Category Archives: Communications, Connection, Internet, Web, Media

Favorite Reads for 2012

Following is a list of books, essays, and articles I read (or re-read) which feel worth sharing or re-sharing on on New Years Eve:


“Thinking in Systems: A Primer”, by Donella H. Meadows

“Release It!”, by Michael T. Nygard

“Language in Thought and Action”, by S.I. Hayakawa, Alan R. Hayakawa, and Robert MacNeil

“The Stars My Destination”, by Alfred Bester

“One, Two, Three: Absolutely Elementary Mathematics”, by David Berlinski

“Information Diet”, by Clay Johnson

“The Great Stagnation”, by Tyler Cowen

“One Way Forward: The Outsider’s Guide to Fixing the Republic”, by Lawrence Lessig

“The Waste Land”, by T.S. Eliot

“Race Against The Machine”, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.

Software Engineering Related Essays, Posts and Papers

“Up and Down the Ladder of Abstraction”, by Bret Victor

“Analogy as the Core of Cognition”, by Douglas R. Hofstadter

“On Being a Senior Engineer”, by John Allspaw

“Quality With a Name”, by James Shore

“Out of the tar pit”, by Ben Moseley

“Paxos Made Moderately Complex”, by Robbert van Renesse

“How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet”, Gizmodo

“The Future is Hypermedia APIs”, by Mike Taczak

“Ubiquitous Programming with Pen and Paper”, by Awelon Blue

“Leverage Points: : Places to Intervene in a System”, by Donella Meadows

“Unicorns and Strong Typing”, by Michael Bevilacqua-Linn

“Big Ball of Mud”, by Brian Foote and Joseph Yoder

“Intrinsic and Incidental Complexity”, by Noah Sussman

“An Introduction to Graphviz via R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the Closet’ Hip Hopera”, by Rob Rhinehart

“Damn Cool Algorithms: Log structured storage”, by Nick Johnson

“The Humble Programmer”, by Edsger W. Dijkstra

“Simple Made Easy”, by Rich Hickey

“The Long Tail of Technical Debt”, by Michael Feathers

“The Carrying Cost of Code: Taking Lean Seriously”, by Michael Feathers

“No Silver Bullet”, by Fred Brooks

Making A Difference with Software Engineering

“Homegrown Computer Science for Middle Schoolers”, by Tess Rinearson

“Blue Collar Coder”, by Anil Dash

“Government As A Platform”, by Tim O’Reilly

“How Do Committees Invent?”, by Mel Conway

“Anyone can do it. Data journalism is the new punk”, by Simon Rogers, The Guardian

“I believe a computer program can stand in…”, by Lisa Williams

“How Team Obama’s tech efficiency left Romney IT in dust”, Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica

“How To Tell A Story With Code”, by Rob Spectre

“Urban Storytelling with Open Data”, by Mark Headd

“Making Philadelphia Better Together”, by Mark Headd, Programs & Technology, Office of the Managing Director, City of Philadelphia

Society, Governance, History, Health, Art and Music

“The Condition: Chronic Self-Disclosure”, by Bethlehem Shoals, The Awl

“The Busy Trap”, by Tim Kreider, NYTimes

“The Web We Lost”, by Anil Dash

“A Self-Made Man Looks At How He Made It”, by John Scalzi

“Laws of Physics Can’t Trump the Bonds of Love”, by Tara Parker-Pope, NYTimes

“What I’ve Learned About Learning”, by Reginald Braithwaite

“The Builders Manifesto”, by Umair Haque

“How Will You Measure Your Life”, by Clayton M. Christensen

“When They’re Grown, the Real Pain Begins”, by Susan Engel, NYTimes

“Sincerity, Not Irony, Is Our Age’s Ethos”, by Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, The Atlantic

“Young Worf”, GregOttawa, Reddit

“Believe You Can Change”, by Aaron Swartz

“Going Numb In The Summer Of The Gun”, by Jen Doll, The Atlantic

“Horatio Alger, RIP”, by Jim Tankersley, National Journal

“The 10 Doctors”, by Rich Comics

“Looking back at Star Trek: The Next Generation on its 25th anniversary”, by Brian Phillips, Grantland

“Babies Are Born Scientists”, by

“America, The Fixable”, The Atlantic

A letter from Thomas Jefferson to Joseph C. Cabell on Republican Government

“Welcome to Hell: Philadelphia Has a Serious Case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”, by Steve Volk, Philadelphia Magazine

“You Can Feel The Difference”, Nathaniel Popkin, Hidden City Philadelphia

“Poverty, College and A Dream Deferred”, by Chris Lehmann, Practical Theory

“Clinging to the Skin of this Tiny Little World (The TV Movie)”, by Philip Sandifer, TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue

“Mysterious Algorithm Was 4% of Trading Activity Last Week”

According to CNBC an unknown program triggered 4% of trading activity last week:

The program placed orders in 25-millisecond bursts involving about 500 stocks, according to Nanex, a market data firm. The algorithm never executed a single trade, and it abruptly ended at about 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Someone testing in production perhaps?

“Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.”

I went on an interesting journey online last night that led me to the source of the above phrase, a poem on mortality, entropy, memory… and databases. Yes, you read that right.

I read’s wonderful blog almost once a day to check up posts on books, favorite sci-fi and fantasy TV Series, and more. Yesterday they had a post featuring a striking photograph by Cat Valente of some haunting graffiti with the title of of this post scrawled out. She had recognized the line from an earlier post in’s Poetry Month series, “John M. Ford’s sonnet ‘Against Entropy’”. Reading the comments in that post led to the original source of the poem, where it was written and shared for the first time.

In 2003 Patrick Nielsen Hayden posted about how moved he was by Andrew Brown’s writing about the slow and terrible death of a friend’s wife. He lamented, If I were a better writer I’d conclude by yoking the trivial to the tragic, relating the twin inevitabilities of death and database error by means of a rhetorical figure involving worms.. In the comments of that post, John M. Ford, the writer Neil Gaiman said of, my best critic … the best writer I knew, wrote the following:

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days –
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

A poem, written in a blog post comment in 2003, shows up on a physical wall in 2012.

The poem speaks loudly about the ends of things, our role, and even the work I do, which has everything to do with building systems that can adapt and grow in the face of bit rot and lack of attention.

Damn it, I don’t care if it isn’t hip, I still love the Web.

Steve Klabnik: Nobody Understands REST or HTTP

Steve Klabnik outlines some best practices in API design in “Nobody Understands REST or HTTP”, some of which I admit I need to follow more consistently. As he states in the end:

Seriously, most of the problems that you’re solving are social, not technical. The web is decades old at this point, most people have considered these kinds of problems in the past. That doesn’t mean that they always have the right answer, but they usually do have an answer, and it’d behoove you to know what it is before you invent something on your own.

Good article with clear to use tips.