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Category: Technology

Notes: 2022-11-23

Recovery from covid continues. Allow me to express the sentiment that wearing a mask is a very small price to pay for avoiding literally three weeks of reduced capacity, one week of which was complete downtime.

I installed an ActivityPub plugin for WordPress, so if you’re a Mastodon person you can effectively follow this blog at @Bryant@popone.innocence.com. This works very well for me, because it means I can easily put my longer-form permanent thoughts here and everything I post on my main Mastodon account (@BryantD@dice.camp) can be transient.

Tim Bray has an excellent article on practical uses of the blockchain. While he was at AWS, he was tasked with being part of a group that looked into whether or not AWS should provide blockchain services. Spoiler: they found no use cases that require a blockchain over a database. Distributed ledgers (which do not require blockchains) are handy.

The Man of the Hole is an absolutely wild story. He was an indigenous native of the Amazon rainforest whose tribe was wiped out by Brazilian settlers sometime after 1970 or so. We don’t know what his name was, because Brazil successfully avoided disturbing his solitary existence for over two decades. He died this August. I can’t imagine how lonely his life must have been, but apparently he knew there were people keeping an eye out for him and I guess he never showed signs of wanting contact. Read the article. The Wikipedia page also seems pretty good.

Interesting Rian Johnson interview (by Walter Chaw, who is great). I liked what he had to say about the meta-textual layer of an all star cast: what expectations does that create in the audience?

I want to invent a tabletop RPG mechanic around the Go First Dice. Follow the link for a deep dive, but the summary is that it’s possible to number four 12 sided dice such that when four people roll them, there will never be a tie and every possible ordering of the results is equally possible. In other words, everyone has an equal chance to roll highest, second highest, third highest, and fourth highest. (Second place is a set of steak knives, of course.)

Phew. Lots of backlog today.

I knew that Lagos was one of the biggest cities in the world, and growing fast. I did not realize that it’s the east end of a 600 mile stretch of coast that’s quickly turning into a megapolis.

Notes: 2022-11-08

Phew. No big Paxlovid bounce, thankfully.

This is what I thought of when I heard about Tesla engineers coming over to validate Twitter code. It’s both true that the author seems pretty savvy and that the culture over at Tesla is focused on velocity over anything. Good times.

Let’s get all the Twitter stuff out of the way!

  • Evelyn Douek has smart things to say about Twitter’s regulatory challenges. Not just in the US, not just in the EU — India’s going to be a huge headache.
  • This layoff guide for Twitter employees is worth reading for anyone who’s nervous about their job. Or anyone, really. Use your work laptop in a way which will enable you to execute on those precautions quickly.
  • One billion dollars in infrastructure cuts? This is already working out badly. Sympathies to the guy who just went on call for a bunch of systems he doesn’t know. Gergley has a good thread on the problems ahead. Here’s another SRE still employed by Twitter, and he thinks it’s gonna be ugly. Rakyll is a well-respected principal engineer in the reliability biz; she’s pessimistic and thinks people are leaving.
  • Tangentially related: Starlink is inevitably having to throttle bandwidth. Some math: Starlink wants $5K/month for 2 terminals with a total of 350 Mbps download. That’s cheap and cool but the existing mobile solutions can deliver bandwidth in the Gbps range.

OK, that’s enough horrified observation of the train wreck. Mastodon is treating me OK so far.

If I had to choose one word to capture the difference between engineering levels, I agree that impact is a good one. But there are a lot of different ways to have an impact. I kind of want to do career progression as a spider chart.

I like this story about enclaves and exclaves but what really caught my eye is the platform — this is apparently open to anyone to write this kind of post? In my copious spare time I wanna mess with it.

This program looks like a good entrance point to New Taiwan Cinema. I’ve seen Rebels of the Neon God and I liked it, although I’m not sure I have the right flavor of patience for this particular cinematic movement.

Twitter Layoff Thoughts

Still got covid but thanks to Paxlovid or my natural recuperative energies or something, I’m feeling much better than I did on Tuesday. Let’s see how this goes.

The report described severe staffing challenges that included large numbers of unfilled positions on its Site Integrity team, one of three business units responsible for policing misinformation. It also highlighted a lack of language capabilities so severe that many content moderators resorted to Google Translate to fill the gaps. In one of the most startling parts of the report, a head count chart said Site Integrity had just two full-time people working on misinformation in 2021, and four working full-time to counter foreign influence operations from operatives based in places like Iran, Russia and China.

Elizabeth Dwoskin, Joseph Menn, and Cat Zakrzewski: Washington Post

Elon Musk just laid off half of Twitter to save money, and he will need those lawyers and engineers if he wants to handle the regulatory challenges ahead of him. Maybe he didn’t lay off the really critical employees, like the people supporting the infrastructure. After all:

“Even a temporary but overlapping outage of a small number of datacenters would likely result in the service [Twitter] going offline for weeks, months, or permanently.”

Mudge

Well.

Elon Musk has directed Twitter Inc’s teams to find up to $1 billion in annual infrastructure cost savings, according to two sources familiar with the matter and an internal Slack message reviewed by Reuters, raising concerns that Twitter could go down during high-traffic events like the U.S. midterm elections.

The company is aiming to find between $1.5 million and $3 million a day in savings from servers and cloud services, said the Slack message, which referred to the project as “Deep Cuts Plan.”

Sheila Dang, Paresh Dave and Katie Paul: Reuters

I’m feeling like I’m recovering, but boy do I ever feel for Twitter.

It’s too late for Twitter employees who were laid off, but I strongly recommend this guide. It’s valuable any time you’re thinking you might leave a company, under your own power or not.

Pay to Party

It’s reasonably well known that one path to a hospitable online community is charging people a fee to register. See Metafilter for the best case. They charge $5 to register and it cuts way down on drive-by assholes. The less good case is Something Awful, which charges $10 to register and is often a pit. But that’s because they don’t moderate all that hard.

(Something Awful is also the only pro wrestling discussion forum I know of where you’ll get raked through the coals for saying things like “Unfortunately abadon as an attractive woman would have a lot more success if her gimmick didn’t involve making herself extremely unattractive”. It’s a pit of contradictions. Anyhow.)

So what is Elon trying to do with this “$20/month for verified users” thing?

First off, if you assume that all 300,000 verified users will go for it, that’s enough money to make it worthwhile. $72 million a year is only 7% of the new debt load Twitter has to service, but that’s not nothing! If you told me I could knock off 7% of my debt by crunching for a week, I’d do it in a split second.

But this isn’t just for verified users. He wants to open it up to everyone.

Jason is making a couple of big mistakes here but he is close to correct. If Twitter charged $20 as a one time fee for using the platform, and then moderated, it would clean up pretty quickly. It would also get very small. This does not fulfill Elon’s dream, alas.

That’s the first mistake. The second mistake is making it a subscription; if you have to pay $20 a month whether you misbehave or not, it’s not a psychological sunk cost and you’re more willing to break the rules and get kicked off. On Something Awful, you can immediately re-register if you get banned, so banning people is an income stream. Again, this doesn’t work if the cost is a subscription.

Can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Command Line!

awk '/in_reply_to_screen_name/ { print $3 }' tweets.json | sed 's/[","]//g' | sort | uniq -c | sort | grep -v BryantD | tail -20
  56 graphxgrrl
  57 patrickoduffy
  58 jessnevins
  59 othergretchen
  60 GlobeChadFinn
  61 ryantomorrow
  65 smakofsky
  66 seclectech
  69 multiplexer
  73 gentlyepigrams
  75 rmd1023
  76 mgrasso
  79 JimHenleyMusic
  79 Wolf_six
  89 carlrigney
 102 _r_o_n_e_
 107 rone_____1
 129 emilytheslayer
 306 rdonoghue
 341 ce_murphy

Physical Game Jam Tracker

I made a thing! I have been on a minor roll with python recently and this seemed like a fun project so I started working on it. Towards the end I reached out to the awesome person who inspired me, since she didn’t seem to have been keeping her tracker up to date, and she said I should go ahead and launch mine. So here we are.

I used this as an excuse to try out new technology and libraries. Click and Cloup made the list; the first because I wanted to try out new argument parsers and the second because I needed option groups. This forced me to learn to use setuptools better, which was a win. I am gonna keep using this tech going forward.

I also wound up sticking Rich in there for better CLI output and it’s kinda great, so that’ll stay in my toolbox too.

Dataset turned out to be too limited, because it’s really just for columnar data in a single table and it turns out itch.io jams have one little thing which break that paradigm; namely, multiple owners per jam. So now I’m using sqlite with JSON support and honestly it’s a bit grungy. Maybe next time I’ll learn SQLAlchemy for real.

My python has gotten significantly better over the last year with this kind of small but enjoyable work, and I am gonna keep doing it.

Seattle Movie Calendar

Before the pandemic, I’d been thinking about writing a little aggregator to pull movie times at my favorite local indie theaters into a calendar. I’m bad at remembering to see that cool showing a month from now but if I had a calendar that would theoretically help.

Obviously I didn’t need it for the last couple of years but the silver lining is that I got better at Python. I spent some time coding over the last week of my sabbatical and voila: the Seattle Arthouse Movie Calendar.

The code is here. I was sort of fiddling around with making it a real library but decided not to chew off too much at once. It was enough fun learning how to use classes to make it super-easy to add a new theater.

Lots of potential improvements. I am probably going to generate separate calendars for each theater next, for convenience. I’d also like to render maybe three days worth of calendar on the Web page. I feel like doing more than that risks pulling traffic away from the official theater sites, which I’d prefer to avoid, but three days seems reasonable.

I’m going to write up some notes on using the code for other cities too. If you’re decent with Python you could probably figure it out from reading what’s there but documentation is a good practice anyhow.