🔗 Google’s Apology for Its Gemini Image Debacle Reveals a Much Deeper Culture Problem for the Company | Inc.com:

There is an extent to which the people who make decisions at a company have to believe they are right. You would never get anything done if you didn’t. There does, however, seem to be an elevated level of hubris at the largest companies in the world–almost all of which are tech companies. 

There seems to be a belief that if you make unimaginable sums of money selling software, that software must be a net good for society, and–therefore–your ideas about what the world needs must be right. When that becomes the norm, the people inside your company stop bothering to tell you when they think you’re wrong, or that you might be about to ship something problematic.

🔗 Losing the imitation game:

Software development is complex, for any non-trivial project. But complexity is hard. Overwhelmingly, when we in the software field talk about developing software, we’ve dealt with that complexity by ignoring it. We write code samples that fit in a tweet. We reduce interviews to trivia challenges about algorithmic minutia. When we’re feeling really ambitious, we break out the todo app. These are contrivances that we make to collapse technical discussions into an amount of context that we can share in the few minutes we have available. But there seem to be a lot of people who either don’t understand that or choose to ignore it. They frame the entire process of software development as being equivalent to writing the toy problems and code samples we use among general audiences.

I tend to be skeptical of claims that software development is some sort of inherently different art from other pursuits, that it is uniquely complex. However, I think this analysis is spot on.

Moreover, I think that one of the big problems with the broader approach to the use of LLM-based tools is that the tendency for their proponents to mistake the output of labor for the labor itself.

When Reddit or Tumblr or Wordpress or whoever announces their plan to sell all their users' data to train large language models, I GUARANTEE you that deleting your account or all of your content is not going to do a damn thing to remove your data.

Doing the the thing v. talking about doing the thing v. talking about the technique for doing the thing

🔗 The Four Hobbies, and Apparent Expertise - Marc’s Blog: Kit and tools are another imperfect signal for expertise. Clearly, in our field, there’s a significant benefit to knowing a set of tools well, and being able to use these tools as an extension of our minds. On the other hand, it is very easy to confuse the work of getting vim just-so with actual productivity, and the emacs expert as an expert on the larger field6.

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I know that it should no longer surprise me at this point, but nonetheless I continue to be shocked by how many people who are making declarative, authoritative-sounding claims about what AI will do and the effects it will have clearly have not the slightest understanding of how these tools actually work.

I always feel vaguely disappointed in myself when I get to this point in the mid-afternoon and realize that I’ve only had one coffee.

Black and white cat stretching on a rug

A hand-typed index card

🔗 The second age of digital journalism is over:

This is what the future looks like. This is where the third age of digital publishing is birthing, on podcasts and newsletters and sites run on existing, cheap and powerful infrastructure, like Ghost and Substack. These titles will grow, through building close relationships with their audiences, and keeping costs low. They’ll make money through ads and memberships, and eventually events as the businesses scale.

Some will manage to survive, while others will fail. The survivors will continue to grow and thrive, and eventually become the big publications of the future. It might take years. It might take decades. Remember, The Guardian started life as a weekly local paper for Manchester, and continues as such for decades… The age of the “other people’s money” shortcut is, for now, done.

It the third age of journalism is about publications becoming self-sustaining through advertising and subscription revenue, that sounds a lot like the traditional model of journalism to me.

The Things Parents Say At Basketball Games - A Zine

With Rec Department basketball season here in Franklin County wrapping up this weekend, I have dusted off my early-pandemic zine-making skills to reflect a bit on the experience. Print, cut along the darker dotted line, fold, enjoy!

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