Simon Willison’s Weblog

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How we rolled out one of the largest Python 3 migrations ever. “If you’re using Dropbox today, the application is powered by a Dropbox-customized variant of Python 3.5” # 25th September 2018, 11:02 pm

Build impossible programs. Delightful talk by Julia Evans describing how she went about building a Ruby profiler in Rust despite having no knowledge of Ruby internals and only beginner’s knowledge of Rust. # 19th September 2018, 6:38 pm

Sqorn (via) JavaScript library for building SQL queries that makes really smart usage of ES6 tagged template literals. The magic of tagged template literals is that they let you intercept and process interpolated values, making them ideally suited to escaping parameters in SQL queries. Sqorn takes that basic ability and layers on some really interesting API design to allow you to further compose queries. # 19th September 2018, 6:34 pm

Letterboxing on Lundy

Last week Natalie and I spent a delightful two days with our friends Hannah and Adam on the beautiful island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel, 12 miles off the coast of North Devon.

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Extended Validation Certificates are Dead. Troy Hunt has been writing about the flaws of Extended Validation certificates for a while. Now iOS 12 is out and Mobile Safari no longer displays their visual indicator in the URL bar (and desktop Safari will stop doing so next week when Mac OS Mojave ships). EV certificates are being dropped by many of the larger companies that were using them. “This turned out to be a long blog post because every time I sat down to write, more and more evidence on the absolute pointlessness of EV presented itself”. # 18th September 2018, 1:41 pm

Tech Notes: TypeScript at Google (via) In which Evan Martin provides some fascinating colour on the state of JavaScript tooling within Google, which has some unique challenges given that Gmail is 14 years old now and Google have evolved their own internal JavaScript stack which differs widely from the rest of the industry (mainly because it predates most of the successful open source tools). “Which leads me to the middle path, which my little team has been pursuing: incrementally adopt some external tooling where it makes sense, by figuring out how to make it interoperate with our existing code base.” # 2nd September 2018, 7:08 pm

A tour of JavaScript timers on the web (via) Do you understand the differences between setTimeout, setInterval, setImmediate, requestAnimationFrame and requestIdleCallback? I didn’t. # 2nd September 2018, 10:10 am

The (broken) economics of OSS (via) ‪This is worth reading: a very well thought-out summary of the challenges of financially supporting open source infrastructure projects in a world of cloud providers‬. Matt Klein is the creator of the Envoy proxy at Lyft. One of his conclusions is that the open source fellowship model (where foundations provide a full time salary to key maintainers) deserves more attention. # 2nd September 2018, 9:10 am

When you’re pump­ing mes­sages around the In­ter­net be­tween het­ero­ge­neous code­bas­es built by peo­ple who don’t know each oth­er, shit is gonna hap­pen. That’s the whole ba­sis of the We­b: You can safe­ly ig­nore an HTTP head­er or HTML tag you don’t un­der­stand, and noth­ing break­s. It’s great be­cause it al­lows peo­ple to just try stuff out, and the use­ful stuff catch­es on while the bad ideas don’t break any­thing.

Tim Bray # 1st September 2018, 1:41 am

This Is What Happens When Millions Of People Suddenly Get The Internet (via) “Countries which come online quickly rank lowest in digital literacy & are most likely to fall for scams, fake news” # 19th September 2017, 4:59 am

Scraping hurricane Irma

The Irma Response project is a team of volunteers working together to make information available during and after the storm. There is a huge amount of information out there, on many different websites. The Irma API is an attempt to gather key information in one place, verify it and publish it in a reuseable way. It currently powers the website.

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Need new noms

I’m in a similar space to you at the moment: looking to expand my cooking horizons with new adventures.

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Lovecraft-inspired fiction and cookbooks (unrelated!)

Have you considered the Laundry Files series by Charles Stross? They are novels about a secret UK government department which fights off lovecraftian threats while suffering through the typical burucracry you would expect from the UK government.

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Let’s make moving and packing FUN again

Something nice I’ve done in the past that has worked surprisingly well is to record a time lapse video of the packing. I used software for my laptop (an OS X app called Gawker, but I don’t think it works today so you may need a different solution) which takes a frame every 30 seconds and combines it into a video. Stick the laptop in a high up corner with a good wide view of the room and get to work.

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Help with next steps for a startup

Have you thought about applying to Y Combinator? The reason I ask is that “I have lots of expertise in language learning and basically zero expertise in startups, market research, business, fundraising, app pricing, etc” is pretty much YC’s sweet spot: they know that it’s much easier teaching those things to engineers and makers than it is to teach engineering to business people (I’m assuming you have product and engineering skills based on your description of your progress so far).

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Which investors would consider a natural language processing startup in London?

I don’t know the answer, but I know how you can find it: track down as many London-based AI/machine learning/NLP startups as you can and look at who their investors are.

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What are some early examples of SaaS?

37 Signals’ Basecamp was one of the pioneers if modern SaaS back in 2004.

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What role does YC play in helping its portfolio companies hire early employees?

YC companies can post job advertisements on Hacker News (an ability that is not available to other companies). Other than that YC provide advice on hiring but they don’t take an active role in recruiting on behalf of companies.

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What are the conference/meet-ups on JavaScript that accept guest speakers?

We have a crowdsourced list of JavaScript events that are accepting speaker submissions here: JavaScript conference calls for participation

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What are some tips on scaling a startup once you get massive news coverage?

It’s pretty rare for press coverage to drive large amounts of traffic—even if you get stories on a bunch of big news site you’re very unlikely to see a traffic spike of more than 20-30 hits a second, which most reasonably well built web applications should be able to handle.

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When is a good day to hold a conference?

It depends on your audience.

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What is “Software-as-a-Service”?

Software which is hosted for you by the providing company, so you don’t need to install and manage it on your own servers.

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Why doesn’t Quora open-source its search interface?

See my answer to Simon Willison’s answer to How come Quora hasn’t contributed any significant open source tools?

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What is a good, simple SaaS tool for testing SOAP calls?

I doubt you’ll find one. The words “Simple” and “SOAP” don’t deserve to appear in the same sentence, and SOAP is massively unfashionable these days (for good reason) so you’re unlikely to find any modern SaaS companies developing tools for it.

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Is there a maximum number of records one can fetch with a MySQL query?

To my knowledge there is no upper limit—that’s why good database libraries provide abstractions that let you iterate over large queries without loading the entire result set in to memory at once.

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Are you less likely to be accepted to Y Combinator if you don’t know how to make money yet?

If you apply and say “we have no idea how we will make money” you are much less likely to be accepted than if you say “we’re not 100% sure how we will make money, but our initial thoughts are to try X”.

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What are the pro and cons of outsourcing the coding of an SaaS tool?

Pros: if you can afford it and are completely incapable of hiring an in-house development team, it will get a version of your software built.

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Y Combinator: I’m interested in how what the YC$ were spent on was impacted by whether you were from outside the Valley when you went thro the program or were local?

If you’re from outside the area you’ll spend a chunk of the money on rent (and maybe car rental). If you already live in or near Mountain View you won’t need to do that.

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What are those most annoying problems you experience while working on presentations?

Keynote crashing and losing all of my work.

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What systems/software are absolutely worth purchasing for a solidly funded e-commerce startup?

I’d use a small fraction of that budget for relevant SaaS subscriptions—things like or for user analytics, or for SEO reporting, or for building a custom dashboard.

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