Simon Willison’s Weblog

Entries in 2016

Filters: Type: entry × Year: 2016 ×


How to tell my bosses I’m bored

The magic word here is “challenging”. Don’t say you are bored—say you do not find your current workload challenging enough. Any good manager should be ready to respond to that.

[... 46 words]

Off the shelf question database/management system for repeated surveys?

I’ve been using Airtable for some personal projects recently and I could not be more impressed with it. It makes building a relatively sophisticated database trivial, the collaboration features are outstanding (live updates, full history tracking on everything) and it’s fully cross platform—I’ve designed new databases on my iPhone!

[... 67 words]

Best way to take shareable meeting minutes

Google Docs is a fantastic tool for meeting notes, because the collaboration features are second-to-none: in the meeting itself you can have multiple people adding notes and it Just Works. Provided everyone has a google account the sharing features for both during and afterwards are clear and easy.

[... 112 words]

Good travel book for recently retired man?

The new Atlas Obscura coffee table book is worth a look.

[... 25 words]

Generating interactive HTML charts from Python?

D3 is absolutely amazing but the learning curve is a bit steep. Totally worth the effort to learn it in the long run, but it’s not so useful if you want to get something done quickly.

[... 97 words]

Tell me when to quit.

If you want to get into Person of Interest without having to wade through the less great monster-of-the-week episodes in season one, Io9 has an episode guide listing the season one episodes essential to the overall plot arc. I think it’s solid gold from season two onwards—by far the smartest fictional depiction of artificial intelligence I’ve seen anywhere.

[... 112 words]

Practical gift ideas to positively improve a friend’s life and hobbies

I’m a big fan of the Dorling Kindersley travel books, which are chock full of photos, maps, diagrams and illustrations. Thanks to the internet there’s really not much point carting around a reference-style guidebook like Lonely Planet—TripAdvisor etc will always be more comprehensive and up-to-date. This makes guidebooks more important for general inspiration and browsing.

[... 75 words]

Probably need to GTFO [another how do I spin leaving question]

It strikes me that the core problem here is that your current company’s runway is privileged information: your current employer doesn’t need rumors about their financial health to start spreading. I think your instinct to avoid straight out saying that to other companies is very reasonable.

[... 132 words]

Where should we stay in Nashville?

For a delightfully unique Nashville experience, I suggest looking up Santa’s Pub. It’s a dive bar in a double wide trailer run by a man who looks a bit like Santa, and every night there is karaoke night. Aside from being a bit smokey it’s an enormous amount of fun.

[... 63 words]

Japanese pantry staples?

These answers are fantastic! I’m so glad I asked here. Thank you all very much.

[... 46 words]

Difficulty level: Eating dumplings

When I lived in Islington a few years ago I really liked New Culture Revolution for dumplings. It was never busy, not very expensive and the food was great.

[... 40 words]

Need new noms

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

[... 105 words]

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.

[... 49 words]

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.

[... 176 words]

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).

[... 175 words]

What’s the cheapest or free stack solution to deploy and experiment with a realtime application in 2016?

Heroku have a good free tier, and comprehensive support for deploying both Python and Node.js. If you are mainly interested in realtime I would suggest starting out with Node.js on Heroku. Depending on the complexity of your project you might even be able to use raw Node.js without adding something like Express.

[... 81 words]

Which VCs invest in an early stage in an IOT Technology startup in USA North East?

I can’t provide a specific list of VCs, but I can help you answer this question for yourself.

[... 131 words]

What’s the first thing you would check if the company is losing money even though there’s a big increase in its revenue?

The company’s expenses.

[... 31 words]

What is the single greatest value-add from Y Combinator?

It’s very difficult to pick the best one, but from our experience here’s something that really stood out: the sense of camaraderie and trust you have in others who are also going through YC.

[... 385 words]

I’m in Polanco (Mexico City) and I hate it. Where to go?

You said you want to avoid expensive taxis.. are you morally opposed to Uber? If not you should know that it works in Mexico City (with your regular Uber account registered in another country), it’s fast and not very espensive. It may give you a lot more flexibility for exploring the city.

[... 71 words]

Why is snapEDA.com slow? Is it because it uses Django?

No, it’s not slow because it uses Django.

[... 36 words]