Simon Willison’s Weblog


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There’s a spectrum on YouTube between the calm section — the Walter Cronkite, Carl Sagan part — and Crazytown, where the extreme stuff is. If I’m YouTube and I want you to watch more, I’m always going to steer you toward Crazytown.

Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google # 9th June 2019, 6:22 pm

Practical campaign security is a wood chipper for your hopes and dreams. It sits at the intersection of 19 kinds of status quo, each more odious than the last. You have to accept the fact that computers are broken, software is terrible, campaign finance is evil, the political parties are inept, the DCCC exists, politics is full of parasites, tech companies are run by arrogant man-children, and so on.

Maciej Cegłowski # 30th May 2019, 12:03 pm

Imagine if you were really into the group Swervedriver in the mid-’90s but by 2019 someone was on CNBC telling you that Swervedriver represented, I don’t know, 10 percent of global economic growth, outpacing returns in oil and lumber. That’s the tech industry.

Paul Ford # 15th May 2019, 3:44 pm

... the overall conclusion I reach is that we have so much to gain from making Django async-capable that it is worth the large amount of work it will take. I also believe, crucially, that we can undertake this change in an iterative, community-driven way that does not rely solely on one or two long-time contributors burning themselves out.

Andrew Godwin # 10th May 2019, 2 am

We don’t like limits on discrimination and lending, so we’re gonna use machine learning, which is a form of money laundering for bias, a way to blame mathematical algorithms for desires to simply avoid rules that everybody else has to play by in this industry.

Maciej Ceglowski # 8th May 2019, 11:11 pm

One of the standards you have to have demonstrated to being able to reach Principle Engineer inside Amazon is “Respect what has gone before”. It’s very likely you don’t know the why, what or how of it. Often what was written was the best that could be done to the constraints.

Paul Graydon # 25th April 2019, 5:52 pm

Lots of people calling for more aggressive moderation seem to imagine that if they yell enough the companies have a thoughtful, unbiased and nuance-understanding HAL 9000 they can deploy. It’s really more like the Censorship DMV.

Alex Stamos # 21st April 2019, 4:36 pm

In the five years since the shark was erected, no other examples have occurred … any system of control must make some small place for the dynamic, the unexpected, the downright quirky. I therefore recommend that the Headington Shark be allowed to remain.

Peter Macdonald # 9th April 2019, 1:58 pm

For the Fairmont, the Tonga Room is an inherited embarrassment, as though it were a local lord whose ancestors captured a repellent goblin and chained him up in the cellar, but the goblin is inexplicably adored by the townsfolk and the children, who sneak the goblin food and treats, and cry when the goblin’s master moves to strike it.

In the Basement of the King # 28th March 2019, 9:11 pm

Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.

Howard H. Aiken # 17th March 2019, 3:15 pm

Metrics are lossily compressed logs. Traces are logs with parent child relationships between entries. The only reason we have three terms is because getting value from them has required different compromises to make them cost effective.

Clint Sharp # 25th February 2019, 10:15 pm

In January, Facebook distributes a policy update stating that moderators should take into account recent romantic upheaval when evaluating posts that express hatred toward a gender. “I hate all men” has always violated the policy. But “I just broke up with my boyfriend, and I hate all men” no longer does.

Casey Newton # 25th February 2019, 2:09 pm

This paper introduces Mesh, a plug-in replacement for malloc that, for the first time, eliminates fragmentation in unmodified C/C++ applications. Mesh combines novel randomized algorithms with widely-supported virtual memory operations to provably reduce fragmentation, breaking the classical Robson bounds with high probability. Mesh generally matches the runtime performance of state-of-the-art memory allocators while reducing memory consumption; in particular, it reduces the memory of consumption of Firefox by 16% and Redis by 39%.

Mesh: Compacting Memory Management for C/C++ Applications # 18th February 2019, 3:26 pm

If you want the fastest website despite implementation difficulty, the answer is: SSR behind a CDN with assets in best compression formats (webp, Brotli, woff2) served over http2 (or 3) from same origin with JS as enhancement only

Mike Sherov # 15th February 2019, 7:12 pm

Operations engineering does not consist of firefighting your shitty software, it is the science of delivering value to users.

Charity Majors # 14th February 2019, 1:12 am

Private blockchains are completely uninteresting. (By this, I mean systems that use the blockchain data structure but don’t have the above three elements.) In general, they have some external limitation on who can interact with the blockchain and its features. These are not anything new; they’re distributed append-only data structures with a list of individuals authorized to add to it. Consensus protocols have been studied in distributed systems for more than 60 years. Append-only data structures have been similarly well covered. They’re blockchains in name only, and -- as far as I can tell -- the only reason to operate one is to ride on the blockchain hype.

Bruce Schneier # 12th February 2019, 7:14 pm

Everyone is angry about CSS again. I’m not even going to try to summarize the arguments. However it always seems to boil down to the fact that CSS is simultaneously too easy to bother with, yet so hard it needs to be wrapped up in a ball of JavaScript in case it scares the horses.

Rachel Andrew # 30th January 2019, 11:14 pm

Since Mozilla moved on from Firefox OS, its derivatives have shipped on an order of magnitude more devices than during its entire time under Mozilla’s leadership and it has gone on to form the basis of the third largest and fastest growing mobile operating system in the world.

Ben Francis # 28th January 2019, 12:59 pm

[On 5G] This is the great thing about the decentralized, permissionless innovation of the internet—telcos don’t need to decide in advance what the use cases are, any more than Intel had to decide what the use cases for faster CPUs would be.

Ben Evans # 18th January 2019, 6:55 am

Without deep understanding of the basic tools needed to build and train new algorithms, he says, researchers creating AIs resort to hearsay, like medieval alchemists. “People gravitate around cargo-cult practices,” relying on “folklore and magic spells,” adds François Chollet, a computer scientist at Google in Mountain View, California.

Matthew Hutson # 26th December 2018, 4:53 pm

If you wrap your main content – that is, the stuff that isn’t navigation, logo and main header etc – in a <main> tag, a screen reader user can jump immediately to it using a keyboard shortcut. Imagine how useful that is – they don’t have to listen to all the content before it, or tab through it to get to the main meat of your page.

Bruce Lawson # 19th December 2018, 1:07 pm

for those open source companies that still harbor magical beliefs, let me put this to you as directly as possible: cloud services providers are emphatically not going to license your proprietary software. I mean, you knew that, right? The whole premise with your proprietary license is that you are finding that there is no way to compete with the operational dominance of the cloud services providers; did you really believe that those same dominant cloud services providers can’t simply reimplement your LDAP integration or whatever? The cloud services providers are currently reproprietarizing all of computing — they are making their own CPUs for crying out loud! — reimplementing the bits of your software that they need in the name of the service that their customers want (and will pay for!) won’t even move the needle in terms of their effort.

Bryan Cantrill # 15th December 2018, 5:02 pm

npm users have downloaded more than 489 billion packages in the 9 year life of the project, with the strange effect of exponential growth being that 286 billion, or 58% of those, were just in the last year.

Laurie Voss # 4th December 2018, 2:02 am

The nature of NPM is such that I’d expect most large corporate Node software to depend on at least a couple of single individuals’ hobby projects. The problem is that those projects don’t tend to fulfill the same expectations of security, quality and maintenance.

Sébastien Cevey # 2nd December 2018, 9:32 pm

Whether you like it or not, whether you approve it or not, people outside of your design team are making significant design choices that affect your customers in important ways. They are designing your product. They are designers.

Daniel Burka # 25th November 2018, 7:03 pm

React is “value UI”. Its core principle is that UI is a value, just like a string or an array. You can keep it in a variable, pass it around, use JavaScript control flow with it, and so on. That expressiveness is the point — not some diffing to avoid applying changes to the DOM.

Dan Abramov # 24th November 2018, 5:58 pm

The premise of “The Good Place” is absurdly high concept. It sounds less like the basis of a prime-time sitcom than an experimental puppet show conducted, without a permit, on the woodsy edge of a large public park.

Sam Anderson # 10th November 2018, 9:48 pm

If you stop thinking in terms of MVC you might notice that at its core, React is a runtime for effectful functions that don’t execute “once”, but run continuously while being anchored to a call tree.

Dan Abramov # 3rd November 2018, 9:51 pm

Every bitcoin proof-of-work mined is an incremental addition to a vast distributed summoning ritual powering the demon-soul at the heart of the maze, the computational equivalent of a Buddhist prayer wheel spinning in a Himalayan breeze.

Charles Stross # 3rd November 2018, 5:47 pm

Among other things at Netflix the Mantis Query Language (MQL an SQL for streaming data) which ferries around approximately 2 trillion events every day for operational analysis (SPS alerting, quality of experience metrics, debugging production, etc) is written entirely in Clojure.

diab0lic on Hacker News # 1st November 2018, 2:52 am