Reading Notes, February 2019

Article: “Emoji Avatars for My Website”

Kind of a cool/fun way of authoring content and controlling the style of that content by way of the emoji embedded in the content. Essentially, if he embeds a select emoji in his post, he has an equivalent photographical expression of his own face as an avatar for the post. Cool idea.

Podcast: “Fighting the Hype in Technology”

You don’t have to listen to the whole thing, but I thought this observation by Paul Ford (about 26 minutes in) was really great. It’s something that never really gets talked about. I feel like working in software is always talked about as this dreamy, change-the-world endeavor. But the reality is just getting something out the door that people will actually want to use can be a monumental effort. If you can do that, if you can ship something that’s good enough for people to want to use it, that’s pretty damn good. You should give yourself a pat on the back.

the fundamental problem that most people are facing is not, “how do I apply technology X to get, you know, incredible yields?” That’s a very startup-y, West Coast kind of problem. The problem most people have is: can I get a good enough piece of software shipped that people want to use? That’s it — that is it, and that is...still the fundamentally hardest thing that most people can pull off...And especially at an organizational level. If you’re in a big org, just trying to get good software out the door [is incredibly hard]. (emphasis mine)

Article: “Please, Throw Away Used Whiteboard Markers” via Postlight

day after day, year after year, people go to the whiteboard, use a faint marker, and then just leave that marker for the next person. After all, they think, it still has a little ink left. Maybe someone likes faint marker lines. Maybe someone will come along at night and refill it. Or it might naturally grow new ink. Really, who can say?

I think there’s a little gap of knowledge in all of us around how whiteboard markers work – which is why, when we pick one up and use it only to find its output faint and unreadable, we put the cap back on. “It’s probably got something left in it, I just don’t know how to coax it out. I’m sure someone else smarter than me will know how.”

This piece reminded me of someone I worked with who, whenever they found a used marker, would always put the cap back on and dramatically chuck it across the conference room towards the trash. It was beautiful thing.

Article: More Good Programming Quotes

Some of my favorites:

“Much of the essence of building a program is in fact the debugging of the specification.” — Fred Brooks

“A common fallacy is to assume authors of incomprehensible code will be able to express themselves clearly in comments.” — Kevlin Henney

“Sufficiently advanced abstractions are indistinguishable from obfuscation.” — @raganwald

Then later, a few favorites in the comments:

“If at first you don’t succeed, call it version 1.0.” — Unknown

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” — Steve Jobs

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” — Peter Drucker

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.“ — Peter Drucker

“Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight.” — Bill Gates

“No one’s life has yet been simplified by a computer.” — Ted Nelson

“If you think good architecture is expensive, try bad architecture.” — Brian Foote

“The bearing of a child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned.” — Frederick P. Brooks Jr.

“To err is human but to really foul up requires a computer.” — Dan Rather

“The business of software building isn’t really high-tech at all. It’s most of all a business of talking to each other and writing things down. Those who were making major contributions to the field were more likely to be its best communicators than its best technicians.” — Tom DeMarco