Archive for August, 2018

Reading List

Reading List

One weird trick made me a better coder/ speaker/ product person

One trick that made me a better programmer/ speaker/ product person: relax. This sounds counter-intuitive in an industry where all-night coding sessions are seen as a virtue, and you’re supposed to have umpty-nine side projects on Github that you do in your spare time. (And we wonder why older people, women with children and people with disabilities are under-represented…)

But for me, resting is when ideas come. The best ideas come in the shower when I’ve not long woken up, or on a Friday evening when I’m drinking wine and listening to music. Your mileage may vary, of course; that’s why I titled this “made me a better programmer”.

When I tweeted this, Phillipp replied

I would go even further and say “rest good!”, because many people are aware of taking a break, but their breaks aren’t resting at all. They still allow to be flooded with information constantly…

This is an excellent point. One of my favourite ways of relaxing is reading. But I’m reading material of my choice, not being waterboarded by the information firehose of Twitter or the web. And if I’m reading, it’s because I want to — I could equally well be listening to music, or writing and recording music.

I advise reading eclectically, about anything that interests you. Even if you’re reading about particle physics, neurology, history or fiction, you’re seeing how other people present information, which can help you be a better presenter. And so many new ideas come from the unexpected collision of different disciplines that that the more widely you read, the more chances you have of seeing parallels and comparisons that others haven’t seen.

For me, relaxing is when ideas come; reading (and talking to a range of people ) is where ideas come from.

Bonus tip: always wear groovy shirts. A groovy shirt makes a groovy mind.

Reading List

Web Stuff

Other stuff

How to set up a website: a guide for the alt-right

I was saddened to read the alt-right describing Facebook and YouTube’s removal of Infowars as “simultaneously purg[ing] him from the internet“:

I assume Mr Tracey has not heard of the World Wide Web, which Tim Berners-Lee invited the public to try 27 years ago yesterday:

(Alternatively, perhaps Mr. Tracey has heard of it, and is simply distorting the facts to mislead people – surely not?)

Anyway, this new-fangled “World Wide Web” allows anybody to make what we in the trade call “a website”.

Mr Jones’ Infowars site already has one, which hasn’t been “purged” by anyone. (I won’t link to it because, well, ewwwww. Don’t “wah wah censorship” at me; my website, my rules.) But, as a service to alt-right frothers everywhere, here’s how you can set up your own.

You could go to wordpress.com where, for as little as £3 a month, you can host your site with a custom domain name (so www.horriblebullshit.com instead of horriblebullshit.wordpress.com). Alt-right people will need to exercise a little verbal continence to comply with their user guidelines:

The following activity/material isn’t allowed on WordPress.com … Illegal content and conduct.
… you cannot post a genuine call for violence—or death—against an individual person, or groups of persons … Don’t share someone’s personal information without their consent.

Note that these pretty laissez-faire terms of service do not curtail your free speech; WordPress.com is a business and isn’t obliged to take your money. The American first amendment applies only to the government.

As an alternative to WordPress.com, Wix allows you to make your own pretty website with a drag and drop builder, and host it with them for a small amount of money. Again, a modicum of decency is required; you can’t publish stuff

which may be deemed as defamatory, libelous, obscene, harassing, threatening, incendiary, abusive, racist, offensive, deceptive or fraudulent, encouraging criminal or harmful conduct.

Squarespace and Weebly also allow you to build and host websites (although I haven’t tried them. I used to work for Wix).

Tumblr will host your content and videos, with community guidelines:

Don’t encourage violence or hatred. Don’t make violent threats or statements that incite violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism. Especially don’t do so on the basis of things like race, ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, gender identity, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation.

I think such rules on a website that somebody else owns are entirely legitimate. As clause 19 of Terms of Service on Alex Jones’ Infowars website says

If you violate these rules, your posts and/or user name will be deleted.

Remember: you are a guest here. It is not censorship if you violate the rules and your post is deleted. All civilizations have rules and if you violate them you can expect to be ostracized from the tribe.

If you don’t want to trust a third party with your data, good on you! I’m all for an web of independent authors. (Or perhaps you can’t even muster up the good manners to be hosted by one of these services, in which case, bad on you. Have a good hard look at yourself in the mirror.)

It’s very easy these days to register a domain name (Google it), set up the free, open-source blogging WordPress software, choose any of thousands of free themes, and publish to your heart’s content, especially if you choose a host that specialises in WordPress hosting. You might have to pay slightly more, and do a little bit more work to make sure all software is updated and secure — but that’s a price I’m willing to pay in order to own and control my own content.

So there you are, alt-right folks. I’m an atheist liberal, so I despise the divisive nonsense you excrete. But I love that the Web allows everyone to publish, and wouldn’t want you to feel left out because you’re misinformed by people like Michael Tracey who don’t understand the web.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible no-one will visit your website to read how Bin Laden faked the moon landings in order to draw attention from the fact that Marilyn Monroe was a CIA-funded muslim who invented income tax and fluoridated water in order to seize your guns and pollute your precious bodily fluids. But that’s freedom.

Happy hating!

Life Principles, cancer and Quantum Medicine

Yesterday, I got blocked on Facebook for asking “bioresonance practitioner” Life Principles for more information about their “Quantum Medicine”, as I’m too unversed in science to understand it from their explanation about homeopathy, and Dr Raymond Rife’s “electronic machine” that cured 14 of 14 peoples’ cancer before it was suppressed by “Big Pharma”.

To be clear, they’re not advertising treatments for cancer (that would be illegal). They’re selling “treatments” for addiction that use “Quantum Medicine”. This is from their QM “explainer”:

In 1981 Dr Raymond Rife came up with his electronic machine which would shake pathogen to death. He took 14 people who were sent home to die from end stage cancer and with a three minute treatment twice a week cured 12 of them. The last two were cured after another four weeks of treatments. This was certified by 12 eminent oncologists at the time.

The claim that ‘In 1981 Dr Raymond Rife came up with his electronic machine” is tricky to substantiate, as Rife died on August 5, 1971. OR DID HE?!? Maybe his machine made him immortal. Perhaps his quantum kundalini is metastatising with the cosmos, as we speak.

Also what is homeopathy if not energy medicine? According to Avogadro’s law of dilution the chances of the original molecules after years of dilution is nill but the remedies are even more potent. The imprint on the water is what counts and not the original substance they started off with, well that’s quantum medicine.

Certainly, Avogadro shows that “the chances of the original molecules after years of dilution is nill [sic]“. But he certainly did not go on to say “the remedies are even more potent”; that’s Samuel Hahnemann, the man behind homeopathy. The “imprint on the water” (“water memory“) is not accepted by scientists, and quite what that has to do with quantum mechanics is unclear.

So does it matter if the medicine is in a physical form or in quantum form applied to the body energetically or informationally? If the result is the same then they are effectively medicines.

Er – what?

This was vomited out for me as a Facebook ad (presumably because Life Principles is based in Birmingham, as I am). Facebook shouldn’t profit from such nonsense, especially as previous complaints about Life Principles’ dodgy advertising were upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority:

We told Life Principles Ltd to ensure that future ads did not make efficacy claims that implied guaranteed success for their treatments unless they held robust evidence to substantiate the claims. We also told Life Principles to ensure that their advertising did not offer treatment or discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.

Life Principles describes “Modern medicine” as

a business model that makes tons of money for the Big Pharma who blatantly hide bad research and only publish favourable results.

Their Facebook “About” page promotes awards for people promoting them:

10% Referral fee after someone has successfully stayed quit for 12 months. If you promote our business as a business distributing our leaflets we will give you 20% of our takings. So for heroin addiction you could earn a cool £400.

A “cool” £400. Classy.

As someone with Multiple Sclerosis, I get my fair share of quacks popping up to sell me bee-string therapy or warn me against coffee or aspartame.

I’d sooner trust “Big Pharma” than “Big Snakeoil”, thank you.

Reading List

A weekly(-ish) dump of links to interesting things I’ve read and shared on Twitter. This is the last one to be sponsored by those nice folks at Wix Engineering, ’cause I’m leaving Wix.

Leaving Wix Engineering

There’s a great song on Michelle Shocked’s first album called The Secret to A Long Life is Knowing When It’s Time To Go.

And I’ve followed Ms Shocked’s advice through much of my career, sometimes out of self-preservation, but mostly because I like starting things up and then passing on the baton before I become the crusty old-timer in the corner saying “We don’t do it like that here”. That’s why I left Amnuay Silpa school in Bangkok four years after we set it up, once we became profitable; likewise, I left the Solicitors Regulation Authority after we established a new, standards-based website, a sane editorial policy and I recruited and trained my successors.

And now, after 15 months, I’m finishing my consultancy at Wix Engineering. They bought me in to help them with a project they’d been working on. We radically simplified it, then made sure that Stylable (as called it) adhered to the rules and spirit of CSS. Then it was time to tell people about it, firstly through a music video, then through conference talks.

That’s done; as one of the Product Managers at Wix R&D, Arnon Kehat, said

I was part of the team that hired Bruce to help us make our open source contribution stand-out, and reach the right people. I cannot imagine how we would have done it without him… He guided us where we hadn’t a clue, and helped us make some really complex discussions into fun ones. He helped us understand our audience better, and to make sure we approach them the right way.

And I’m happy to say that the first components made with Stylable are now running in production, available for the 120 million Wix users to add to their sites.

In some ways, Wix was like working for Opera – both had very strong consumer brands, and fiercely loyal users, but weren’t well known as places of engineering excellence. At Opera, I worked to show web developers how our engineers made a browser run on low-specced devices, to serve its millions of customers in the developing world. At Wix, I reported directly to Nadav, one of the founders – but he doesn’t wander around in a shiny suit of synergies, smoking caviar; he writes JavaScript all day in the Stylable team. It’s a very engineering-led company; over 50% of the workforce are engineers.

I’m not too proud to admit that when I was at Opera I had a somewhat naive view of how websites get made in ‘industry’. Working with a company that has so many people making sites on the Wix platform has taught me a great deal about building the web at scale, about kind of infrastructure behind the scenes, performance and where the rubber meets the road in terms of standards.

It was great fun to work with the Stylable team who are lovely people and brilliant coders who really, really care about the Web, and with groovy cats in wider-Wix such as Dan Shappir, Danielle Kanish, Maya Alon, Mor Gilad, Morad Stern, and Sergey Bolshchikov. Kisses to all of them.

Next: off to Asia for a while to meditate and make music before the next career adventure.

Out of office

The BBC has a report on Some of the funniest out-of-office replies. It’s a summertime filler story but I noticed them quoting Tyler Brûlé who wrote an article suggesting that people who set out-of-office messages simply aren’t committed enough. This is another example of “presenteeism”, one of the reasons that British workers don’t take time off sick when they’re ill.

I love my holidays; I work to live, not live to work, although I do love what I do. So I always set an Out of Office message on my employer’s corporate email. I’ve noticed through various jobs that most of the email I receive is either ephemera (“I’ll be late today”/ “Please note the fridge will be emptied on Thursday”) or conversations that go on for a few days, and then resolve themselves.

So my out of office says “I’m out until DD/MM/YYYY. If your message remains important when I return, please re-send it then, as I will delete all messages received before that date without reading”. And, apart from messages from direct bosses, I do just that.

Feel free to use my personal email out-of-office as inspiration:

OFF THE GRID!

I love you. I really do. The way your cute nose goes all crinkly when you smile – I dream about it and sigh. The way you toss your beautiful hair when you’re materialising from hyperspace makes my heart go pit-a-pat and skip a beat. Thinking of how your tentacles encircle my exoskeleton causes … well, let’s not go there.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m backpacking around India at the moment, and connectivity is limited. And there’s loads of stuff to look at that’s cooler than email, so it may take time until I reply. Until we see each other again, I yearn for your gentle caress and to hear the ethereal howling you make when extruding your egg sacs.

CUDDLES. xxx

Relax! Read a book! Go swimming! Play guitar! Get drunk! Learn karate! Do some yoga! Play tennis! Make love! Have fun with your friends and family! Remember, the graveyard is full of indispensable people.