Simon Willison’s Weblog


Saturday, 16th March 2024

Weeknotes: the aftermath of NICAR

NICAR was fantastic this year. Alex and I ran a successful workshop on Datasette and Datasette Cloud, and I gave a lightning talk demonstrating two new GPT-4 powered Datasette plugins—datasette-enrichments-gpt and datasette-extract. I need to write more about the latter one: it enables populating tables from unstructured content (using a variant of this technique) and it’s really effective. I got it working just in time for the conference.

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One year since GPT-4 release. Hope you all enjoyed some time to relax; it’ll have been the slowest 12 months of AI progress for quite some time to come.

Leopold Aschenbrenner, OpenAI # 3:23 pm

npm install everything, and the complete and utter chaos that follows (via) Here’s an experiment which went really badly wrong: a team of mostly-students decided to see if it was possible to install every package from npm (all 2.5 million of them) on the same machine. As part of that experiment they created and published their own npm package that depended on every other package in the registry.

Unfortunately, in response to the leftpad incident a few years ago npm had introduced a policy that a package cannot be removed from the registry if there exists at least one other package that lists it as a dependency. The new “everything” package inadvertently prevented all 2.5m packages—including many that had no other dependencies—from ever being removed! # 5:18 am

Phanpy. Phanpy is “a minimalistic opinionated Mastodon web client” by Chee Aun.

I think that description undersells it. It’s beautifully crafted and designed and has a ton of innovative ideas—they way it displays threads and replies, the “Catch-up” beta feature, it’s all a really thoughtful and fresh perspective on how Mastodon can work.

I love that all Mastodon servers (including my own dedicated instance) offer a CORS-enabled JSON API which directly supports building these kinds of alternative clients.

Building a full-featured client like this one is a huge amount of work, but building a much simpler client that just displays the user’s incoming timeline could be a pretty great educational project for people who are looking to deepen their front-end development skills. # 1:34 am