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Archive: December 18, 2008

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more Kindling: the coolness of *now*

Thursday,  12/18/08  08:07 PM

the KindleSo, I have an interesting new perspective on the coolness of Kindle: it let's you read stuff *now*.  As before, directly relates to the coolness of iPod.  (And stay tuned for an observation about the coolness of AppleTV :)

The other day I noted Josh Newman's Beginner's mind, about sucking and sucking and sucking until you get it right, and sent him an email about it, to which he replied:

Also, quasi-relatedly, I've been reading Mastering the Rockefeller Habits of late, and have enjoyed it immensely thus far; there don't seem to be many books with good, concrete advice for established yet fast-growing companies, and this seems to be one of the best I've found.  Worth checking out, I think...

Okay, so Josh says Mastering the Rockefeller Habits is worth checking out, so I check it out.  And I'm just about to one-click this book (yes of course "one-click" is a verb), and then I notice Amazon has a Kindle edition.  Whoa.  Game changer, instead of getting this book in a couple of days with one click, I can have it *now*.

{ BTW free tip for Chris Anderson and/or Malcom Gladwell, your next book should be *Now* }

Just like FREE is nonlinearly attractive compared to any nonzero price, NOW is qualitatively better than any nonzero delay.  So I click to buy the Kindle Edition of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.  What will happen?  This:

Kindle purchase dialog

Cool!  It already knows about my Kindle, and I just click Continue, and the book is all teed up to be transmitted to my Kindle.  So I run upstairs and wake up my Kindle, and it gives me a message that "my new purchases are being downloaded", shortly followed by a message that "my new purchases are ready to read"!  And I get this:

Kindle: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits

And just like that, I'm reading the book.  Took about two minutes.  How cool is that?



the Law of Significance

Thursday,  12/18/08  08:33 PM

Chris Anderson is one of my favorite writers and bloggers, but he occasionally falls prey to The Law of Significance.  (You can tell something is Really Important because people write about it with Capital Letters.  Dum dum dum.)  Chris has unearthed some amazing insights in his time; the Long Tail is one of the truly interesting new ideas in business spawned by the Internet era.  But once you've found a few key insights like that you begin thinking of yourself as a Thinker (note capitals), and it inspires you to promote everyday observations to the status of Laws.  You could imagine Chris might drop a piece of toast, find that it landed face down on the floor, and discover the Law of Toast.  I call this phenomenon the Law of Significance (note capitals and boldface).

The latest example is Chris' Law of Transparency: you can't be open in all things all of the time.  So I don't even know if that's true, but if it is I don't think it rises to the standard of a Law, it is more like a reflection.  It works better if you make lots of observations about lots of things and let other people anoint some of them as Laws than if you keep trying too hard to be Significant.  (For one thing, you won't be the target of critical blog posts :)

Chris is working on a new book called Free, about business models where you give stuff away for free, and while that is no doubt all very interesting (and I'm sure his book will sell) I don't think it is all that fundamental.  He reminds me a lot of Malcom Gladwell, another Thinker who is under the spell of the Law of Significance; once Gladwell had written Tipping Point (pretty fundamental point), he came out with Blink (somewhat fundamental) and then Outliers (not fundamental at all).  I like Gladwell and enjoy his articles in the New Yorker a lot, and like his blog.  But not everything he observes is a Law.

Let's see how Chris decides to distribute Free, do you suppose he'll give it away?

This post began with an email exchange I had with a friend; he noted:

Years ago Esther Dyson restated Stewart Brand's theory that "information wants to be free" in an article she wrote about the Internet.

In her $500/yr newsletter.


[Update: He *did* decide to give it away... good dogfooding! ]


programmers vs hardware

Thursday,  12/18/08  08:41 PM

Jeff Atwood writes Hardware is Cheap, Programmers are Expensive.  "Given the rapid advance of Moore's Law, when does it make sense to throw hardware at a programming problem? As a general rule, I'd say almost always."  Yeah, but... 

Here's the comment I posted:

Jeff, your comment is written from the point of view of a user.  If you're creating an application for your own company, sure, hardware is much less expensive than programmers.

This situation is different from the point of view of a vendor.  If you're creating an application which thousands of customers are going to use, *your* programmers are much less expensive than *their* hardware.  You really don't want to make customers pay more for your application because it requires more hardware.  (Vista is an extreme example, as an OS, but this is doubly true for vertical applications.)

For example my company Aperio makes digital pathology systems.  These manage lots of really big images.  If we didn't have efficient code our customers would have to buy more hardware - CPUs, disk, bandwidth, etc - and it would make our applications more expensive.  We'd be less competitive and deliver less value.  So for us spending programmer resources to reduce application hardware resources is the right trade-off.

BTW this discussion bears on the choice of language, too.  If you're creating applications for yourself, sure, go ahead and use C#.  If you're creating performance critical applications to sell to others, C++ might make more sense.

This is apparently a hard thing to wrap your mind around...  Microsoft struggled with this same thing in the early days of Vista, rewriting large parts of the OS in C# only to discover that "managed" code was too slow, and the whole world wasn't going to buy next generation PCs all at once.  Even after large amounts of the rewritten code were rewritten again, Vista still ended up being slow and piggy, and adoption has been sluggish.  Don't hold your breath waiting for Office or SQLServer to be written in .NET, or Photoshop, or Quicken...  or any decent game you might name.

This recalls an earlier post Jeff made in August 2005: Despite the incredible slowness and sparseness of features, this is really cool, in which we debated the relative merits of Java (nice for in-house use) and C++ (nicer for "mainstream" apps).  Here we are three years later and not much has changed.  Same as it ever was...



Thursday,  12/18/08  08:50 PM

Really cold today, this morning it was "frost on the lawn overnight cold", and today it was "wind blowing right through you" cold.  I did a ride, a pretty fast ride, actually, but it was pretty uncomfortable, too.  Brrr.  And meanwhile I didn't get much done today; unlike yesterday where it felt lots of cool important stuff happened, today went by, ho hum, and here I am.  So be it.

Today was also the one-week anniversary of my wipeout.  A week filled with pain, discomfort, and Motrin, not to mention plastic bags and duct tape.  I'm ready to be able to shower and sleep normally again, okay?

Dakim Brain Fitness gamePublic service announcement: Dakim Brain Fitness is a cool company.  If you know someone who is suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia, you will find this interesting.  The basic idea is that you exercise your brain to keep it fit.  And they have tools to help you exercise, in fact you can play with some of them online on their website.  I like the way their website is setup, it is very non-threatening and accessible, with big text and simple embedded videos.  Kind of like designed for an older person who isn't that familiar with computers or the web.  Very cool!

Disclosure: one of Dakim's investors is Galen Associates, who are also an investor in Aperio, that's how I found out about them.  But I have no direct interest except rooting for them to make a difference :)

Herb London in Powerline: I lost my country.  "Where is my America, the place of fair play, individual rights, the rule of law and respect for private property?  Was the past merely a dream from which I have awakened?  Can that America of exceptionalism return?  Can it find its way back into the public consciousness?  I have my doubts.  Now the change agents scream 'everything will be different.'  Alas, they are right.  It appears as if everything will be different, most especially the end of an America I loved."  Wow, that's a pretty pessimistic take.  I'm not happy that Obama won, but America will survive.

crazy bike path!This has to be the weirdest bike path of all time.  Wow (click to enbiggen).  The bike handling skills implied are impressive :)

Mike Arrington kicks the La La flywheel; he likes them, just like I do.  In case you don't know, they're an online music store where you can listen to stuff before buying, and when you buy you can store it on their site (for $.10) or download it to your computer (for $.89).  They have a decent selection and a decent user interface.  And yet... and yet... after using it for a while and continuing to like it, I find myself gravitating back to iTunes.  Not sure why.  Maybe it's selection; my iTunes has 20MB of music I really like, and 0MB of music I don't.  But I sure won't find new music in iTunes :)

Dutch fans!The 2009 Vuelta will start in Holland!  Wow, check a map; Holland is not next to Spain...  in fact the first three stages will be in Holland, and the fourth will start there and end in Belgium.  Then a transfer day moves the race to Spain.  Pretty cool, I predict many Rabobank fans wearing orange :)

Cycling News previews the Tour of California which takes place in February; pretty soon many of the pro teams are going to come out here for early season training, riding in the very hills I ride every day.  Nothing is cooler than being passed by a small peloton of pros roaring up one of your daily rides :)

From the Onion: Area woman becomes Republican vice-presidential candidate.  "The mother of five, who enjoys attending church potluck dinners with husband Todd, an unemployed commercial fisherman, reportedly 'jumped at the chance' to become the second most powerful person in the country."  [ via Jason Kottke, who notes "Sometimes the funniest fake news is disturbingly real"; for him Sarah Palin herself was disturbing, but for me it's the close correlation between Onion stories and truth... ]

space shuttle taking offCheck out The Boston Globe's pictures of 2008.  Excellent!

ZooBorn: baby koalaZooBorn of the Day: a little Koala Bear.  Now that's cute...







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Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
Emergent Properties
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji The Nest Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
Adding Value
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
Toy Story
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
visiting Titan
unintelligent design
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
second gear
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
universal healthcare
triple double
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Holiday Inn
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
vote smart
exact nonsense
introducing eyesFinder
to space
where are the desktop apps?