 31, 2015 09:02 AM

Reinventing Business

Ignore Everybody

Always good to be reminded of this -- especially appropriate for the ideas in this blog.

by (Bruce Eckel) at October 31, 2015 03:43 AM

October 30, 2015

Mark Bernstein


When I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split. – Raymond Chandler, Selected Letters

October 30, 2015 07:40 PM

The Gone-Away World

A dazzling and delightful book about a world gone wrong. In the present, we’re part of a freelance, world-saving mercenary company that’s driving hell-for-leather through bizarre dangers to extinguish an industrial conflagration that imperils the world. In the past, we’re an orphan who is adopted by a cool older brother named Gonzo and who is taken into a strange California suburban dojo, the Order Of The Silent Dragon. We always know these threads will merge, but the actual terms of the merger are metaphysically unexpected and unexpectedly metaphysical.

Harkaway is the son of John Le Carré and acknowledges Balzac, Dumas, and Conan Doyle as influences. I think this book may be overlong, but it’s very well written.

October 30, 2015 05:30 PM

Fog Creek

Improved GitHub Integration – Automatically Create Bug Events with Commits

With our new Bug Event integration with GitHub, you can automatically create Bug Events in FogBugz cases when pushing commits to a GitHub repository.

Give Context and Track Your Work

This means that it’s now easier to track your work on code in GitHub from within FogBugz. Whenever you push a commit related to a case or set of cases, you can indicate the FogBugz case numbers in your GitHub commit message and the commit will show up as an event in those cases. So you and your team can track the work done on a particular case, and provide context about why a particular changeset has been committed.

Keep up with your Team

This is handy for managers too as you can follow which tasks have had code committed against them. You’re now able to read the history of code commits from within a FogBugz case too. So with this information, you can have much more detailed and productive conversations with the developers you work with.

What You See

The Bug Event includes all of the fundamental information about the commit message. So you can see the author’s name, the branches it resides in, the tags it belongs to, and the repository in which it was pushed. If a commit is not yet in the master branch, it’s clearly shown, and if a Pull Request is pending, then that’s highlighted too. Note though that the GitHub integration is one-way, from GitHub to FogBugz. Sadly, there’s no way to make something happen on a GitHub repository from a third-party.

FogBugz GitHub Bug Event

How It Works

When pushing a changeset to a configured GitHub repository, add the case numbers you want to the end of the commit message, like follows: “case[s][:] {number}[, {number}, … ]”


  • Added support for self-healing Terminators. case 45923
  • Included new Enterprise starship. cases 943, 12323
  • New bitcoin mining algorithm. case: 23999

It’s available now, so for more information about setting up and using our GitHub integration, check out our Help pages.

by Gareth Wilson at October 30, 2015 04:22 PM

Dave Winer

I made the mistake of watching the Knicks last night.

I got suckered in. It was a travel day in the World Series. And the Knicks had won their first game in a blowout. Everyone was saying This is not last year's Knicks. 

One quarter was all I could take. After all the glory of the Mets, it's so hard to go back to the Knicks. 

October 30, 2015 01:04 PM

The hopelessness of the Knicks

For people unfamiliar with NY sports, it must seem like we're all Yankees fans, but we're not. Each of our teams appeal to different flaws of NYC human nature. The Mets appeal to the believers. I'm not going to say what the Yankees appeal to. 

The Knicks are all about losing in ever-more-hopeless ways. It would be one thing if there was a future in our future. But there isn't. This is a team that trades away top draft picks in return for big-contract failures, who stay on the payroll long after they are gone. Maybe that part is over now with the new regime. But we're still paying for the lunacy of the past. Anyway the Knicks are hopeless and not fun. 

The only things the Knicks really have going for them are: 1. The Garden. 2. Clyde. That's about it. And the memory of a long-ago team that exuded confidence, competence, even scholarship. The Knicks did at one point deserve New York, but that was a long long time ago.

October 30, 2015 03:37 AM

Tim Ferriss


Matt_9509255413_99c9a1a118_z (Photo: Michael Matti)

The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.
– Lin Yutang

Discipline equals freedom.
Jocko Willink

This post will attempt to teach you how to say “no” when it matters most.

At the very least, it will share my story of getting there. It’s a doozy.

Here’s the short version:

I’m taking a long break from investing in new startups. No more advising, either. Please don’t send me any pitches or introductions, as I sadly won’t be able to respond. Until further notice, I am done. I might do the same with interviews, conferences, and much more.

Now, the longer version for those interested:

This post will attempt to explain how I think about investing, overcoming “fear of missing out” (FOMO), and otherwise reducing anxiety.

It’s also about how to kill the golden goose, when the goose is no longer serving you.

I’ll dig into one specifically hard decision — to say “no” to startup investing, which is easily the most lucrative activity in my life. Even if you don’t view yourself as an “investor”—which you are, whether you realize it or not—the process I used to get to no should be useful…

[Warning: If you’re bored by investment stuff, skip the next two bulleted lists.]

Caveat for any investing pros reading this:

  • I realize there are exceptions to every “rule” I use. Most of this post is as subjective as the fears I felt.
  • My rules might be simplistic, but they’ve provided a good ROI and the ability to sleep. Every time I’ve tried to get “sophisticated,” the universe has kicked me in the nuts.
  • Many startup investors use diametrically opposed approaches and do very well.
  • There are later-stage investments I’ve made (2-4x return deals) that run counter to some of what’s below (e.g. aiming for 10x+), but those typically involve a discount to book value, due to distressed sellers or some atypical event.
  • Many concepts are simplified to avoid confusing a lay audience.

Related announcements:

  • I will continue working closely with my current portfolio of startups. I love them and believe in them.
  • I will be returning all unallocated capital in my private Stealth Fund on AngelList. If you’re an investor in that fund, you’ll be getting your remaining money back. My public Syndicate will remain in place for later re-entry into the game.

So, why am I tapping out now and shifting gears?

Below are the key questions I asked to arrive at this cord-cutting conclusion.  I revisit these questions often, usually every month.

I hope they help you remove noise and internal conflict from your life.

The Road to No


I remember a breakfast with Kamal Ravikant roughly one year ago.

Standing in a friend’s kitchen downing eggs, lox, and coffee, we spoke about our dreams, fears, obligations, and lives. Investing had become a big part of my net-worth and my identity. Listing out the options I saw for my next big moves, I asked him if I should raise a fund and become a full-time venture capitalist (VC), as I was already doing the work but trying to balance it with 5-10 other projects. He could sense my anxiety. It wasn’t a dream of mine; I simply felt I’d be stupid not to strike while the iron was hot.

He thought very carefully in silence and then said: “I’ve been at events where people come up to you crying because they’ve lost 100-plus pounds on the Slow-Carb Diet. You will never have that impact as a VC. If you don’t invest in a company, they’ll just find another VC. You’re totally replaceable.”

He paused again and ended with, “Please don’t stop writing.”

I’ve thought about that conversation every day since.

For some people, being a VC is their calling and they are the Michael Jordan-like MVPs of that world. They should cultivate that gift. But if I stop investing, no one will miss it. In 2015, that much is clear. There have never been more startup investors, and–right along with them–founders basing “fit” on highest valuation and previously unheard of terms. There are exceptions, of course, but it’s crowded. If I exit through the side door, the startup party will roll on uninterrupted.

Now, I’m certainly not the best writer in the world. I have no delusions otherwise. People like John McPhee and Michael Lewis make me want to cry into my pillow and brand “Poser” on my forehead.

BUT… if I stop writing, perhaps I’m squandering the biggest opportunity I have—created through much luck—to have a lasting impact on the greatest number of people. This feeling of urgency has been multiplied 100-fold in the last two months, as several close friends have died in accidents no one saw coming. Life is fucking short. Put another way: a long life is far from guaranteed. Nearly everyone dies before they’re ready.

I’m tired of being interchangeable, no matter how lucrative the game. Even if I’m wrong about the writing, I’d curse myself if I didn’t give it a shot.

Are you squandering your unique abilities? Or the chance to find them in the first place?


Philosopher-programmer Derek Sivers is one of my favorite people.

His incisive thinking has always impressed me, and his “hell, yeah!” or “no” essay has become one of my favorite rules of thumb. From his blog:

Those of you who often over-commit or feel too scattered may appreciate a new philosophy I’m trying: If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then I say no.

Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than, “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” – then my answer is no. When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!”

We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.

To become “successful,” you have to say “yes” to a lot of experiments.  To learn what you’re best at, or what you’re most passionate about, you have to throw a lot against the wall.

Once your life shifts from pitching outbound to defending against inbound, however, you have to ruthlessly say “no” as your default. Instead of throwing spears, you’re holding the shield.

From 2007-2009 and again from 2012-2013, I said yes to way too many “cool” things. Would I like to go to a conference in South America? Write a time-consuming guest article for a well-known magazine? Invest in a start-up that five of my friends were in? “Sure, that sounds kinda cool,” I’d say, dropping it in the calendar. Later, I’d pay the price of massive distraction and overwhelm. My agenda became a list of everyone else’s agendas.

Saying yes to too much “cool” will bury you alive and render you a B-player, even if you have A-player skills. To develop your edge initially, you learn to set priorities; to maintain your edge, you need to defend against the priorities of others.

Once you reach a decent level of professional success, lack of opportunity won’t kill you. It’s drowning in 7-out-of-10 “cool” commitments that will sink the ship.

These days, I find myself saying “Hell, yes!” less and less with new startups. That’s my cue to exit stage left, especially when I can do work I love (e.g. writing) with 1/10th the energy expenditure.

I need to stop sowing the seeds of my own destruction.


One of my favorite time-management essays is “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” by Paul Graham of Y Combinator fame. Give it a read.

As Brad Feld and many others have observed, great creative work isn’t possible if you’re trying to piece together 30 minutes here and 45 minutes there. Large, uninterrupted block of time — 3-5 hours minimum — create the space needed to find and connect the dots. And one block per week isn’t enough.  There has to be enough slack in the system for multi-day CPU-intensive synthesis. For me, this means at least 3-4 mornings per week where I am in “maker” mode until at least 1pm.

If I’m in reactive mode, maker mode is all but impossible. Email and texts of “We’re overcommitted but might be able to squeeze you in for $25K. Closing tomorrow. Interested?” are creative kryptonite.

I miss writing, creating, and working on bigger projects. YES to that means NO to any games of whack-a-mole.


In excess, most things take on the characteristics of their opposite. Thus:

Pacifists become militants.
Freedom fighters become tyrants.
Blessings become curses.
Help becomes hinderance.
More becomes less.

To explore this concept more, read up on Aristotle’s golden mean.

In my first 1-2 years of angel investing, 90%+ of my bets were in a tiny sub-set of startups. The criteria were simple:

  • Consumer-facing products or services
  • Products I could be a dedicated “power user” of, products that scratched a personal itch
  • Initial target demographic of 25-40-year old tech-savvy males in big US cities like SF, NYC, Chicago, LA, etc. (allowed me to accelerate growth/scaling with my audience)
  • <$10M pre-money valuation
  • Demonstrated traction and consistent growth (not doctored with paid acquisition).
  • No “party rounds”—crowded financing rounds with no clear lead investor. Party rounds often lead to poor due diligence and few people with enough skin in the game to really care.

Checking these boxes allowed me to add a lot of value quickly, even as relatively cheap labor (i.e. I took a tiny stake in the company). Shopify is a great example, which you can read about here (scroll down).

My ability to help spread via word of mouth, and I got what I wanted: great “deal flow.” Deals started flowing in en masse from other founders and investors.

Fast forward to 2015, and great deal flow is now paralyzing the rest of my life.  I’m drowning in inbound.

Instead of making great things possible in my life, it’s preventing great things from happening.

I’m excited to go back to basics, and this requires cauterizing blessings that have become burdens.


For me, the goal of “investing” has always been simple: to allocate resources (e.g. money, time, energy) to improve quality of life. This is a personal definition, as yours likely will be.

Some words are so overused as to have become meaningless.  If you find yourself using nebulous terms like “success,” “happiness,” or “investing,” it pays to explicitly define them or stop using them. “What would it look like if I had (or won at) ___ ?” helps. Life favors the specific ask and punishes the vague wish.

So, here: to allocate resources (e.g. money, time, energy) to improve quality of life.

This applies to both the future and the present. I am willing to accept a mild and temporary 10% decrease in current quality of life (based on morale in journaling) for a high-probability 10x return, whether the ROI comes in the form of cash, time, energy, or otherwise. That could be a separate blog post, but conversely:

An investment that produces a massive financial ROI but makes me a complete nervous mess, or causes insomnia and temper tantrums for a long period of time, is NOT a good investment.

I don’t typically invest in public stocks for this reason, even when I know I’m leaving cash on the table. My stomach can’t take the ups and downs, but—like drivers rubbernecking to look at a wreck—I seem incapable of not looking. I will compulsively check Google News and Google Finance, despite knowing it’s self-sabotage. I become Benjamin Graham’s Mr. Market. As counter-examples, friends like Kevin Rose and Chris Sacca have different programming and are comfortable playing in that sandbox. They can be rational instead of reactive.

Suffice to say — For me, a large guaranteed decrease in present quality of life doesn’t justify a large speculative return.

One could argue that I should work on my reactivity instead of avoiding stocks. I’d agree on tempering reactivity, but I’d disagree on fixing weaknesses as a primary investment (or life) strategy.

All of my biggest wins have come from leveraging strengths instead of fixing weaknesses. Investing is hard enough without having to change your core behaviors. Don’t push a boulder up a hill just because you can.

Public market sharks will eat me alive in their world, but I’ll beat 99% of them in my little early-stage startup sandbox. I live in the middle of the informational switch box and know the operators.

From 2007 until recently, I paradoxically found start-up investing very low-stress. Ditto with some options trading. Though high-risk, I do well with binary decisions. In other words, I do a ton of homework and commit to an investment that I cannot reverse. That “what’s done is done” aspect allows me to sleep well at night, as there is no buy-sell choice for the foreseeable future. I’m protected from my lesser, flip-flopping self. That has produced more than a few 10-100x investments.

In the last two years, however, my quality of life has suffered.

As fair-weather investors and founders have flooded the “hot” tech scene, it’s become a deluge of noise. Where there were once a handful of micro VCs, for instance, there are now hundreds. Private equity firms and hedge funds are betting earlier and earlier. It’s become a crowded playing field. Here’s what that has meant for me personally:

  • I get 50-100 pitches per week. This creates an inbox problem, but it gets worse, as…
  • Many of these are unsolicited “cold intros,” where other investors will email me and CC 2-4 founders with “I’d love for you to meet A, B, and C” without asking if they can share my e-mail address
  • Those founders then “loop in” other people, and it cascades horribly from there. Before I know it 20-50 people I don’t know are emailing me questions and requests.
  • As a result, I’ve had to declare email bankruptcy twice in the last six months. It’s totally untenable.

Is there a tech bubble? That question is beyond my pay grade, and it’s also beside the point.

Even if I were guaranteed there would be no implosion for 3-5 years, I’d still exit now. Largely due to communication overload, I’ve lost my love for the game.  On top of that, the marginal minute now matters more to me than the marginal dollar.

But why not cut back 50%, or even 90%, and be more selective?  Good question. That’s next…


The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
– Richard P. Feynman

Where in your life are you good at moderation? Where are you an all-or-nothing type? Where do you lack a shut-off switch? It pays to know thyself.

The Slow-Carb Diet succeeds where other diets fail for many reasons, but the biggest is this: It accepts default human behaviors versus trying to fix them. Rather than say “don’t cheat” or “you can no longer eat X,” we plan weekly “cheat days” (usually Saturdays) in advance. People on diets will cheat regardless, so we mitigate the damage by pre-scheduling it and limiting it to 24 hours.

Outside of cheat days, slow carbers keep “domino foods” out of their homes. What are domino foods? Foods that could be acceptable if humans had strict portion control, but that are disallowed because practically none of us do. Common domino foods include:

  • Chickpeas
  • Peanut butter
  • Salted cashews
  • Alcohol

Domino triggers aren’t limited to food. For some people, if they play 15 minutes of World of Warcraft, they’ll play 15 hours. It’s zero or 15 hours.

For me, startups are a domino food.

In theory, “I’ll only do one deal a month” or “I’ll only do two deals a quarter” sound great, but I’ve literally NEVER seen it work for myself or any of my VC or angel friends. Sure, there are ways to winnow down the pitches. Yes, you can ask “Is this one of the top 1-2 entrepreneurs you know?” to any VC who intro’s a deal and reject any “no”s. But what if you commit to two deals a quarter and see two great ones the first week? What then? If you invest in those two, will you be able to ignore every incoming pitch for the next 10 weeks?

Not likely.

For me, it’s all or nothing. I can’t be half pregnant with startup investing.  Whether choosing 2 or 20 startups per year, you have to filter them from the total incoming pool.

If I let even one startup through, another 50 seem to magically fill up my time (or at least my inbox). I don’t want to hire staff for vetting, so I’ve concluded I must ignore all new startup pitches and intros.

Know where you can moderate and where you can’t.


After contracting Lyme disease and operating at ~10% capacity for nine months, I made health #1. Prior to Lyme, I’d worked out and eaten well, but when push came to shove, “health #1” was negotiable. Now, it’s literally #1. What does this mean?

If I sleep poorly and have an early morning meeting, I’ll cancel the meeting last-minute if needed and catch up on sleep. If I’ve missed a workout and have a con-call coming up in 30 minutes? Same. Late-night birthday party with a close friend? Not unless I can sleep in the next morning. In practice, strictly making health #1 has real social and business ramifications. That’s a price I’ve realized I MUST be fine paying, or I could lose weeks or months to sickness or fatigue.

Making health #1 50% of the time doesn’t work. It’s absolute — all or nothing. If it’s #1 50% of the time, you’ll compromise precisely when it’s most important.

The artificial urgency common to startups makes mental and physical health even more challenging. I’m tired of unwarranted last-minute “hurry up and sign” emergencies and related fire drills. It’s a culture of cortisol.


[NOTE: Two investors friends found this bullet slow, as they’re immersed in similar subjects. Feel free to skip if it drags on, but I think there are a few important novice concepts in here.]

“Correlated” means that investments tend to move up or down in value at the same time.

As legendary hedge fund manager Ray Dalio told Tony Robbins: “It’s almost certain that whatever you’re going to put your money in, there will come a day when you will lose 50 percent to 70 percent.” It pays to remember that if you lose 50%, you need a subsequent 100% return to get back to where you started. That math is tough.

So, how to de-risk your portfolio?

Many investors “rebalance” across asset classes to maintain certain ratios (e.g. X% in bonds, Y% in stocks, Z% in commodities, etc.). If one asset class jumps, they liquidate a part of it a buy more of lower performing classes. There are pros and cons to this, but it’s common practice.

From 2007-2009, during the “real-world MBA” that taught me to angel invest, <15% of my liquid assets were in startups. I was taking a barbell approach to investing. But most startups are illiquid. I commonly can’t sell shares until 7-12 years after I invest, at least for my big winners to date. What does that mean? In 2015, startups comprise more than 80% of my assets. Yikes!

Since I can’t sell, the simplest first step for lowering stress is to stop investing in illiquid assets.

I’ve sold large portions of liquid stocks—mostly early start-up investments in China–to help get me to “sleep at night” levels, even if they are lower than historical highs of the last 6-12 months. Beware of anchoring to former high prices (e.g. “I’ll sell when it gets back to X price per share…”). I only have 1-2 stock holdings remaining.

Some of you might suggest hedging with short positions, and I’d love to, but it’s not my forte. If you have ideas for doing so without huge exposure or getting into legal gray areas, please let me know in the comments.

In the meantime, the venture capital model is mostly a bull market business. Not much shorting opportunity. The best approximation I’ve seen is investing in businesses like Uber, which A) have a lot of international exposure (like US blue chips), and B) could be considered macro-economically counter-cyclical. For instance, it’s conceivable a stock market correction or crash could simultaneously lead fewer people to buy cars and/or more people to sign up as Uber drivers to supplement or replace their jobs. Ditto with Airbnb and others that have more variable than fixed costs compared to incumbents (e.g. Hilton).


I’m in startups for the long game. In some capacity, I plan to be doing this 20+ years from now.

The reality: If you’re spending your own money, or otherwise not banking on management fees, you can wait for the perfect pitches, even if it takes years. It might not be the “best” approach, but it’s enough. To get rich beyond your wildest dreams in startup investing, it isn’t remotely necessary to bet on a Facebook or Airbnb every year. If you get a decent bet on ONE of those non-illusory, real-business unicorns every 10 years, or if you get 2-3 investments that turn $25K into $2.5M, you can retire and have a wonderful quality of life. Many would argue that you need to invest in 50-100 startups to find that one lottery ticket. Maybe. I think it’s possible to narrow the odds quite a bit more, and a lot of it is predicated on maintaining stringent criteria; ensuring you have an informational, analytical, or behavioral advantage; and TIMING.

Most of my best investments were made during the “Dot-com Depression” of 2008-2009 (e.g. Uber, Shopify, Twitter, etc.), when only the hardcore remained standing on a battlefield littered with startup bodies. In lean times, when startups no longer grace magazine covers, founders are those who cannot help but build a company. LinkedIn in 2002 is another example.

HOWEVER… This doesn’t mean there aren’t great deals out there.  There are. Great companies are still built during every “frothy” period.

The froth just makes my job and detective work 10x harder, and the margin of safety becomes much narrower.

[Tim: Skip this boxed text if the concept of “margin of safety” is old news to you.]

Think of the “margin of safety” as wiggle room.

Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors of the 20th century and a self-described “value investor.” He aims to buy stocks at a discount (below intrinsic value) so that even with a worst-case scenario, he can do well. This discount is referred to as the “margin of safety,” and it’s the bedrock principle of some of the brightest minds in the investing world (e.g., Seth Klarman). It doesn’t guarantee a good investment, but it allows room for error.  Back in the startup world…

I want each of my investments, if successful, to have the ability to return my “entire fund,” which is how much capital I’ve earmarked for startups over two years, for instance. This usually means potential for a minimum 10X return. That 10X minimum is an important part of my recipe that allows margin for screw ups.

For the fund-justifying ROI to have a snowball’s chance in hell of happening, I must A) know basic algebra to ensure my investment amounts (check sizes) permit it, and B) avoid companies that seem overpriced, where the 10x price is something the world has never seen before (i.e. no even indirect comparables, or tenable extrapolations from even an expanded market size).

If you throw low-due-diligence Hail Mary’s everywhere and justify it with “they could be the next Uber!”, you will almost certainly be killed by 1,000 slow-bleeding $25K paper cuts. Despite current euphoria, applying something like Pascal’s Wager to startups is a great way to go broke.

Good startup investors who suggest being “promiscuous” are still methodical.

It’s popular in startup land to talk about “moonshots”—the impossibly ambitious startups that will either change the world or incinerate themselves into star dust.

I’m a fan of funding ballsy founders (which includes women), and I want many moonshots to be funded, but here’s the reality of my portfolio: as I’ve signed the investment docs for every big success I’ve had, I’ve always thought, “I will never lose money on this deal.”

The “this will be a home run or nothing” deals usually end up at nothing. I’m not saying such deals can’t work, but I try not to specialize in them.

These days, the real unicorns aren’t the media darlings with billion-dollar valuations. Those have become terrifyingly passé. The unicorns are the high-growth startups with a reasonable margin of safety.

Fortunately, I’m not in a rush, and I can wait for the tide to shift.

If you simply wait for blood in the streets, for when true believers are the only ones left, you can ensure come-hell-or-high-water founders are at least half of your meetings.

It might be morbid, but it’s practical.

My Last Deals For A While

It’s still a great time to invest in companies… but only if you’re able to A) filter the signal from the noise, B) say no to a lot of great companies whose investors are accepting insane terms, and C) follow your own rules. Doing all three of these requires a fuck-ton of effort, discipline, and systems. I prefer games with better odds.

There are a few deals you’ll see in the upcoming months, which I committed to long ago. These are not new deals.

They are current companies in which I’m filling my pro-rata, or companies postponing funding announcements until they’re most helpful (e.g. launching publicly). Separately, I work closely with the Expa startup lab and will continue to do so. They are largely able to insulate themselves from madness, while using and refining an excellent playbook.

Are You Having a Breakdown or a Breakthrough? A Short How-To Guide

“Make your peace with the fact that saying ‘no’ often requires trading popularity for respect.”
– Greg McKeown, Essentialism

If you’re suffering from a feeling of overwhelm, it might be useful to ask yourself two questions:

– In the midst of overwhelm, is life not showing me exactly what I should subtract?
– Am I having a breakdown or a breakthrough?

As Marcus Aurelius and Ryan Holiday would say, “The obstacle is the way.” This doesn’t mean seeing problems, accepting them, and leaving them to fester. Nor does it mean rationalizing problems into good things. To me, it means using pain to find clarity. Pain–if examined and not ignored–can show you what to excise from your life.

For me, step one is always the same: write down the 20% of activities and people causing 80% or more of your negative emotions.

My step two is doing a “fear-setting” exercise on paper, in which I ask and answer “What is really the worst that could happen if I did what I’m considering? And so what? How could I undo any damage?”

Below is a real-world example: the journal page that convinced me to write this post and kickstart an extended startup vacation.

The questions were “What is really the worst that could happen if I stopped angel investing for a minimum of 6-12 months? Do those worse-case scenarios really matter? How could I undo any potential damage? Could I do a two-week test?”

As you’ll notice, I made lists of the guaranteed upsides versus speculative downsides. If we define “risk” as I like to—the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome—we can see how stupid (and unnecessarily painful) all my fretting and procrastination was. All I needed to do was put it on paper.

Below is a scan of the actual page.  Click here for an enlarged version.

Further below is a transcribed version (slightly shorter and edited). For a full explanation of how and why I use journaling, see this post.  In the meantime, this will get the point across:



“The anxiety is mostly related to email and startups: new pitches, new intros, etc.

Do a 2-week test where “no” to ALL cold intros and pitches?

Why am I hesitant? For saying “no” to all:

– 100% guaranteed anxiety reduction
– Feeling of freedom
– Less indecision, less deliberation, so far more bandwidth for CREATING, for READING, for PHYSICAL [TRAINING], for EXPERIMENTS.

CONS (i.e. why not?):
– Might find the next Uber (<10% chance) — Who cares? Wouldn’t materialize for 7-9 years. If Uber pops (IPO), it won’t matter.
– Not get more deals. But who cares?
* Dinner with 5 friends fixes it.
* One blog post fixes it. [Here’s an example from 2013 that helped me find Shyp and co-lead their first round]
* NONE of my best deals (Shyp, Shopify, Uber, Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Alibaba, etc.) came from cold intros from acquaintances.

If try 2 weeks, how to ensure successful:
– I don’t even see interview or [new] startup emails
– No con-calls. [Cite] “con call vacation” –> push to email or EOD [end-of-day review with assistant]
– Offer [additional] “office hours” on Fridays [for existing portfolio]?

I ultimately realized: If I set up policies to avoid new startups for two weeks, the systems will persist. I might as well make it semi-permanent and take a real “startup vacation.”

What do you need a vacation from?

My Challenge To You: Write Down The “What If”s

“I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
– Mark Twain

“He who suffers before it is necessary suffers more than is necessary.”
– Seneca

Tonight or tomorrow morning, take a decision you’ve been putting off, and challenge the fuzzy “what if”s holding you hostage.

If not now, when? If left at the status quo, what will your life and stress look like in six months? In one year? In three years? Who around you will also suffer?

I hope you find the strength to say no when it matters most. I’m striving for the same, and only time will tell if I pull it off.

What will I spend my time on next? More crazy experiments and creative projects, of course.  To hear about them first, sign up for my infrequent newsletter. Things are going to get nuts.

But more important — how could you use a new lease on life?

To surf, like this attorney who quit the rat race? To travel with your family around the world for 1,000+ days, like this?  To learn languages or work remotely in 20+ countries while building a massive business? It’s all possible. The options are limitless…

So start by writing them down. Sometimes, it takes just a piece of paper and a few questions to create a breakthrough.

I look forward to hearing about your adventures.

by Tim Ferriss at October 30, 2015 02:06 AM

October 29, 2015

Dave Winer

Speaking of TNT, I listened to a podcast interview with Shaq at the NYPL. He is so smart and funny and positive but absolutely none of that came out in the interview because person conducting the interview apparently had no idea who he was or what he did. I wonder how people who don't know Shaq react to his size. He's a sweet funny guy who wrote a children's book..

October 29, 2015 06:36 PM

Mark Bernstein


Anthony Grafton on annotation.

T. S. Eliot wrote in the margin of his copy of Logical Investigations, formerly owned by Edmund Husserl:

Above all there must be cake.

October 29, 2015 04:11 PM

Dave Winer

Professional software reviewers are a vestige of a long-gone distribution system

A long time ago software was a retail business.

You'd create a box and put disks, a book, coupons in it and ship it off to distributors. They in turn would send it to retailers. Then we would run ads in monthly computer magazines that would get people to visit the retailer and hopefully buy the product. 

Each step in the process involved selling, and decisions made by the buyers as to how successful the product was going to be, initially, thus determining how much they wanted to have on hand for the first few weeks of the product's life. 

This was called the pipeline. 

It took time for product to go into the pipeline and show up on dealer's shelves.

So you had to try to build demand for the product before it shipped. Long before it shipped. Which meant going on a press tour and then starting to run ads. Ads that were wasted mostly, because the users couldn't actually buy the product yet. The ads were there to impress the reviewers and the buyers in the distribution chain, to show them how we planned to create pull for the product. 

That meant you had to show the product to reviewers long before it was ready. The "manufacturing" process for software was mostly intellectual. It took just a few weeks to actually print the books, duplicate the disks and put it all together and ship to the distributor.

This was inefficient and the system and was eventually scrapped. I doubt if there are any shrinkwrap software distributors today. 

The point: The need to show the software to reviewers before release is gone too. When you read a review of a book or a game or utility, you should be able to go get it right then. And no need to give exclusive to reviewers who are paid to do the reviews. They aren't more authoritative these days, users are clued into their conflicts, and wait to find out what other users think of the product. Bloggers are more likely to influence sales than the big name reviewers. 

It's possible that might shift over the years, as software review becomes as serious an activity as say film or TV shows. But you can only really have a useful opinion about software from using it for a period of time. Not like a movie very much. 

We still have a bunch of evolving to do here. 

October 29, 2015 01:30 PM

October 28, 2015

Dave Winer

Open advice to Twitter re news...

Some free advice for Twitter re news..

I would pick up news by a different thread. You have an advantage that almost every newsmaker makes news via Twitter. So when a story is happening, the principals of the story are probably speaking on Twitter.

So I'd look for what they're saying and present it in an easy way to skim. The people are what's key to Twitter, stories, then people.

Also we saw our first Twitter TV ad last night. It's good to see Twitter doing that, but the ads are more confusing than the product. Not good for a product that normal people have trouble figuring out. 

Better approach: It could be like the famous Apple commercial about the Crazy Ones, except you don't have to guess about who they are (Jim Henson probably didn't use a Mac, nor did Einstein or Picasso). Your icons are real people alive now, making news, if not history.

October 28, 2015 08:49 PM

Intellectual orgasm

The Mac is growing while the iPad is not. 

Which is fascinating and predictable.  

When a new iPad user runs out of things to do and finds out there's this uncontrolled world over there and it works more or less like an iPad, they probably have an intellectual orgasm. 

Think about all the kids being raised with iPhones and iPads now. Wait till they discover the power.

October 28, 2015 05:18 PM

Report from your brain surgeon

I found an obvious mistake and fixed it. Still quite impressed with how much works after such radical brain surgery. 

I think perhaps I was overly cautious. Oh well. Worse things can happen. 

As a result of the latest fix, apparently I can edit this item.

October 28, 2015 04:40 PM

Fog Creek

Soft Skills for Hardcore Developers – Interview with Ed Finkler

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Soft Skills for Hardcore Developers – Interview with Ed Finkler

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From Talmudic Maxims to Software Engineering Excellence

In this interview with Ed Finkler, Lead Developer and Head of Developer Culture at Graph Story, we discuss soft skills that are important for developers. We dive into how things like humility and empathy impact your effectiveness as a developer and the quality of products you produce, as well as ways to ensure you’re always learning and how you can give back to the community.

Ed is co-host of the /dev/hell podcast, and writes about software development and raising mental health awareness in the tech community on his blog.

Content and Timings

  • Introduction (0:00)
  • The Importance of Empathy (2:33)
  • How to be Humble (6:41)
  • Always Be Learning (7:46)
  • Avoiding Tribalism (9:32)
  • Bettering the Community (11:42)
  • Recommended Resources (15:27)



Ed Finkler is an experienced software developer who is currently Lead Developer and Head of Developer Culture at Graph Story. He’s co-presenter of the /dev/hell podcast and speaks frequently at conferences, including the talk, ‘How to Be a Great Developer’. Ed, thank you so much for taking time to join us today. Do you have any more to share about yourself?

I’ve been doing primarily web development, I guess, for coming on 20 years now. I always tell people that I started doing web stuff before browsers had frames.

In your talk you say that tech skills are overrated and instead think we should put more focus on 5 key soft skills: empathy, humility, always learning, avoiding tribalism, bettering the community. In what way do you think tech skills are overrated?

I think that a lot of people put emphasis on technical know-how as sort of the primary metric to measure the efficacy and how good a developer is, how you grade a developer. It is not as if those things are unimportant. I think we all agree that it’s important that you know what you’re doing and that you’re always trying to get better at that. It is certainly not to say that tech skills are unimportant, but simply that they are one aspect of being good at what you do.

I’ve seen anecdotally a lot of evidence that you can be a very, very good developer from a technical standpoint and be a very, very poor developer, period. The reason why I say that is because there are so many other skills that go into being a good developer. Really, you can extend a lot of it to being, are you an effective teammate? how well do you communicate with people? all these kinds of things that are aspects that oftentimes we joke about. We have this sort of stereotype of a socially awkward developer who is some sort of savant at certain things and has very poor social skills, or very poor communication skills, and things like that. I would assert that I would rather have somebody who is not as technically accomplished, but is very good at these other skills.

“The only thing that you should be loyal to is people. I think that everything else should be a pragmatic choice”

The Importance of Empathy

Let’s talk about one skill in particular. You say that empathy is the most important skill you can practice. Why do you think it’s so important?

I think it’s important because it touches so many things. It touches all of the interactions that you have. I think we’re well past the point where you have many cases where you have lone developers, just like one person doing everything. There’s lots of specialization, and typically you’re working on teams. At a very base level, I think that it is much easier to communicate and to understand where people are coming from when people are practicing empathy, and that’s a difficult thing.

There’s an assumption that your experience is universal, but that is typically not true. I think that’s also particularly a problem with developers, because the things that we make in general, they’re tools for other people to use. It is often the case, not always, that the tools that we make are not for people who have similar life experiences to us, who are, say, developers who have the same types of expertise, and backgrounds, and things like that.

Because of that, I think there’s a tendency for developers to often miss the mark in terms of producing products or tools that people are going to use that are effective for the people who are going to use them. The two most practical areas where you’re practicing that empathy, where you’re learning what it’s like to be this other person and putting yourself in their shoes and trying to understand that, is practicing that empathy for the users of your product, for the audience who’s going to actually work with it.

That’s really essential for creating good products. I think many of us think of ourselves as craftsmen, and so we take pride in the processes and we get interested in the processes; but, at the end of the day, all the things that we do have to serve the end product, and that end product is this tool that gets used, typically by somebody else, who, again, may or may not be like us at all.

The other area where I’d say is that practicing empathy informs so much of how we do things, and a lot of our processes, and a lot of the ways that we interact with people, and the choices that we make in doing our job so that our other team members can effectively do their job as well. That gets into things like how important it is to document code, and put comments in, explain things, stuff like that, or make code that’s clear and easy to understand.

At the end of the day, the reason why you do that stuff isn’t for you right at this moment. It’s for the person who’s touching your code who’s not you, oftentimes 2, 3, 4, 5 months down the road, or a year down the road, or 5 years down the road. Even for yourself, I think it’s really important that you take the practices into account and make things comprehensible and as easy as possible to understand.

It’s that empathy for the team, when you think about, like, “Am I going to follow effective procedures that other people can look back and understand what happened? Am I going to do a good code review, or am I going to gloss this over and skip through things?” I think all of those things, if you practice empathy before the other people who have to work with the stuff that you do and are impacted by what you do, I think that all of those things sort of get informed by the empathy, and that’s what drives you to do a better job in there.

How to be Humble

Another skill is humility. How does humility make you a better developer?

Understanding that you’re probably wrong about a lot of stuff and that you’re constantly going to be improving. You do the best job that you can, but you don’t necessarily hold onto your practices as if they are some sort of catechism handed down that this is the one true religion. It’s really important that you are in an environment that allows people to say, “I don’t know how this works. Can you explain this to me? I don’t really understand this. Can you help me out with that?” Without fear, without saying, “Oh, man, maybe that’s a sign this person doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

I think a lot of times the reason why we don’t have humility about stuff is because we try to steel ourselves from being wrong and we’re afraid of being wrong. So, it’s really important that you’re in an environment where that’s okay. You can be wrong about stuff and you just do the best you can.

“Be really liberal about what you learn about… be very conservative about what you actually end up using”

Always Be Learning

You say that we should always be learning. How do you go about ensuring that you’re always learning? What other things can we try?

I think the best way you can do that is to really seek out mentors, for lack of a better word. I really treat that informally. I don’t say, necessarily, “Well, you have to ask someone specifically and apply for some mentorship thing,” or stuff like that, but I do think that you view other people as possible mentors in lots of different ways. If I don’t understand something, I ask one of the teammates that I have at Graph Story. I say, “I don’t really understand how that works. Can you explain that to me?” That happens a lot.

There’s a few different curated newsletters, like PHP Weekly, Python Weekly, Javascript Weekly. I think I subscribe to all of those. Ninety-five percent of what I see there I don’t pursue in any way, but oftentimes I’ll look through it and say, “Oh, that looks kind of interesting,” or I might make a note of it. It’s like, “Oh, this mentions a library that might be useful sometime down the road.” I bookmark it and keep track of that stuff.

If I have time to do side projects, those are really good opportunities to test out different technologies I want to learn about and I think might be interesting, but I want to get a feel for them and then maybe see sort of what the nuts and bolts are like. Those are usually really good opportunities for me are those side projects. I tend to view that you should be really liberal about what you learn about and what you play around as side projects, but you should be very conservative about what you actually end up using in, what I’d say, your production stuff.

Avoiding Tribalism

Why do you think we’re so prone to tribalism as developers, and how can we avoid it?

There are much smarter people than me who study anthropology and stuff like that. Essentially I think that we want to belong to groups because we feel safer in groups. I think the thing that’s dangerous, though, is when that tendency overrides our ability to think practically about different solutions and overrides our empathy. We have to keep strongly in mind that something that works well for me may not work well for another person for any number of reasons. It could be the project. It could be the people that they have working there. It could be a ton of different things. There’s lots of things that go into technology choices for different situations.

So often I see people ask a question that says, “Hey, how do I do X with Y? How do I accomplish this task with this, say, framework?” Then oftentimes the response that I’ll see from other developers is, “You shouldn’t be using that framework,” or “You shouldn’t be using that tool.” It is unlikely that you’re in a position to understand why that is, unless you want to sit down and have a good discussion about, how did this project come about? What’s the history of it? There’s a reason why they’re asking that. So, that kind of goes back a little bit to humility oftentimes.

That’s a good example of why developers oftentimes don’t practice humility, don’t practice empathy, because they assume that their experiences are similar to everybody else’s: “I don’t like X tools, so that’s why it is inappropriate for anything ever,” and that’s kind of a ridiculous notion. All that stuff, you start seeing people who get loyal to technologies, or loyal to brands, or companies, and I strongly feel that that is a mistake. I think the only thing that you should be loyal to is people. I think that everything else should be a pragmatic choice.

Yeah. You’re really combining all of these things together. Empathy and humility will help you know if you’re starting to get into the tribalism. What are some actual ways that we can better our community as developers?

“Understand that you’re probably wrong about a lot of stuff and that you’re constantly going to be improving”

Bettering the Community

There’s the communities that we participate in as developers, within our, maybe, the tools that we use, the choices that we make, the processes that we have. In that community I think sharing what you know and that collaborative learning process is really exciting, really cool, and I think those are really good ways to better your community, is sharing what you know and encouraging others to do the same, and helping organize ways to do that.

It doesn’t mean that you need to be the person who necessarily is on point and takes a huge leadership role and to organize things, to say, like, “Here’s opportunities for us to go share knowledge,” and “Hey, once a month we’re going to have a Google Hangout or something like that. Somebody’s going to present on something so we can all learn from them.” You can do lots of things like that. You can do that in your job. You can do that informally as parts of user groups and things like that. All those things are great, and you can help out in a lot of ways, not just be the point person on that kind of stuff. Do you know what I mean?

I think that the second thing is actively trying to mentor people. That’s a part of that one-on-one exchange of information and passing on the knowledge that you have to somebody else. That is really valuable and oftentimes a much faster and more effective way for people to learn than to, say, go off and just do it themselves.

The other thing that I would say with communities is, really, the community you live in. I think oftentimes we as developers, because of our experience, we spend a lot of time on the internet. We oftentimes work remotely. We sort of have insular lives in a lot of ways and oftentimes we’re really not that engaged with the community around us. That community is not just people like you. It is the people who live near you. There are a lot of people, and a lot of groups, and a lot of folks like that who live in your community who would greatly benefit from skills that you have, but it is very likely that they don’t have the money or they don’t have the time to try to find people who are as good as you are at it.

I would give a couple of examples that I’ve personally done. The school that my son goes to is a public charter school. It’s operated locally; it’s a non-profit. The first things I started doing is I volunteered on the tech committee, because they don’t have enough money to have any on-staff tech people. I’ve been doing that for 6 or 7 years now, just trying to help out.

Sometimes that means helping them build a better website, which is kind of my bread and butter. Sometimes that means going around and installing software updates on computers, things like that, or trying to make their processes better, things of that nature, going in and fixing a printer, because a lot of times they don’t have time to do that and they don’t have the expertise in-house necessarily, or the manpower, even if they had the expertise, to do those things. It dramatically helps them do better work; so, even something as basic as that makes a huge different.

Recommended Resources

Really, the final question that I have for you, Ed, is can you recommend any resources for those waning to learn more about these soft skills, especially for developers?

There’s a couple things that I can think of that I would at least encourage people to explore. There’s a conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan every year called Kalamazoo X. It specifically is a conference for, I kind of hate this term, ‘soft skills’ for developers and people in tech. That’s what they do. It’s a pretty small conference. It doesn’t get a lot of play, but I heard about it from a friend of mine. She loves this conference and goes every year.

Specific resources are kind of tough; but, I think, in general, thinking about these kinds of things and valuing these kinds of things, I think that leads you in the right direction, if you keep those things in mind and value the things that we’re talking about here.

Thank you for your time today. We really appreciate it.

Thanks for having me.

by Gareth Wilson at October 28, 2015 12:12 PM

October 27, 2015

Tim Ferriss


“What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.” – Casey Neistat

Casey Neistat (@caseyneistat) is a New York-based filmmaker. His online films have been viewed nearly 300,000,000 times in the last 5 years.

He is the writer, director, editor, and star of the series The Neistat Brothers on HBO and won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards for the film Daddy Long Legs. His main body of work consists of dozens of short films he has released exclusively on the Internet, including regular contributions to the New York Times critically acclaimed Op-Docs series. He is also the founder of Beme, a startup aiming to make creating and sharing video dead simple.

Casey is excellent at breaking every rule imaginable and having people (fans, sponsors, big brands, etc.) thank him for it. In this conversation, we dig into his history, techniques, influences, habits, and more…


Want to hear another podcast with another award-winning movie maker? — Listen to my conversations with Robert Rodriguez. In this episode, we discuss the making of From Dusk ’till Dawn, Sin City, and what it means to be the “Wizard” of Hollywood (stream below or right-click here to download):


This podcast is brought to you by Vimeo Pro, which is the ideal video hosting platform for entrepreneurs. In fact, a bunch of my start-ups are already using Vimeo Pro. WealthFront uses it to explain how WealthFront works. TaskRabbit uses it to tell the company’s story. There are many other names who you would recognize among their customers (AirBnB, Etsy, etc.) Why do they use it? Vimeo Pro provides enterprise level video hosting for a fraction of the usual cost. Features include:

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Mandatory disclaimer: Wealthfront Inc. is an SEC registered Investment Advisor.

Investing in securities involves risks, and there is the possibility of losing money. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Please visit Wealthfront dot com to read their full disclosure.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Casey is breaking the mold for what it means to be a filmmaker. Who are your favorite entertainers, artists, or entrepreneurs who are breaking the mold? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

  • Here are a few articles about Casey:

Get Away with Murder | Teen Welfare Dad |

Cannon 70d | Sony RX-100

Mr. Ben Brown | Fun For Louis

  • Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech, Make Good Art
  • Casey’s favorite movies:

Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (IMDb) | Little Dieter Needs to Fly (IMDb)

  • Casey’s running playlist, Jonny Famous
  • Connect with Casey Neistat:

Subscribe to Casey on YouTube | Draw My Life | Beme | Twitter

Show Notes

  • On the challenges of working in New York City [2:20]
  • How Casey Neistat grew up [3:45]
  • The story of Bike Lanes [7:50]
  • How Casey Neistat responds when people ask, “what do you do?” [13:45]
  • The story behind Make It Count [15:05]
  • Casey’s pitch to Nike for the Make It Count video [18:05]
  • Suggestions for packing [23:15]
  • Thoughts on post production software [25:05]
  • Where novice YouTubers waste the most time [26:50]
  • Thoughts on how to be successful with YouTube [30:15]
  • On the decision to make a daily vlog [34:40]
  • The importance of devoting time to communicating with your audience [39:00]
  • The story behind Casey’s first paid gig in the entertainment business [40:30]
  • When you think of the word successful, who is the first person that comes to mind and why? [44:40]
  • Who makes Casey Neistat feel star-struck? [50:10]
  • Tips on developing the ability to be well-spoken [54:40]
  • Rapid fire questions: Most gifted books, best purchase of $100 or less, and favorite vloggers [1:01:05]
  • Common misconceptions [1:07:25]
  • On how to say, “no” [1:09:20]
  • What is a belief that you have that many people may think is crazy? [1:12:00]
  • The thinking behind Beme [1:15:00]
  • Top films that may not have been fully appreciated [1:20:50]
  • If you could put a billboard anywhere and write anything on it, where would it be and what would it say? [1:23:55]
  • An ask/suggestion for the audience [1:28:15]

People Mentioned

by Tim Ferriss at October 27, 2015 08:45 PM

Dave Winer

Be prepared for the tech bubble burst

No one knows what happens if the Silicon Valley boom ends, they say. 


Everything that goes up must come down. It's one of the basic laws. 

Sure some things gain escape velocity. Unless there's a total financial collapse people will continue to use mobile devices with screens and virtual keyboards. And there will be big leaps forward. But it might not be such a terrible thing if computer technology became more ordinary and mundane. At the scale we're operating now it might be unavoidable. Whole civilizations don't turn that quickly, even in superheated times. 

The point? Prepare for it. Put some new ideas in the pipe. Even ones that go against what you think is the way the world will always work. I've seen Silicon Valley ignore the next thing after the bubble crash, only to deepen the depression, and delay the recovery. 

Like the Boy Scouts: Be Prepared.

October 27, 2015 01:00 PM

October 26, 2015

Dave Winer

I want a realtime baseball scoreboard on the web

I wish there were a web page for MLB that had all the readouts of the scoreboards at a baseball stadium, arrayed so I could quickly glance to look at:

  1. The batting orders of both teams with a red dot next to the guy who's at bat (offense) and the guy who's up next (defense).
  2. A little box with the current pitcher, how many pitches thrown, strikeouts, walks, hits.
  3. In the middle the stats on the current batter. His picture. Really big type.
  4. At the bottom the box score, inning by inning.
  5. Look around the ballpark for other stats that are given permanent space.
  6. The key thing is this is fixed, realtime, it's a page I'd put on my iPad and keep in my lap while watching the game. I'd even bring it to the game with me.
And go ahead and put some ads on the page. Beer, car dealers, whatever you like. Ads and baseball go together. But nothing creepy. No lung cancer meds plese. 

October 26, 2015 09:29 PM

Flattering rich people for fun and profit

Earlier on Twitter I wrote about how flattering rich people in writing can be very profitable. An example of that is Walter Isaacson's book about Steve Jobs. He convinced Steve to let him be his official biographer. But Isaacson is a technology neophyte. Steve was not. But the book is typical tech bio writing, basically junk, having nothing to do with the way we develop stuff. Yet it should be about that. Because all of Jobs's accomplishments, the things that make him worth writing about at all, were software development projects. But you can't do that if you're Isaacson, and it seems that Jobs should have known that. 

This was one of Jobs's weaknesses. He was into how things looked more than how they are. He was imho a Disneyfier. Nothing wrong with that, but it can bite you in the butt. I'm sure Jobs would have hated the Isaacson book. 

Similarly with the Aaron Sorkin movie that was loosely based on the book. Again, has absolutely nothing to do with anything that made Jobs an interesting character. Now you might say since most people have no idea how technology works, why should anyone care. Well, in the future that might not be true. And Jobs is a historic figure. So anything that purports to be a history should somehow be connected to who the person really was. The future, imho, will need a better book about Jobs than has been written (and I include the Schlender book too).

We need writers who also understand tech, in other words. Not people who write words that flatter rich people. That is if we want to learn and be entertained. wink

October 26, 2015 04:42 PM

How coding is like climbing Everest

Well, I backed out of the brain surgery project. It happens sometimes. I got too deep into it, and realized "this will never work." 

I need to take a step back and come up with a new approach. 

October 26, 2015 03:47 PM

October 25, 2015

Dave Winer

On a roll

An old friend from Living Videotext says I'm on a roll. Can't point to his tweet because it's private. 

In a way he's right. And in another it just looks that way. 

I've been building in JavaScript, retooling, for three years. And I've gotten to the point where so much of the stuff I had working in Frontier now works here, that I can move very quickly. Which means that when I get an idea I can have it running quickly, and while the idea is fresh, I get to work on the next one and the one after that. I call this a "head of steam."

Murphy-willing I'll be able to get to the next level soon, and even more stuff will be working. 

October 25, 2015 07:07 PM

What is an independent developer?

Apparently the term "independent developer" is not universally understood. That's a sign of the times I guess. 

Here's a stab at a definition.

Software development does not have to be a corporate thing. Sometimes software is created by individuals working with one or two other people, or on their own. Software development can be an art, like writing or sculpture. Lots of the software you use was created this way.

This is the way the personal computer software market got started. With individuals creating products, bringing them to market, selling them in some fashion, maybe starting companies around it, maybe not. Depending on how successful they are. 

It's also how the web developer world got started. Tim Berners-Lee did the initial work on the web as an indie.  And independent developers are the backbone of the game industry. 

I am not talking about contractors, consultants, part-time employees. that's a completely different thing.

I am an independent developer. Have been most of my career. Lots of other people are.

When I talk about incentives for independent developers, these are the people I'm talking about.  

October 25, 2015 04:42 PM

Quick review of Twitter Moments

Twitter Moments doesn't seem to be customized for the reader.

They know what I follow, and have access to all of my tweets.

Yet every article they show me is totally not interesting.

How could that be and what's the point of putting this on Twitter?

October 25, 2015 03:04 PM

Tim Ferriss


Physics professor, Lisa Randall, is the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science and co-author of a recent paper that suggests dark matter may have played a role in the extinction of the dinosaurs. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Physics professor, Lisa Randall, is co-author of a paper that suggests dark matter may have played a role in the extinction of the dinosaurs.
(Credit: Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer)

“Be curious and try to find solutions to problems.” – Lisa Randall

Professor Lisa Randall (@lirarandall) researches particle physics and cosmology at Harvard, where she is a professor of theoretical physics.

Professor Randall was the first tenured woman in the Princeton physics department, and the first tenured female theoretical physicist at Harvard. In autumn 2004, she was the most cited theoretical physicist of the previous five years.

In 2007, Randall was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People (Time 100) under the section for “Scientists & Thinkers.” Randall was given this honor for her work regarding the evidence of a higher dimension.

She has written several mind-expanding books, the newest of which is Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe.  If you want a semi-psychedelic experience (viewing the world through a new lens) without imbibing substances, this is worth checking out.


Want to hear another podcast related to spirituality and science from a world class thinker? — Listen to my conversations with Sam Harris. In this episode, we discuss spirituality, neuroscience, meditation, and more (stream below or right-click here to download):

This podcast is brought to you by Thrive Market. If you’re anything like me, you care a lot about the food you put in your body. In fact, I think it’s much more important than exercise. The problem is that good food can be extremely expensive…but it doesn’t have to be.

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What are your thoughts on the value of applied science and basic science? Is one more valuable than the other? If so, why? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • How do you answer the question, “what do you do?” [6:33]
  • Defining physics [8:08]
  • Defining theoretical physics [8:58]
  • Defining cosmology [9:53]
  • On succeeding in the male-dominated world of science, and the value of “math camp” [12:33]
  • Explaining the title for Warped Passages [25:33]
  • Defining hidden dimensions [28:18]
  • The search for fundamental connections in the universe [34:13]
  • Defining dark matter and dark energy [40:28]
  • Why are outer planets in our solar system bigger than those closer to the sun? [44:28]
  • Common misuses of physics terms [45:53]
  • Is time an illusion? [51:43]
  • Are there aspects of philosophy that are becoming more relevant to physics? [54:28]
  • How science could expand empathy [57:08]
  • Thoughts on Interstellar [1:01:03]
  • Thoughts on consciousness after physical death [1:02:53]
  • Could you describe a tennis ball as it moves through additional dimensions of space? [1:05:13]
  • What is the significance of the Higgs boson? [1:06:43]
  • Why does cosmology research matter? [1:11:33]
  • What is the difference between basic science and applied science? [1:13:28]
  • When you think of the word successful, who is the first person who comes to mind and why? [1:15:13]
  • In the last five years, when have you felt the most successful? [1:16:13]
  • Most gifted books [1:18:03]
  • What purchase of $100 or less has most positively affected your life recently [1:20:08]
  • What do you believe that other people might consider to be insane? [1:21:03]
  • Should the scientific community be focusing on large-scale expensive science projects or create many smaller scale science projects? [1:22:58]
  • Thoughts on the superstring theory.  [1:25:53]
  • If you could put a billboard anywhere and write anything on it, where would it be and what would it say? [1:27:38]
  • Advice for your 30-year-old self [1:28:58]
  • An ask or request for the audience [1:29:53]

People Mentioned

by Tim Ferriss at October 25, 2015 01:08 AM

October 24, 2015

Lambda the Ultimate

On type safety for core Scala: "From F to DOT: Type Soundness Proofs with Definitional Interpreters"

From F to DOT: Type Soundness Proofs with Definitional Interpreters by Tiark Rompf and Nada Amin:

Scala's type system unifies aspects of ML-style module systems, object-oriented, and functional programming paradigms. The DOT (Dependent Object Types) family of calculi has been proposed as a new theoretic foundation for Scala and similar expressive languages. Unfortunately, type soundness has only been established for a very restricted subset of DOT (muDOT), and it has been shown that adding important Scala features such as type refinement or extending subtyping to a lattice breaks at least one key metatheoretic property such as narrowing or subtyping transitivity, which are usually required for a type soundness proof.
The first main contribution of this paper is to demonstrate how, perhaps surprisingly, even though these properties are lost in their full generality, a richer DOT calculus that includes both type refinement and a subtyping lattice with intersection types can still be proved sound. The key insight is that narrowing and subtyping transitivity only need to hold for runtime objects, but not for code that is never executed. Alas, the dominant method of proving type soundness, Wright and Felleisen's syntactic approach, is based on term rewriting, which does not make an adequate distinction between runtime and type assignment time.
The second main contribution of this paper is to demonstrate how type soundness proofs for advanced, polymorphic, type systems can be carried out with an operational semantics based on high-level, definitional interpreters, implemented in Coq. We present the first mechanized soundness proof for System F<: based on a definitional interpreter. We discuss the challenges that arise in this setting, in particular due to abstract types, and we illustrate in detail how DOT-like calculi emerge from straightforward generalizations of the operational aspects of F<:.

Not only they solve a problem that has been open for 12 years, but they also deploy interesting techniques to make the proof possible and simple. As they write themselves, that includes the first type-soundness proof for F<: using definitional interpreters — that is, at least according to some, denotational semantics.

Understated Twitter announcement here.

October 24, 2015 01:45 PM

Dave Winer

Medium, brands and bloggers

Medium plans to pair writers with brands. How will this be disclosed? Why would a blogger want to be "paired" with a brand?

When I wrote at Wired they had a party where editorial people such as myself were introduced to advertisers. It gave me the willies. What was supposed to happen here? Was I supposed to all of a sudden like your PC clone? Just because you pay to run an ad in Wired?

I don't like the whole idea of Medium, it's not providing a service we actually need. When you put your writing in there now in addition to questioning your motives re flow, now do we have to wonder how the pay you're getting from your paired brand is affecting what you say and don't say?

The other day I saw an employee of Amazon say, on Facebook, that a TV series on Amazon that I thought was horribly mediocre was great. I didn't feel it was appropriate for me to say what I thought of the series. The guy is just earning his paycheck I thought. But I thought less of him, esp since his job has nothing to do with Amazon's TV efforts.

October 24, 2015 12:22 PM

Praise Murphy, the server god

One of my servers went down overnight. It was a bit of a panic here this morning, I thought it wasn't going to come back. I was preparing to re-provision the server, when it popped up. I relaunched all the apps, and all seems good. Praise Murphy! blush

October 24, 2015 11:41 AM

October 23, 2015

Dave Winer

But we like the Red Sox!

There was a Red Sox fan in the lobby of my building today. When he saw my Mets hat he wanted to bet me. I said that's a bet I'll take, but I'll have to give you odds I said because your team had already been eliminated. "Lost to the Yankees, I believe. And the Torontos."

He said I should enjoy the feeling because the Mets are going down. He said that with some glee. I thought wow he really doesn't like the Mets. I said man, we like the Red Sox, but then I guess I understand why they don't like the Mets so much. 

Well, you can't win em all. But they have won a World Series more recently than we have. So come on what's the problem. We can agree on one thing, that's for sure, our common hatred of the Yankees. wink

October 23, 2015 09:13 PM

Incentives for developers?

It's very generous of Jack Dorsey to create an options pool for Twitter employees from his own stock. I've been a CEO, and there were times when I couldn't get the board to do something I wanted, but granting options for employees was never one of them. You want to incentivize them with stock. All shareholders benefit. It doesn't seem right if one of them, even if it's the CEO, has to provide the incentive that all will benefit from.

Further, why employees? Tech companies always do that, but they can get a better deal from independent developers. What if Jack put 1/10th of one percent of his Twitter shares in a pool, and come up with a way to make grants to developers that are parallel to the ones made to employees. Even if the people are equally smart, the developers can act more quickly, and since they don't get salary, they're incentivized to. Nothing like having your livelihood on the line to get your thought process sharp.

All the years I've been an independent developer, I've wondered why no creative tech entrepreneur has even tried to do an incentive deal with developers. It might be too late for Twitter, probably is, but someone should be thinking about this. So much money is sloshing around in the Valley now, creativity with that money might pay off. Something to consider. 

BTW, I put my money behind my ideas this week, and bought 1000 shares of TWTR. What finally got me to move (I had been thinking about it) was Ballmer's support. He's right. They have a valuable asset. Maybe they'll figure out how to make it grow and make lots of money. But I would not mind getting some options too, since I am investing as a developer (I wonder if anyone there has noticed).

PS: Not everyone understands what independent developer means, apparently.

October 23, 2015 04:10 PM

Baseball philosophy

This is an incredible anthem for love of baseball, really for any team that is not the NY Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers. It's why we don't want Yankees fans at Mets games, they stink up the joint with their obsession about winning. We love the Mets win or lose. It's a game of philosophy not winning or losing. 

October 23, 2015 04:05 PM

RSS and BigCo's don't mix

I just clicked on a link to an RSS feed in Safari on the Mac, and the browser intercepted it and tried to get me to subscribe to something. 

This should stop. Please. I'm not publishing this stuff to drive users to some funky senior project that Apple will forget about in six months and break. 

Leave RSS alone big companies. We have to do this "small ball."

October 23, 2015 02:30 PM

Link ad-blocking and VRM?

I had a thought for Doc Searls, who has been pushing the idea of VRM for a number of years. This may be the moment.

Lots of users have turned off ads altogether. Fed up with the crap that publishers are putting on their pages. We thought we got rid of that when we stopped buying Windows machines, with all their shovel-ware.

So with ads turned off, we've taken an extreme position. Perhaps it's time to start a negotiation. Dear publisher, here's a list of products I like to keep up to date on. You may include ads related to this. As soon as you stray too far off course, I'll remove the item from my list. If you don't respect the list, I'll just turn off ads again.

Something is better than nothing. And even if the idea didn't actually get implemented, discussing it on the net would change the way people think, help VRM get more of the attention it deserves.

October 23, 2015 01:19 PM

October 22, 2015

Dave Winer

How special are Mets fans?

How special are Mets fans? Very!

According to the NY Times, they're one of only two teams that does not have a single county in the US where they are the #1 team. That's right, even in Queens more people say they root for that other team.

All of a sudden everyone loves the Mets! 

October 22, 2015 08:35 PM

Yankees fans not welcome

In most things I'm a big believer of inclusiveness. But there are exceptions. One of them is Yankees fans celebrating a Mets victory. It's so totally like Yankees fans to want to be in on the fun. Because that's what they're about, winning.

I remember in Y2K when the Yankees beat the Mets in the World Series. The Yankees offered to let the Mets march in their parade down Broadway. A nice ticker-tape affair. The Mets response: No thanks. We'll march when we win. And btw, you won't be marching with us then.

It's time for the Yankees clan to grow up. Your team lost. You are losers. When the Mets win, you are still losers. Deal with it. We are not you and you are not us. 

October 22, 2015 08:06 PM

Kansas City or Toronto?

SI asks who would the Mets rather face in the World Series. 

I picked Toronto, for all the qualitative reasons they list, and -- I like the idea of a northeast-only World Series, and an international World Series. Toronto is a cool city. I don't know anyone in Kansas City. And I think the Royals have more to prove after losing to the Giants last year. 

That said, I think the Mets will beat either of the teams, assuming they don't get complacent.

October 22, 2015 06:13 PM

Factored to the max

When developers are testing, we have a set of short bits of text we have memorized to enter into the software without thinking. That works great if no one is watching. Well this is one of those times when I have to test the software while people are watching. So I feel it somewhat necessary to explain why I'm typing lyrics to an old stupid song I sang when I was a kid. 

October 22, 2015 03:00 PM


This is a test. For the next sixty seconds this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Messaging System. Etc etc.

October 22, 2015 02:53 PM

View Source command in popup menu

I just added a View Source command to the popup menu for each item. I kept having to fumble around to find the JSON data structure behind each item. That menu item is a direct link to it. 

October 22, 2015 02:32 PM

World Series prices

StubHub prices for the first World Series game are almost 3x what they were for the playoffs. 

October 22, 2015 02:01 PM

 I love having my informal blogging setup back. Never should have left it for Twitter in 2006. That 140-char limit was killing my writing.

October 22, 2015 01:46 PM

Morning baseball notes

Good morning sports fans!

A thought about the Mets. Apparently while they were losing all those games in September after clinching, they were devising new tactics that they used in the playoffs. All of a sudden they're a base-running team, for example. And they got all the pitching problems ironed out. And Murphy started taking some magic drug and now all of a sudden he's a legendary home run hitter. One of his teammates said they were playing with Babe Ruth.

This Mets team is one for the ages. And although the Mets probably don't know it they owe their success to Patrick Scoble and myself. We've probably been to a dozen Mets games together over the last three years. And the Mets have won every single one. We can't claim full credit for the turnaround, but then again, the really are no coincidences in baseball. Every fan knows that. wink

Yes the Mets are lovable losers, but not like the Cubs, because we win. They have Wrigley Field, a venerable palace of baseball, a shrine for the ages. But there's been so much losing there, it's virtually impossible for them to break out. If they want to achieve the elusive world championship they feel they deserve, it might be a good idea to tear down the stadium and start over. Or accept their new fate, as the team the Mets beat in the postseason.

October 22, 2015 01:19 PM

Fog Creek

How Peek Traffic Keeps Development Moving with FogBugz and Kiln

Peek Traffic are based in Houston, Texas, and they provide transportation management systems like Traffic Light signals in North America and beyond. They have been a Fog Creek customer for over 9 years, using both FogBugz and Kiln. We caught up with Ray Deer, CTO of Signal Group, Peek Traffic’s parent company, to find out how they use FogBugz to prioritize their workload, and get the most out of their resources.

Traffic lights

About Peek Traffic

Peek is a technology-driven company, says Deer. “We’re a mix of hardware development, firmware development, mechanical engineering and software development. We actually make the hardware from schematics and board layout, we make our embedded field computers that control traffic, intersections, and lights. We also write the central software, the client server software that controls the whole system. So it’s kind of an entire ecosystem that we develop.”

Using FogBugz and Kiln

At the heart of that ecosystem is FogBugz. It’s used by Engineers in 8 cities, spread over 4 countries who work both remotely and in satellite offices. “About two-thirds of our engineers use FogBugz daily,” says Deer. “And it’s not just our engineers, it’s also our support department too”. More recently, they’ve also started “using Kiln, as an integrated tool between the source code and cases”.

Before FogBugz they used Vantage – “it was much harder to use than FogBugz. I came on board and I saw that and thought ‘this isn’t very easy’,” so Deer set out to find another solution and settled on FogBugz.

FogBugz is used to help Peek keep their engineering work on track, and to prioritize their resources for greatest impact. Peek have a number of products, and each product is a project in FogBugz. Then for each project, “we create a milestone of the current scope of work that we are working on… and we use FogBugz for sorting the prioritization of important tasks and managing scope – it means it’s easy to see what’s going to be in the next release”, says Deer.

Features for Managing Product Development

When planning a release, Peek makes extensive use of case filters. “The saved filters, the shared filters and the on-the-fly filters that we create allow you to say, “I just want to know about bugs in this project and what important features there are”. This means they can then ask themselves for this next release, “would you rather implement these three easy cases or this hard one?” explains Deer – “it’s the whole importance versus low hanging fruit thing.”

FogBugz has also meant that there’s “no miscommunication in what an engineering manager wants each team member to do because we have the cases to track it,” Deer says. What’s more, the system has grown with them over the years. “When we bring on new engineers, we can just set them up in the system… we really don’t find that we have a lot of training to do. FogBugz is pretty self-explanatory,” says Deer. “Ease of use is an important factor, and what you guys have done is… over the years, you’ve really increased its usability and made it easier to find things. You don’t have to hunt to find things in the software.”


Just Enough Notification

Notifications are also well used by Peek’s engineering and support teams. “It’s customizable when you want to be notified of things. So whenever something gets assigned to you, it sends you an email letting you know, so it doesn’t just sneak in there and sit. That has really helped us because I know that when something comes in, someone’s going to be looking at it,” Deer says. “It seems like the notifications are just right. When you get a notification, it’s usually something that you need to look at.”

Why Have Peek Stuck with FogBugz For 9 Years?

“We have a lot of history in FogBugz,” explains Deer. “If you look at the cases, there’s going to be more than 10,000 of them”. And in all the time that Peek have been a customer, “Fog Creek has done nothing but make the product better, you’ve done nothing to make us shop for something else, there’s just no reason to change. And the customer service has been good in the interactions that we’ve had with you, it has been excellent.”

by Gareth Wilson at October 22, 2015 10:01 AM

Alex Schroeder

War and Statistics

I recently saw a Tweet by William Easterly, citing work by Max Roser, claiming that global deaths in conflicts are trending downwards (see pic below). Roser had tweeted it before but I could not find it on his website, Our World in Data. On Twitter, Sébastien Broos posted a link to a paper by Pasquale Cirillo and Nassim Nicholas Taleb (“Black Swan”): On the tail risk of violent conflict and its underestimation.

The abstract: _We examine all possible statistical pictures of violent conflicts over common era history with a focus on dealing with incompleteness and unreliability of data. We apply methods from extreme value theory on log-transformed data to remove compact support, then, owing to the boundedness of maximum casualties, retransform the data and derive expected means. We find the estimated mean likely to be at least three times larger than the sample mean, meaning severe underestimation of the severity of conflicts from naive observation. We check for robustness by sampling between high and low estimates and jackknifing the data. We study inter-arrival times between tail events and find (first-order) memorylessless of events. The statistical pictures obtained are at variance with the claims about “long peace”._

They repeat this in the summary at the end: In other words, a large event and even a rise in observed mean violence would not be inconsistent with statistical properties, meaning it would justify a "nothing has changed" reaction.

That’s harsh. It means that statistics do not support our subjective point of view that the world has been more peaceful in recent decades. Statistics tell us that both the current lull and a threefold increase are both plausible. There is no rest for the wicked.

The first two and the last two pages are the most readable pages. I’m not big into statistics so I can’t comment on the actual math. As a listener to the Chinese History Podcast and having just heard about The Rise and Fall of the Qin (Part 1, Part 2), and all those battles with 400,000 enemy soldiers buried alive after the fighting was over… Ugh! I looked at that big red bubble for An Lushan on page 2 for quite a while. There is a short discussion about the numbers on Wikipedia. Some people say that the decrease is due to the census system breaking down and due to the shrinking territory. The raw numbers, however, show the last census before the rebellion recording a population of 53M in 755 and of 17M in 764, the year following the end of the rebellion. That would mean 36M dead, or about one sixth of the world population at the time.

Now consider one of the methods Cirillo and Taleb used to make their risk assessment: a log transformation to account for the fact that the number of casualties in a conflict cannot be larger than the world population.

Also consider that their examination showed no visible autocorrelation. The large wars are independent from each other. There is no “slowing down” or “speeding up” of occurrences to observe.

Anyway, what a chilling thought to start the day with. :(

Tags: RSS

October 22, 2015 08:31 AM

October 21, 2015

Alex Schroeder

Red Dead Redemption

I recently started playing Red Dead Redemption. It’s an open world Western game from 2010. You’re a guy, you walk around, random stuff happens, you can do missions at a ranch like cow herding and breaking in horses, or you can do missions for the sheriff, shooting outlaws and the like. But some of the random stuff is creeping me out.

I had just shot some outlaws and was riding back to the ranch and suddenly there’s a guy running from right to left, crying for help, hunted by a pack of coyotes. I fumble around, looking for my rifle, aiming in all directions, trying to locate the damn dogs. I shoot one. Or did I shoot the guy? When I come closer, he’s dead.

I had just shot some outlaws and was riding back to the ranch and spotted two guys by a campfire. I approached and a cut scene shows me asking whether it was OK to take a seat. Sure, they said. One talked about this and that and the other said he should write a book. I got up. Did I touch the wrong button? Suddenly they get up and run. The first jumps on his horse. The other shoots me! The guy on the horse shoots me! Draw my rifle. Where are they? Blam! Blam! I’m dead.

I had just stepped out of my little hut and was walking towards some men near the ranch’s smithy when I heard some people hollering and shots being fired. I stopped and looked around. Everybody around me seemed afraid. I pulled my revolver. Four guys come riding down the road, shooting into the air. I watch them ride. I don’t dare to shoot because they’re four and I’m just one. As they ride past, I see they’re dragging a screaming man after them. I still don’t dare to shoot because they’re four and I’m just one.

I had just left the saloon and walked across the road to the sheriff’s office when I hear a woman cry for help. Help, please, somebody help me! I turn around a draw my revolver. There are some men standing around. There’s a man kneeling on top of a woman crying for mercy. He shouts that he’ll cut another hole in her. I shoot, missing him. She dies. There’s a lot of blood. I’m being shot at. One of the bystanders belonged to the same gang as the murderer. The murderer also shoots. I turn and try to take aim. They shoot. Blam! Blam! I’m dead.

So, what does all that mean? The animation shows my guy walking with a threatening swagger. When I walk into people, he pushes them aside and they grumble mumble. But I’m starting to fear people. I no longer walk into people. Who knows, they might shoot back. When I witness a crime, I look at bystanders. How many are in league with the criminal? I swear I’ll mend all the wrongs, eventually. But right now, I’m not good enough. I can’t get into a fight with an unknown number of gangsters. I feel terrible. There is so much hate.

I mean, there’s nice people, and I’m happy when I can have some small talk, or sleep in a bed or rescue some cattle farmers. But when there’s a man being dragged to his death, I look the other way. When there’s a man sitting by a camp fire, I pull my gun and scan the area for his friends. Better avoid strangers than get into a fight.

I guess this game is great? I still feel terrible.

Tags: RSS

October 21, 2015 08:02 PM

Dave Winer

Please let me know if...

Please let me know if Twitter announces:

1. A deal with Medium.

2. An end to or relaxing of the 140-char limit.

3. Improvements to the Twitter API (not new APIs).

October 21, 2015 06:45 PM

Sorry Cubs fans, the Mets are not the Yankees

The Cubs would have you believe that because the Mets and Yankees both have stadiums within the confines of NYC that somehow playing the Mets in 2015 is like playing the Yankees in 2004. 

Three comments:

1. Whatever gets you through the night.

2. That's fucking insulting. The Mets have soul and philosophy. And humility. The Yankees? They have none of that. They are arrogant and condescending and by the way they didn't even make it to the ALDS this year. 

3. The Cubbies wish they were playing the Yankees. 

October 21, 2015 06:26 PM

It's more of a "nudge" than a launch..

I just wrote a blog post on the main blog that points to the liveblog, so now we should be getting some visitors.

WIth Twitter's announcements today, there should be some stuff to liveblog about. 

October 21, 2015 03:52 PM

Testing on an iPhone 6 plus

I can now post comfortably from my iPhone 6 Plus. 

October 21, 2015 03:16 PM

The Mets != the Yankees, please

USA Today says watch out if the Cubs win tonight. Then they have their two aces starting after that and "anything could happen." 

Okay, thanks -- I guess we'd better hope and pray the Mets do it tonight. Maybe we can get Cespedes to get on base. Or Murphy to hit a double, or maybe even a home run. 

Don't tempt fate by being overconfident, but it's only happened once folks, and that was the Yankees. The perfect example of overconfidence.

BTW, I find it insulting that they call the Mets "a New York team" as if they have anything in common with the Yankees. Please. Study up on your NY baseball. 

October 21, 2015 12:59 PM

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Good morning sports fans!

The Mets! Oh the Mets. They're up 3-0. Can anything go wrong? Of course. It's the Mets! blush

Next steps today: More work on the published version of stories from the liveblog. Tweak the layout for the iPhone 6 Plus. I think we can have a great UI on that device. More items off the to-do list. Pay attention to what Twitter announces today. And Game 4! 

Heads up. You can stay in the loop by following the liveblog RSS feed, which is now located here

October 21, 2015 12:37 PM

Fog Creek

From Talmudic Maxims to Software Engineering Excellence – Interview with Yitzchok Willroth

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From Talmudic Maxims to Software Engineering Excellence – Interview with Yitzchok Willroth

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Refactoring to a Happier Development Team

In this interview with Yitzchok Willroth, aka CodeRabbi, we discuss how he has applied Talmudic Maxims to improve Software Engineering practices at Grovo. We cover how by teaching others we can develop ourselves, the benefits of pair programming, how to align product and engineering teams and important metrics to focus dev teams. Yitzchok is currently finishing up his Wisdom as a Service World Tour.

Content and Timings

  • Introduction (0:00)
  • Learning by Teaching (1:12)
  • The Benefits of Pair Programming (3:28)
  • Aligning Product and Engineering Teams (8:52)
  • Metrics to Improve Software Engineering (10:53)
  • Recommended Resources (14:00)



Yitz Willroth, known as CodeRabbi, is a Rabbinic scholar and software developer who is currently Engineering Practice Manager at Grovo. A prolific conference speaker, he is currently embarking upon his Wisdom as a Service world tour in which he will speak at more than 35 user groups this year alone, giving his talk, Talmudic Maxims to Maximize Your Growth as a Developer. Yitz, thank you so much for joining us today. Do you have any more to share about yourself?

Most people know me as CodeRabbi. Prior to being a software engineer, I was a full-time Talmudic scholar, pursuing scholarship as a vocation for over a decade. I’ve always been very active in the software development community, primarily the PHP community. Somewhere along the line this year, in a proverbial game of chicken with the global community, I did agree to embark on the Wisdom as a Service world tour. So far, we’re holding… I think we’re going to make our number. We’re holding somewhere in the early 30s. Yeah, that’s really what I’m about these days, though I’m absolutely, thoroughly enjoying my role as Engineering Practice Manager at Grovo as well.

Learning by Teaching

Your talk extracts some practical, actionable advice from Talmudic maxims about how we can grow as software developers. One maxim, for example, says, “I learn much from my teachers, but I learn even more from my colleagues, and from my students, I learned most of all.” This speaks to the importance of learning by teaching. How can we go about doing that?

There are numerous opportunities to learn by teach, both in the workplace and within the community. It’s just recognizing them as such. Mentoring, whether it be formally in the workplace or informally in the workplace, is teaching. If you take that seriously and you embrace the opportunity, through the preparation as well as through the interaction with the apprentice, you’re going to gain as much as they do. The act of teaching, for it to work, you really have to put yourself in the student’s perspective. That opens up your mind to new ideas and new perspectives. That’s in addition to the preparation. The activity of the teaching as well is very empowering for the teacher.

Pairing in the workplace is a form of teaching. I find that, even as the senior in a junior-senior pair, I gain, I grow. To the PHP community, we have, an organization which actually pairs up apprentices and willing mentors. There are organizations for women in tech, for teaching children, local dev boot camp initiatives, etc. Conference speaking or user group speaking, again, the same thing. The preparation, you end up learning far, far more than you end up imparting to the audience. I think you’re really the winner there.

Blogging, blogging is a form of teaching, the same thing, codifying your knowledge and refining it into a blog post. That process of refinement typically tends to enhance your understanding. Stack Overflow, IRC, these are also ways to teach. Again, I find when I answer a Stack Overflow question, those that I choose to participate in are those that have caught my attention, not necessarily the low-hanging fruit, so the process of research. Even if I don’t ever end up being the guy to answer the question, it helps me. It helps the teacher.

“Alignment between product and engineering, is necessary, and to be successful, it’s both a technical and a cultural problem to solve”

The Benefits of Pair Programming

You’re a proponent of pair programming. What are some of the benefits you’ve seen from pair programming?

The organization benefits with knowledge transfer. It can be used as a way to easily onboard new developers, to allow junior developers to more easily leverage the experience of senior developers, and just that everyone should know a little bit about every part of the code base. That’s typically facilitated by pairing. Sometimes between teams, we’ll pair to affect that knowledge transfer and raise the bus factor a little bit. I think we tend to be more focused when we code in pairs. You’ve got the other person’s attention, and so that shared attention, it tends to reinforce each other’s focus. You’re conversational, so you’re engaging different parts of the brain as well. That impacts both the focus and, I think, the quality of your thinking.

Also, in terms of focus, when you have distraction, one person can defend the pair, and the science behind it seems to indicate that the pair is back in focus more quickly after an interruption than a single would be, because one person has maintained context, so they can bring the other person into context more quickly than that person would work through and re-achieve context themselves. Then there’s wisdom transfer, learning from your pair. It’s difficult to pair at any level and not come back with something useful that you can integrate into your practice, when you’re not a pair.

“An often overlooked benefit of testing is testing as documentation, and assisting in terms of onboarding new developers”

One thing I know I can be guilty of sometimes is not planning my coding days, but for you, this is essential and do it daily. Why is this?

My days tend to follow their beginning. If I’m productive in the first few hours of my day, that sets the tone, and I’ll be productive all day. If I am not well-planned, and I find myself context switching, or confusing activity with productivity early in the day, that seems to be a trend all day. Just as you would plan an implementation, I plan my day. I try to, the night before, spend some time clearing my inbox, setting the table, clearing my inbox, clearing my browser tabs, so there’s no obvious distractions. Then at least planning, this will be the first coding that I do tomorrow.

Even if, in my role now, I do end up in meetings and coaching, etc, so I’m not always coding all the time anymore, but I try to code in the morning at least, just set that tone of focus. Then I tend to … That’s my day, but then I think it’s an unlimited good. You can’t plan too much. I try as much as I can to use commit message first development, so just like a named feature branch tends to focus your energies a little bit, so naming your commit before you begin coding that next incremental piece tends to focus my energies a little bit more as well. I try to plan at every level as much as I can.

Part of your role as engineering practice manager at Grovo involves taking tips, like those learned from Talmudic maxims, and putting them into real world use. I know for example that Grovo once had something of a monolithic app that has since been broken up, and you’ve looked to resolve the process and culture issues that had to lead to its creation. What kinds of issues did you solve and how did the maxims help with this?

The feedback that I’ve gotten from people that have heard the talk and have put some of the practices into play in their professional lives, looking back then months later, they’re more engaged. They feel more empowered. It’s a fair antidote, I’m finding people tell me, to impostor syndrome. People feel better about themselves, are more capable, and people that feel better about themselves are more capable, take greater initiative. Impostor syndrome is a thing, but it’s not real, and so getting beyond that allows us to apply talents that we already had. Those people that take that initiative find themselves, I think, in the main being successful with it.

Yeah, it’s not a direct connection, but I think you can follow the path between engaging in some of these professional growth habits and ultimately taking a stronger, more successful role in the workplace, sure. The move from the monolithic application to a microservices architecture, that’s primarily a technical problem, so they’re somewhat orthogonal concerns. The secret for us in terms of the move to microservices has been a extremely tight product and engineering alignment, small cross-functional teams, and then laying the groundwork before the transition with creating a really world class integration pipeline.

“Code coverage, cyclomatic complexity, and the 2 together in a CRAP score, are the 3 that I look at most frequently”

Aligning Product and Engineering Teams

Another area of focus for you has been in building greater alignment between product and engineering teams. How did you approach this?

I think, as a company, we recognize that this alignment between product and engineering, is necessary, and to be successful, it’s both a technical and a cultural problem to solve. You have to continually work at it. We understand that you have to live together and work together, so the product and engineering teams are physically proximate. We recently outgrew our facilities, and so the engineering team moved within the same building, but to another floor. When we say the engineering team, no, that was engineering and product. They move as a unit. They are part and parcel of one division within the company.

Meetings and communication are not siloed to engineering or to product. There’s usually a representative of the other discipline within every meeting and included in every communication. We celebrate together. Product victories are engineering victories. Engineering victories are product victories. The infrastructure initiative, product celebrated that along with engineering, even though there was nothing they could put in their hands. They couldn’t point to features that existed in the product, but they understood what that did for the organization. That’s cultural. That’s the living together, I guess.

The technical, the working together, so we have product managers which are embedded in each of our engineering squads. The engineering department is broken down into multiple cross-functional squads which kind of aligns with that microservices approach to the architecture. We have embedded product managers, and it works the other way as well. The engineers participate in design sprints and other typically product-only rituals. Engineers are involved in those really from the earliest processes as well.

Metrics to Improve Software Engineering

Yeah, it sounds like a lot of effort has been made to make that alignment, but I know Grovo takes a very data-driven approach right across the company, and you have your own data analytics platform to support that. How does engineering use data to improve?

For engineering, it’s a focus more on metrics. My two primary metrics, and they actually synthesize into one, are code coverage and cyclomatic complexity. Together then they form a single metric which, for good or for bad, is called CRAP. It’s Change Risk Anti-Patterns, but it is relatively aptly acronymed as well. Essentially it is the synthesis of code coverage and cyclomatic complexity. A lower number, meaning the less crappy, the better. Lower number is best. If you’re targeting a CRAP score of, say, 30, so that would be a cyclomatic complexity of 10, code coverage of 42. If you wanted to target 20, which is better, that would be a cyclomatic complexity of 20, code coverage now has to go up to 72. It’s a much more complex implementation, so it is inherently riskier, so to offset that, then you need a higher code coverage as well.

We also look at those independently, because together they form a solid technical metric. What is the risk of this code, putting this into production, and maintaining this? What is the technical and the business risk? Individually, I find they’re very good human-focused metrics. Testing is not simply about proving correctness or regression. It influences design. We try to utilize test-driven development. We’re not exclusive on that as a methodology yet, but we’re working in that direction. That’s a good indication of how this code was produced, the higher test coverage.

It’s also testing’s highly documentary, and that is an often overlooked benefit of testing is testing as documentation, and assisting in terms of onboarding new developers, or even an engineer that’s been there some time but is not real familiar with this part of this code base and is tasked to be working there. They often can get up to speed more easily where they have an understanding of the gaps that they wouldn’t have otherwise had by looking at the tests. Code coverage is kind of a human-focused metric as well to me, as is cyclomatic complexity.

Cyclomatic complexity is not only trying to put a number on the potential for incorrectness, but it’s what kind of cognitive load does it take for an engineer to wrap their head around this and to be effective in this piece of the code base? How much understanding do they need here to be able to navigate this code? We read code much more frequently than we write it, and so I think that it’s a fantastic metric itself as well. Those 3, code coverage, cyclomatic complexity, and the 2 together in a CRAP score, are the 3 that I look at most frequently.

Recommended Resources

The CRAP score is definitely something I’ll remember, so that’s an easy one. One last question, can you recommend any books or resources for those wanting to learn more about encouraging engineering best practice across development teams?

On an institutional level, I think Code Complete is fantastic. I think that’s a great place to start. In terms of things which are perhaps a bit more tactical, Implementation Patterns by Kent Beck, Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture and Refactoring, both by Martin Fowler, and I guess you can call it a classic in terms of its approach and its content, although it’s not terribly old, I’m a big fan of Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby by Sandi Metz, even though I don’t code in Ruby at all, I use Ruby for configuration. I’m not a Rubyist by any stretch, but I found that to be a fantastic resource for tactical implementation patterns. Then in terms of encouraging the practices throughout the team, I found two that I can point to, Coaching Agile Teams, which is Addison-Wesley, and then Pragmatic Bookshelf has a title, Driving Technical Change, which I highly recommend.

That’s a fantastic list of recommendations. Thank you for providing that. Yitz, thank you so much for taking time to join us today. We really appreciate it.

Thank you for having me. I enjoyed it.

by Gareth Wilson at October 21, 2015 09:39 AM

Tim Ferriss


Pacific Ocean Wall, El Capitain, Yosemite, CA

“I’m the laziest motivated person that I know!” — Jimmy Chin

Jimmy Chin (@jimkchin) is an artist and professional athlete, often at the same time. If Chase Jarvis and Laird Hamilton had a love child, it would be Jimmy.

He has participated in and documented breakthrough expeditions around the planet, from climbing first ascents in the Karakoram to skiing first descents in the Himalayas. He is one of the few people to both climb Mount Everest and ski it from the summit.  Most recently, he filmed and directed the incredible feature documentary MERU, which is in theaters now and won the 2015 Audience Award at Sundance.

What is MERU? In the high-stakes game of big-wall climbing, the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru is the ultimate prize. Everest is a cakewalk by comparison. Sitting at the headwaters of the sacred Ganges River in Northern India, the Shark’s Fin has seen more failed attempts by elite climbing teams over the past 30 years than any other ascent in the Himalayas. This movie is the story of one group’s journey to conquer it—a white-knuckle quest of friendship, sacrifice, hope and obsession. How Jimmy captured it on film while risking his life is almost impossible to fathom.

In this episode of the podcast, we talk about his origins, training, nutrition, gear, and MERU, of course.

Suffice to say, if you want a benevolent kick in the ass, the film MERU is your assignment. I saw it a few weeks ago, and all my family could say for minutes afterward was, “Whoa….” My refrain was, “Holy shit…,” which I muttered to myself at least 20 times in 90 minutes.  It’s an amazing, terrifying, and inspiring edge-of-your-seat experience.


Want to hear another podcast with super athletes? — Listen to my conversation with Laird Hamilton, Gabrielle Reece, and Brian MacKenzie. In this incredible episode, we explore underwater training, strengthening your weaknesses, and advice for beat up athletes. Check it out.

This podcast is brought to you by TrunkClub. I hate shopping with a passion. And honestly I’m not good at it, which means I end up looking like I’m colorblind or homeless. Enter TrunkClub, which provides you with your own personal stylist and makes it easier than ever to shop for clothes that look great on your body. Just go to and answer a few questions, and then you’ll be sent a trunk full of awesome clothes. They base this on your sizes, preferences, etc. The trunk is then delivered free of charge both ways, so you only pay for clothes that you keep. If you keep none, it costs you nothing. To get started, check it out at

This podcast is also brought to you by Mizzen + Main. These are the only “dress” shirts I now travel with — fancy enough for important dinners but made from athletic, sweat-wicking material. No more ironing, no more steaming, no more hassle. Click here for the exact shirts I wear most often. Don’t forget to use the code “TIM” at checkout.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What other athletes or world-class performers would you love to hear on the podcast?  Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

MERU | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Jimmy Chin

Show Notes

  • How do you pronounce “MERU?” [08:22]
  • How do you answer the question, “What do you do?” [09:18]
  • What is a first ascent and a first descent? [11:55]
  • Defining car-to-car time [17:25]
  • Why an outdoor athlete may start spending more time at the gym [19:55]
  • A typical week of training [21:06]
  • Most common beginning rock climbing mistakes (and corrections) [27:42]
  • Overcoming the fear of rock climbing [30:30]
  • Jimmy’s gear (shoes, boots, skis) [32:00]
  • Jimmy’s nutrition routine [33:11]
  • What does Jimmy listen to when he’s on expeditions? [34:50]
  • Goals for aspiring climbers [37:07]
  • Finding a good mountain guide [39:42]
  • Defining moments from Jimmy’s childhood [42:44]
  • Jimmy’s parenting style [44:44]
  • How Jimmy got started with photography [51:14]
  • Lessons Jimmy learned from Galen Rowell’s work ethic [58:38]
  • Dealing with fear and House of Cards [01:01:36]
  • How Jimmy improved his writing skills [01:09:31]
  • The first person who comes to mind when Jimmy thinks of success [01:11:52]
  • The books Jimmy gives as gifts [01:13:25]
  • Jimmy’s morning rituals [01:15:00]
  • Drinks of choice  [01:17:54]
  • A purchase of $100 or less that had the most positive impact [01:19:03]
  • What would Jimmy put on a billboard, and where would it be? [01:20:07]
  • What advice would Jimmy give his 30-year-old self? [01:21:05]

People Mentioned

by Tim Ferriss at October 21, 2015 12:20 AM

October 20, 2015

Dave Winer

Beyond the moral parade

I'm part of two profound conversations on Facebook right now.

One peripherally, as an observer, and one as an active participants.

1. About guns in Utah. (Observing)

2. About god in baseball. (Participating)

So much for social media all being a moral parade or mere grunts and snorts. It is possible to connect at a real human level through computer networks, if you persevere.

October 20, 2015 03:18 PM

Alex Schroeder

Man in the Middle

I wonder…

The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is 3f:fa:ee:ae:af:f4:37:9e:c5:ff:b6:85:8b:14:44:0e.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?


alex@kallobombus:~$ for f in /etc/ssh/ssh_host_*.pub; do ssh-keygen -lf $f; done
1024 a4:f6:b3:f6:6b:c0:73:db:66:13:9e:6f:35:aa:aa:d5  root@kallobombus (DSA)
256 d7:0f:d0:39:08:f7:8b:5d:dd:1c:92:4c:57:5b:2f:d2  root@kallobombus (ECDSA)
2048 49:60:86:36:2d:52:46:7e:9a:10:fc:13:5d:58:e9:c5  root@kallobombus (RSA1)
4096 9f:ad:00:25:ff:d6:07:5f:9c:90:f1:10:43:56:d4:c4  root@kallobombus (RSA)


  1. Why do I have anything other than RSA in my /etc/ssh directory?
  2. Why doesn’t any fingerprint match?

Is this what a Man-in-the-middle attack looks like?

I think that these are the files it should be using:

alex@kallobombus:/etc/ssh$ grep Key sshd_config
# HostKeys for protocol version 2
HostKey /etc/ssh/ssh_host_rsa_key
HostKey /etc/ssh/ssh_host_dsa_key
# HostKey /etc/ssh/ssh_host_ecdsa_key
KeyRegenerationInterval 3600
ServerKeyBits 768
#AuthorizedKeysFile     %h/.ssh/authorized_keys

And when I’m on the system itself, the fingerprint remains the same, so I guess it’s not a Man-in-the-middle attack but simply me not understanding where these fingerprints come from.

alex@kallobombus:/etc/ssh$ ssh alex@localhost
The authenticity of host 'localhost (::1)' can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is 3f:fa:ee:ae:af:f4:37:9e:c5:ff:b6:85:8b:14:44:0e.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?

Is this the correct public key? The timestamp looks suspicious.

alex@kallobombus:/etc/ssh$ ls -l *rsa*
-rw------- 1 root root 1679 Jul 16 00:04 ssh_host_rsa_key
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root  742 Jan  6  2015

Let’s print the public key and compare!

alex@kallobombus:/etc/ssh$ sudo ssh-keygen -y
[sudo] password for alex:
Enter file in which the key is (/root/.ssh/id_rsa): ssh_host_rsa_key
ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQDSrPJvgUtpgyW61lQXZqsFME3BQqr4BeZnh4QDk2UQJsSmYevyQuLVtMj/CXRHZLgujuW2ptKGgFgHA/fW0mvJM0NDcCoaQGkyNWcNUV6DGGRu0ttRccLwlasm+Iq4WZI5UuIpFvGgfjkgqUXNA058zfcFogOZzHk/gPuFruxjS6K6HtQ/c7bUPOZJrv/C804F9vq07tzy5S9ts587PWZjMLshC6UzErOOrzUIcv5LEE+V+xpy9gQfnkCPTtO/1ZeVLGlrSyWWIqFCso16zquQAvva9xzXiKQ/02FPPqx6EZ7EsHNekWdFwx3Z8xge8Og7nZfhS/E5fNPrSfseNpFB
alex@kallobombus:/etc/ssh$ cat
ssh-rsa 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 root@kallobombus

So, is the shorter key the actual key being used?

alex@kallobombus:/etc/ssh$ sudo ssh-keygen -yf ssh_host_rsa_key > /tmp/
alex@kallobombus:/etc/ssh$ ssh-keygen -lf /tmp/
2048 3f:fa:ee:ae:af:f4:37:9e:c5:ff:b6:85:8b:14:44:0e /tmp/ (RSA)

This matches the actual message when I log in:

The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is 3f:fa:ee:ae:af:f4:37:9e:c5:ff:b6:85:8b:14:44:0e.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?

The riddle’s solution is that the public key in my /etc/ssh directory is simply some old cruft that’s not being used. I should replace it.

Thanks, EmacsWiki:PierreGaston, for lending a helping hand. :)

Tags: RSS

October 20, 2015 12:41 PM

October 19, 2015

Mark Bernstein

As We May Think: New Notes

Notes from James Fallows and others on The Way We Read Now and related topics in the wake of Vannevar Bush’s classic popular science article from The Atlantic,As We May Think,” which lots of people consider the origin of hypertext. (I think it all starts with Nelson’s Computer Lib/Dream Machines, which explained what Engelbart’s AUGMENT was trying to do and what Bush’s imagined machine could actually accomplish, and that Bush only became important in the Reagan years when Computer Lib seemed too far left. But I’ve been arguing this for years and have, it seems, convinced no one. See also Murray Leinster’s “A Logic Named Joe,” published a few months after Bush’s piece, which foresees such problems of the Web as kids reading about sex and angry people getting technical advice they’d be better off without.

I’ve not yet read Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, incidentally, but I can heartily recommend Meg Rosof’s wonderful How I Live Now.

There’s a lot to read.

October 19, 2015 10:50 PM


Anthony Grafton, The Footnote.

The combined precision and obscurity of the Italian citation code compels admiration – especially in light of the practical difficulties that confront any Italian scholar who wants to read a given work before not citing it.

October 19, 2015 09:09 PM

Dave Winer

The secret of Sriracha sauce

If you have a bottle of Sriracha around and it's getting close to the bottom, and you find it doesn't have a great kick, it's not that you're getting used to it, it just loses it after a while. Get a new bottle to get it back.   

October 19, 2015 04:23 PM

I just made the next set of changes to the JSON message format. 

Now we include an element called "editor" in the payload. It's either wizzy or markdown. 

We only include sourcetext in the payload if the editor is markdown. For the wizzy editor.  

October 19, 2015 04:04 PM

Journalism is changing

Paul Boutin is a high integrity journalist of the Old School.

Integrity means you are what you appear to be. That's why you can have integrity even if you have conflicts of interest, as long as you disclose them.

He explains a certain kind of writing that appears to be journalism but is actually advertising. They are extracting the last bits of value in the old form of journalism. Preparing us to invent whatever comes next.

A guy like Paul can do it. He's smart, motivated, creative, and has seen a lot of innovation in his life, and participated in it as well.

October 19, 2015 03:30 PM

John Udell

Windows 10 hardware is off to a shaky start

I bought an original Surface Pro in 2013, and it's been my all-purpose computer ever since. I wanted to believe it was the long-awaited perfect union of desktop, laptop, and tablet capabilities.

But mainly I've used my Surface Pro as a desktop plugged into a large-screen monitor and a Floating Arms keyboard. As a laptop, it was problematic. The Surface Pro doesn't balance easily on your lap, and I could never get comfortable with its TypeCover keyboard. When one of its fans developed a death rattle, I decided it was time to explore the new generation of 2-in-1 PCs and ordered a Yoga 3 14 preloaded with Windows 10.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

by Jon Udell at October 19, 2015 10:00 AM

Dave Winer

Mets win, go up 2-0 in series with Cubs

It was a very weird experience. I was very very cold the whole game, at times intolerably so. Not sure why, I was well-dressed. I basically went to the game in winter attire. Last week it was summer, btw. Bike riding weather. And it will be again later this week. We just got hit by a blast of winter in time for the Mets to go up 2-0 in the series with the Cubs.

The Mets are going far this season. It feels like a sweep of Chicago might be possible. And after that, if we make it (praise Murphy!) I feel we will be very competitive against the likely opponent, the KC Royals.

The Mets are magic this year! :-0 

October 19, 2015 04:53 AM

October 18, 2015

Dave Winer

JSON changes

Changes to the JSON format for a chatlog item.

No more type of "blogpost". Basically everything was a blogpost. So if the type element isn't in the payload, it should behave as what we used to call a blogpost. We still check against the type being blogpost because there are data files out there that have this value in it, at least for now.

When an item is updated it gets two new elements: whenLastUpdate and ctUpdates. If an item doesn't have these, you can assume it hasn't been updated after it was posted. (Trying to keep the size of the item small.)

A change I will make tomorrow when it's clear these changes didn't cause breakage: Add an element to the payload that indicates which editor created the item, wizzy or markdown. 

Here's an example of a JSON version of a chat item (this one).

October 18, 2015 05:35 PM

Mark Bernstein

The Weapon

Brent Simmons has a cryptic but important post on the dangers of social media: When The Weapon Was Pointed At Me.

When Brent had his first big success, Dave Winer was there to warn him.

I should have remembered Dave Winer’s words to me from 2003, after I released NetNewsWire 1.0. I’m paraphrasing, not quoting, but they were something like this: “You’re the golden boy now. Enjoy it. They’ll turn on you later.”

This is bad for everyone – kids, especially, should not be permitted to risk editing at sites like Wikipedia – but it’s especially bad for software creators. We’ve internalized so thoroughly the notion – mistaken but partly true – that software must be intuitive and its design process should be user-centered, that the roar of the crowd and the howling of the mob both mean more than they should.

For the next six months after the pile-on I asked myself every day if I should just quit the industry. Seriously. Every day, and especially every night. I came very close.

I learned a few things. I can’t count on the public to have my back. Forget it.

This is another reason why we need better software criticism. When it comes to the arts, the crowd is seldom wise and always unreliable. In the sciences, the crowd knows next to nothing. Nastiness and ignorance are a bad combination, but one that’s become very, very familiar in social media.

I’m increasingly wondering, too, whether my friend’s speculation that Gamergate is a firestorm – a small number of vociferous people – is in fact the case. I recently wrote a modest rejoinder on a Wikipedia talk page -- a reply to a reply, and nothing I hadn’t written on that page before. It seems to have caught someone’s eye overnight: a bundle of hostile tweets, a 200-comment thread at Gamergate World Headquarters – and who knows what else?

It’s the mirror world of an Art World, the destructive, deformed mockery of something like Fluxus or Futurismo. Maybe it all is a handful of boys in a handful of basements, and an outer circle who like to watch.

October 18, 2015 03:31 PM

October 17, 2015

Tim Ferriss



This short (~20 min) episode covers the latest tools, gadgets, and tactics I’m using for faster and better sleep. Enjoy!


As a lifelong insomniac, I’ve tried everything, and here are some of the critical few that make the cut:

Here are a few other things that I think about when optimizing sleep and recovery.

Want to hear another podcast from that focuses on some of my favorite tips and tricks? — Listen to my podcast about The 5 Morning Rituals That Help Me Win the Day. In this episode, you’ll find the five things I’d like to accomplish within the first 60 to 90 minutes of an “ideal day.”

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What change or decision has most improved your quality of sleep?  Please share in the comments!

This podcast is brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service, led by technologists from places like Apple and world-famous investors. It has exploded in popularity in the last 2 years, and now has more than $2.5B under management. In fact, some of my good investor friends in Silicon Valley have millions of their own money in Wealthfront. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams. Check out, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you—for free–exactly the portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Or, as I would, you can set it and forget it.  Well worth a few minutes:

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Investing in securities involves risks, and there is the possibility of losing money. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Please visit Wealthfront dot com to read their full disclosure.

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by Tim Ferriss at October 17, 2015 06:24 PM

Alarming Development

Why programming languages matter

A colleague asked this question and here is my answer:

Programming gives us the power of the Gods to create things out of pure thought. Programming languages are the incantations and gestures we use to perform this magic.

Unfortunately we got only the power of the Gods, not their wisdom, and so we have created things of vast ugliness and secreted our powers within a cognitive priesthood. Perhaps programming languages could also play a part in solving these problems.

by Jonathan Edwards at October 17, 2015 05:57 PM

Dave Winer

New feature in the liveblog panel of the new Scripting News home page. There's now a popup menu. Most of the commands are disabled, but two are not: Permalink and Hoist. I'm not going to explain either of them, because when you try them I think their purpose will be self-evident.

October 17, 2015 04:36 PM


Why I think the Three.js CSS3DRenderer is Awesome

The Three.js library is widely known to be a WebGL library. I would like to share some thoughts on one of Three.js lesser known gems, the CSS3DRenderer, and why I think it’s great (even though it’s not even in the current documentation page yet).

Three.js is not simply a WebGL library
With WebGL widely adopted on most platforms, and it would seem natural that WebGL would be the preferred rendering choice on three.js. However, it’s worth noting that three.js has beginnings being a DOM Renderer. It also have a Canvas Renderer before WebGL support was added to the library (and it took until recently to have WebGLRenderer refactored). The simplicity of three.js design that allows other renderers (SoftwareRenderer, RaytracingRenderer etc) is beautiful. I’m sure pluggable rendering architectural isn’t nothing new, but at the top of my head I don’t recall libraries that that comes with better support and extensiblilty than three.js. So while CSS3DRenderer is likely not going to get as much attention and development as the WebGLRenderer, I would try explaining why CSS3DRenderer is a good thing.

Why CSS3DRenderer is Great

1. CSS rendering is widely supported, even on mobile browsers
Apart from some incompatibility issues with older IE browsers (which you could use CSSRendererIE for preserve-3d workarounds), I would think using the CSS3DRenderer would have the highest compatibility across browsers (and used on some high traffic websites until iOS shipped WebGL).

2. CSS rendering can be fast
Browsers leverage GPU for renderering 3d transforms, which gives you 60fps renderering (unless you’re animating > 1000 elements).

3. Stop worrying about Material / Shaders / Geometries
It’s easy to get tied up with geometries, materials, shaders, meshes with the WebGL or Canvas Renderers. CSSRenderer deals with DOM elements, which allows you can forget about texturing for a moment. Which brings the following points:

4. Rich Web Content Transformation
Because you’re dealing with DOM elements, you get to reuse HTML Elements you already have on your website. Now stretch your imagination and means you now can use any rich web content without having to do much.(eg. Images/GIFs/Documents/Videos/Iframes)

5. CSS-ful
Instead of having to handle lower level graphics programming like shading, you could use CSS to style your 3D objects. Maybe at some time you may even want to go crazy with CSS Shaders.

6. Alternative ray packing
Instead of having to raypick (fire a ray into the scene graph to determine what 3d object you’re interacting with), you could simply leverage dom events.

7. It’s a supplement to other Renderers
It doesn’t mean that using the CSS3DRenderer means giving up on the others as you can easily compliment to other renderers. For example, you could integrate a CanvasRenderer (and more) in a CSS3DRenderer, or overlay synchronized CSS3DRenderer with WebGLRenderer (commonly used to render text over the WebGL scene).

8. Extremely lightweight
If could get a customized CSS3D rendering only build of three.js which is a fraction of the normal three.js builds.

Enough of Buzzfeed-like reasons, here’s some situations when to use CSS3DRenderer.

Reasons when to use it
1. Rapid prototyping: Let’s say you wish to get some 3d effects fast with little code, CSS3DRenderer allows you to do that.
2. Creating interesting effects: the ability to creating a different visual effects with a mixture of DOM elements. Another way to look at CSS3DRenderer is that it’s a tool for CSS 3D transforms that you otherwise have to do yourself.

CSS3DRenderer Limitations
1. Thousand Elements: Several benchmarks I’ve done would have me recommend me to keep animated DOM elements at 500 or less.
2. Rasterization: The browser rasterizes an element before transforming it, that means if you scale up a text element too much, you may see jagged edges. The workaround is to create a element with huge font-size (at an expense of increased memory probably). If you’re animating SVG, you may which to transform the SVG points instead of allowing it to be rasterized before transformation.

Cascading Perspectives on CSS3DRenderer
This post was originally named “Exploring CSS3D” I started penning almost 3 years on experiments with the CSS3DRenderer that almost never saw the light of the day. It then became the presentation “Cascading Perspectives on CSS3DRenderer” I gave at CSSConf.Asia 2014 almost a year ago. Although I typically think of myself as a someone whose more familiar with JS than CSS, I thought it would be interesting to share about this topic when given the opportunity to speak. Here’s the slides (that probably has more content) for those interested.

Which brings me to the point
I need to improve my presentation skills
And that because of some knee-jerk reaction listening to my to my own speaking, I’ve only recently took the courage to watch the talk myself. If you’re more courageous than myself, then feel free to scan thru the video:

I think that CSS3DRenderer is cool and it would have a place in my heart, whether or not it would (still) be (widely) used.

by Zz85 at October 17, 2015 02:31 PM

October 16, 2015

Dave Winer

I just sent a screen shot of this page to a very small number of friends.

In case you decided to see if that was a mock-up or if it was for real, it's for real. I have a very user-friendly interface for entering and editing material on this page. It is not an outliner. I am sure you would think it is from the layout, but it is not. It's something different. I think nicer for this application, believe it or not. Yes, I actually did say that. wink

That was me doing my NakedJen imitation. kiss

October 16, 2015 07:56 PM

Getting close

I believe I am getting close to being ready to post from this liveblog to the Liveblog panel on Scripting News.

What's been there until now has been an experiment. Just to create the first connection between the two worlds. It's like building a bridge, you start with a thin, temporary piece of wire, and use that to haul up a bunch of thicker wires. Etc.

October 16, 2015 02:03 PM

October 15, 2015

Dave Winer

Let's see what happens if I put a smiley in this text. blush

October 15, 2015 03:29 PM

I may have just fixed the problems with emoji display in the Liveblog tab on Scripting News. kiss

Partially fixed. It's not handling it for smiley and wink character strings. Hmm.

October 15, 2015 03:17 PM

Mark Bernstein

Onward and By All Means

Speaking of Philip Werner and his, don’t miss The Best Year Of My Life.

October 15, 2015 02:48 PM

Wikipedia Weather

Gamergate has been comparatively calm lately, perhaps because school is back in session, perhaps because one of its most prolific advocates was compelled to give us a few months’ respite.

I asked an Old Wiki Expert, a veteran of the very first Wiki wars, what he thought of the whole sorry Gamergate affair. One suggestion he offered was striking: might Gamergate be much smaller than we think? Sure, plenty of people could be sitting at home and nodding, but how many are actually participating in Gamergate actions? It might all be the work of a handful of people, posting all over the place.

Meanwhile, Umaire Haque speculates that persistent abuse and nastiness is killing Twitter, Reddit, and the rest of the social web.

But I’ve never been to a town square where people can shove, push, taunt, bully, shout, harass, threaten, stalk, creep, and mob you…for eavesdropping on a conversation that they weren’t a part of…to alleviate their own existential rage…at their shattered dreams…and you can’t even call a cop.

These companies think they’re in the business of selling ads, but the unpleasantness is driving everyone away. It’s a sorry mess. Thanks, Philip Werner!

October 15, 2015 02:37 PM

October 14, 2015

Dave Winer

I'm enjoying watching a Game 5 where I don't care about the outcome. Forced to pick I'd go with Toronto because I have friends who live there, and it's not Texas. wink

Note: Ted Howard, who lives in Dallas, points out that I have friends in Texas too.

Tomorrow it's the Mets turn. I'm not looking forward to that. The only way I'll enjoy the game is if it's a Mets blowout.

Truth be told it's still a little nerve-wracking.

October 14, 2015 08:46 PM

Fog Creek

Chatterbug – Free Lightweight Issue Tracking for Teams who Live in Slack

Today we’ve launched Chatterbug, a free issue-tracking bot that runs entirely within Slack, the popular team chat tool.

Chatterbug provides teams with an easy way to capture ideas and feedback for their projects, as well as store notes and log issues, all whilst chatting in Slack.


With Chatterbug, you can open, close and assign issues whilst discussing them with your team. You can list all issues, search for issues, and view the details there and then as well.

Now, you can of course already do that and more with our existing Project Tracking tool, FogBugz. And if you’re one of the more than 20,000 teams already using FogBugz, it’s likely that your needs go beyond what Chatterbug can do. But it’s clear that some teams, especially non-technical teams, regard issue tracking software as just a tool for developers and we wanted to change that.

Chatterbug is a lightweight way to store notes, manages issues and other work – all within your existing workflow. It doesn’t force you to use any additional software either. Just chat in Slack as you normally would, and add Chatterbug to it so that you can track issues too.

It’s available now, so check it out and signup in seconds.

by Gareth Wilson at October 14, 2015 06:00 PM

Dave Winer

How items work in the liveblog

The idea of the liveblog is that it's more casual. Doesn't require as much forethought. Items don't require titles. They don't have to be very long. But they aren't limited in length either, and you can if you want put a title on an item. And oh yes, you can edit them after publishing.

October 14, 2015 05:43 PM

Welcome to the camp

Okay this is the moment we've been waiting for...

When something shows up in a folder on

A feed therein.

An item in the feed.

A title on the item, as well as a description, a guid, a pubdate, etc.

Let's see if the miracle happens now!

October 14, 2015 03:59 PM

Alex Schroeder

CSS Changes

I changed the fonts used for this website. I liked Noticia Text by JM Solé but loading it from the web was making the site slow on my old phone. It would load the page with invisible text and then add the font with a noticeable delay. Too bad the phone’s browser cache is too limited.

So now it is, in order: Palatino Linotype, Book Antiqua, or Palatino.

Here’s to faster loading times! 🍷

Tags: RSS

October 14, 2015 10:10 AM