Simon Willison’s Weblog


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Inevitably we got round to talking about async. As much of an unneeded complication as it is for so many day-to-day use-cases, it’s important for Python because, if and when you do need the high throughput handling of these io-bound use-cases, you don’t want to have to switch language. The same for Django: most of what you’re doing has no need of async but you don’t want to have to change web framework just because you need a sprinkling of non-blocking IO.

Carlton Gibson # 27th September 2020, 3:09 pm

The Bias-for-Building Fallacy is most common in orgs that worship speed. That’s fine, but if you go speedily in the wrong direction, you will end up in the wrong place. That’s why teams should value velocity much more than speed: velocity being a combo of speed & direction.

Shreyas Doshi # 26th September 2020, 2:07 pm

One academic who interviewed attendees of a flat-earth convention found that, almost to a person, they’d discovered the subculture via YouTube recommendations.

YouTube’s Plot to Silence Conspiracy Theories # 20th September 2020, 1:27 am

A manager on Strategic Response mused to myself that most of the world outside the West was effectively the Wild West with myself as the part-time dictator – he meant the statement as a compliment, but it illustrated the immense pressures upon me.

Sophie Zhang # 15th September 2020, 9:21 pm

Simply put, if you’re in a position of power at work, you’re unlikely to see workplace harassment in front of you. That’s because harassment and bullying are attempts to exert power over people with less of it. People who behave improperly don’t tend to do so with people they perceive as having power already.

Sarah Milstein # 1st September 2020, 3:10 pm

Why weekly? You want to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s really going on. When 1:1s are scheduled bi-weekly, and either of you have to cancel, you’ll likely be going a month between conversations and that is far too long to go without having a 1:1 with your direct report. Think of how much happens in a month. You don’t want to be that far behind!

Adrienne Lowe # 21st August 2020, 5:02 pm

We’re generally only impressed by things we can’t do—things that are beyond our own skill set. So, by definition, we aren’t going to be that impressed by the things we create. The end user, however, is perfectly able to find your work impressive.

@gamemakerstk # 13th August 2020, 3:12 pm

COVID-19 attacks our physical bodies, but also the cultural foundations of our lives, the toolbox of community and connectivity that is for the human what claws and teeth represent to the tiger.

Wade Davis # 8th August 2020, 3:48 pm

When you talk with cheese aficionados, it doesn’t usually take long for the conversation to veer this way: away from curds, whey, and mold, and toward matters of life and death. With the zeal of nineteenth-century naturalists, they discuss great lineages and endangered species, painstakingly cataloguing those cheeses that are thriving and those that are lost to history.

Ruby Tandoh # 2nd August 2020, 6:57 pm

The impact of crab mentality on performance was quantified by a New Zealand study in 2015 which demonstrated up to an 18% average exam result improvement for students when their grades were reported in a way that prevented others from knowing their position in published rankings.

Crab mentality on Wikipedia # 1st August 2020, 4:25 pm

Organizations adopt microservices when the logistical overhead of coordinating teams against a monolith becomes so large that it starts affecting product velocity. Microservices are a way to release that organizational/logistical friction, at great technical cost.

sagichmal # 25th July 2020, 11:43 pm

If you have to repeat yourself, you weren’t clear enough the first time. However, if you’re talking about something brand new, you may have to repeat yourself for years before you’re heard. Pick your repeats wisely.

The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication # 25th July 2020, 3:07 pm

You always get the name of the dog, the editor explained. The dog is a character in your story, and names tell readers a lot about your characters. It’s a crucial storytelling detail, and if you’re alert and inquisitive enough to ask for the name of the dog, you’ll surely not miss any other important details.

Justin Willett # 22nd July 2020, 2:29 pm

Quite simply, it’s the product manager’s job to articulate two simple things: What game are we playing? How do we keep score? Do these two things right, and all of a sudden a collection of brilliant individual contributors with talents in engineering, operations, quality, design and marketing will start running in the same direction. Without it, no amount of prioritization or execution management will save you.

Adam Nash # 20th July 2020, 8:33 pm

Instead of seeing instrumentation as a last-ditch effort of strings and metrics, we must think about propagating the full context of a request and emitting it at regular pulses. No pull request should ever be accepted unless the engineer can answer the question, “How will I know if this breaks?”

Charity Majors # 19th July 2020, 4:05 pm

When I was curating my generated tweets, I estimated 30-40% of the tweets were usable comedically, a massive improvement over the 5-10% usability from my GPT-2 tweet generation. However, a 30-40% success rate implies a 60-70% failure rate, which is patently unsuitable for a production application.

Max Woolf # 18th July 2020, 7:33 pm

The future will not be like the past. The comfortable Victorian and Georgian world complete with grand country houses, a globe-spanning British empire, and lords and commoners each knowing their place, was swept away by the events that began in the summer of 1914 (and that with Britain on the “winning” side of both world wars.) So too, our comfortable “American century” of conspicuous consumer consumption, global tourism, and ever-increasing stock and home prices may be gone forever.

Tim O'Reilly # 4th July 2020, 4:06 pm

Data Science is a lot like Harry Potter, except there’s no magic, it’s just math, and instead of a sorting hat you just sort the data with a Python script.

GPT-3, shepherded by Max Woolf # 29th June 2020, 4:45 am

Here’s a common piece of advice from people who create things: to make better things, make more things. Not only does it give you constant practice at making things, but it gives you more chances at lucking into making a good thing.

Ned Batchelder # 28th June 2020, 2:29 pm

If you have to choose between engineering and ML, choose engineering. It’s easier for great engineers to pick up ML knowledge, but it’s a lot harder for ML experts to become great engineers.

Chip Huyen # 24th June 2020, 5:24 am

Without touching upon the question of who’s right and who’s wrong in the specific case of Basecamp’s Hey app, or the broader questions of what, if anything, ought to change in Apple’s App Store policies, an undeniable and important undercurrent to this story is that the business model policies of the App Store have resulted in a tremendous amount of resentment. This spans the entire gamut from one-person indies all the way up to the handful of large corporations that can be considered Apple’s peers or near-peers.

John Gruber # 20th June 2020, 5:48 am

Any time you can think of something that is possible this year and wasn’t possible last year, you should pay attention. You may have the seed of a great startup idea. This is especially true if next year will be too late.

Sam Altman # 28th May 2020, 9:36 pm

Food consumption really only grows at the rate of population growth, so if you want to grow faster than that, you have to take market share from someone else. Ideally, you take it from someone weaker, who has less information. In this industry, the delivery platforms have found unsuspecting victims in restaurants and drivers.

Collin Wallace # 22nd May 2020, 3:05 am

Company culture is the shared way everyone acts when you aren’t around to see it

Adam Kalsey # 20th May 2020, 3:30 am

Web apps are typically continuously delivered, not rolled back, and you don’t have to support multiple versions of the software running in the wild. This is not the class of software that I had in mind when I wrote the blog post 10 years ago. If your team is doing continuous delivery of software, I would suggest to adopt a much simpler workflow (like GitHub flow) instead of trying to shoehorn git-flow into your team.

Vincent Driessen # 14th May 2020, 1:49 pm

And for what? Again—there is a swath of use cases which would be hard without React and which aren’t complicated enough to push beyond React’s limits. But there are also a lot of problems for which I can’t see any concrete benefit to using React. Those are things like blogs, shopping-cart-websites, mostly-CRUD-and-forms-websites. For these things, all of the fancy optimizations are optimizations to get you closer to the performance you would’ve gotten if you just hadn’t used so much technology.

Tom MacWright # 11th May 2020, 12:03 am

If microservices are implemented incorrectly or used as a band-aid without addressing some of the root flaws in your system, you’ll be unable to do new product development because you’re drowning in the complexity.

Alexandra Noonan # 29th April 2020, 5:56 pm

The biggest thing people don’t appreciate about large companies is the basic productive unit isn’t an individual it is an engineering team with about ~8 members.

Patrick McKenzie # 29th April 2020, 6:39 am

Spotify introduced the vocabulary of missions, tribes, squads, guilds, and chapter leads for describing its way of working. It gave the illusion it had created something worthy of needing to learn unusual word choices. However, if we remove the unnecessary synonyms from the ideas, the Spotify model is revealed as a collection of cross-functional teams with too much autonomy and a poor management structure.

Jeremiah Lee # 24th April 2020, 9:57 pm

Slack’s not specifically a “work from home” tool; it’s more of a “create organizational agility” tool. But an all-at-once transition to remote work creates a lot of demand for organizational agility.

Stewart Butterfield # 26th March 2020, 12:21 pm