Simon Willison’s Weblog


Monday, 8th July 2024

Voters in the Clapham and Brixton Hill constituency can rest easy - despite appearances, their Reform candidate Mark Matlock really does exist. [...] Matlock - based in the South Cotswolds, some 100 miles from the constituency in which he is standing - confirmed: "I am a real person." Although his campaign image is Al-generated, he said this was for lack of a real photo of him wearing a tie in Reform's trademark turquoise.

Private Eye

# 3:20 pm / politics, ai, generative-ai

Geomys, a blueprint for a sustainable open source maintenance firm (via) Filippo Valsorda has been working as a full-time professional open source maintainer for nearly two years now, accepting payments on retainer from companies that depend on his cryptography Go packages.

This has worked well enough that he's now expanding: Geomys (a genus of gophers) is a new company which adds two new "associate maintainers" and an administrative director, covering more projects and providing clients with access to more expertise.

Filipino describes the model like this:

If you’re betting your business on a critical open source technology, you

  1. want it to be sustainably and predictably maintained; and
  2. need occasional access to expertise that would be blisteringly expensive to acquire and retain.

Getting maintainers on retainer solves both problems for a fraction of the cost of a fully-loaded full-time engineer. From the maintainers’ point of view, it’s steady income to keep doing what they do best, and to join one more Slack Connect channel to answer high-leverage questions. It’s a great deal for both sides.

For more on this model, watch Filippo's FOSDEM talk from earlier this year.

# 3:40 pm / go, open-source, filippo-valsorda

Box shadow CSS generator (via) Another example of a tiny personal tool I built using Claude 3.5 Sonnet and artifacts. In this case my prompt was:

CSS for a slight box shadow, build me a tool that helps me twiddle settings and preview them and copy and paste out the CSS

I changed my mind half way through typing the prompt and asked it for a custom tool, and it built me this!

Box shadow CSS generator. Shows a preview, then provides sliders to set Horizontal Offset, Vertical Offset, Blur Radius,  Spread Radius,  Color and Opacity - plus the generated CSS and a Copy to Clipboard button

Here's the full transcript - in a follow-up prompt I asked for help deploying it and it rewrote the tool to use <script type="text/babel"> and the babel-standalone library to add React JSX support directly in the browser - a bit of a hefty dependency (387KB compressed / 2.79MB total) but I think acceptable for this kind of one-off tool.

Being able to knock out tiny custom tools like this on a whim is a really interesting new capability. It's also a lot of fun!

# 7:30 pm / css, projects, ai, generative-ai, llms, anthropic, claude

Type click type by Brian Grubb. I just found out my favourite TV writer, Brian Grubb, is no longer with Uproxx and is now writing for his own newsletter - free on Sunday, paid-subscribers only on Friday. I hit subscribe so fast.

In addition to TV, Brian's coverage of heists - most recently Lego and an attempted heist of Graceland ("It really does look like a bunch of idiots tried to steal and auction off Graceland using Hotmail accounts and they almost got away with it") - is legendary.

I'd love to see more fun little Friday night shows too.

# 9:58 pm / blogging, tv, brian-grubb

Someone elsewhere left a comment like "I CAN’T BELIEVE IT TOOK HER 15 YEARS TO LEARN BASIC READLINE COMMANDS". those comments are very silly and I'm going to keep writing “it took me 15 years to learn this basic thing" forever because I think it's important for people to know that it's normal to take a long time to learn “basic" things

Julia Evans

# 11:15 pm / julia-evans

Jevons paradox (via) I've been thinking recently about how the demand for professional software engineers might be affected by the fact that LLMs are getting so good at producing working code, when prompted in the right way.

One possibility is that the price for writing code will fall, in a way that massively increases the demand for custom solutions - resulting in a greater demand for software engineers since the increased value they can provide makes it much easier to justify the expense of hiring them in the first place.

TIL about the related idea of the Jevons paradox, currently explained by Wikipedia like so:

[...] when technological progress increases the efficiency with which a resource is used (reducing the amount necessary for any one use), but the falling cost of use induces increases in demand enough that resource use is increased, rather than reduced.

# 11:23 pm / ai, generative-ai, llms

2024 » July