Talking on the Internet

Or—more likely—a wide variety of nasty computer viruses. If Hiro reaches out and takes the hypercard, then the data it represents will be transferred from this guy’s system into Hiro’s computer. Hiro, naturally, wouldn’t touch it under any circumstances, any more than you would take a free syringe from a stranger in Times Square and jab it into your neck.
And it doesn’t make sense anyway. “That’s a hypercard. I thought you said Snow Crash was a drug,” Hiro says, now totally nonplussed.
“It is,” the guy says. “Try it.”
“Does it fuck up your brain?” Hiro says. “Or your computer?”
“Both. Neither. What’s the difference?”
Hiro finally realizes that he has just wasted sixty seconds of his life having a meaningless conversation with a paranoid schizophrenic. He turns around and goes into The Black Sun.
—Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, ch. 5

Not always, but sometimes.

"I Really Hate Twitter"

"I really hate Twitter. It was once promising, and I feel like it still does some good, but on balance, it enables harassment and evil and cruelty at least as much if not more than it helps things change for the better. I feel like it has broken our society, and wrecked our social contract. I feel like the board at Twitter, and its CEO, Jack Dorsey, know this, but they’re too busy profiting from their inaction to care. May history judge them all the way they deserve."
Wil Wheaton

Yeah. Long dull biographical anecdote aside, his point about Twitter is dead on. I've "only" got a couple thousand people I like there, not Wil's millions, but it bugs me that anyone stays.

I feel like they're stuck in some Soviet gulag and I'm betraying them by not staying in the gulag with them, but that's fucking insane. They should be happy I got out, and I should be setting up fake passports and apartments in the Free World for them.

If you need help getting out, read my Post-Facebook Microblogging post, and email me if you need more help.

Do Something Weird

"This is the kind of possibility that the pointy-haired boss doesn't even want to think about. And so most of them don't. Because, you know, when it comes down to it, the pointy-haired boss doesn't mind if his company gets their ass kicked, so long as no one can prove it's his fault. The safest plan for him personally is to stick close to the center of the herd.

Within large organizations, the phrase used to describe this approach is "industry best practice." Its purpose is to shield the pointy-haired boss from responsibility: if he chooses something that is "industry best practice," and the company loses, he can't be blamed. He didn't choose, the industry did.

I believe this term was originally used to describe accounting methods and so on. What it means, roughly, is don't do anything weird. And in accounting that's probably a good idea. The terms "cutting-edge" and "accounting" do not sound good together. But when you import this criterion into decisions about technology, you start to get the wrong answers.

Technology often should be cutting-edge. In programming languages, as Erann Gat has pointed out, what "industry best practice" actually gets you is not the best, but merely the average. When a decision causes you to develop software at a fraction of the rate of more aggressive competitors, "best practice" is a misnomer."
—Paul Graham, Revenge of the Nerds


"I love Halloween, the one time of year when everyone wears a mask, not just me. People think it's fun to pretend you're a monster; Me, I spend my life pretending I'm not. Brother, friend, boyfriend, all part of my costume collection. Some people might call me a fraud, I prefer to think of myself as a master of disguise."

—Dexter, S1E4 "Let's Give the Boy a Hand"

Not So Easy to Get a Program Right

"By June 1949 people had begun to realize that it was not so easy to get a program right as had at one time appeared. I well remember when this realization first came on me with full force. The EDSAC was on the top floor of the building and the tape-punching and editing equipment one floor below on a gallery that ran around the room in which the differential analyser was installed. I was trying to get working my first non-trivial program, which was one for the numerical integration of Airy's differential equation. It was on one of my journeys between the EDSAC room and the punching equipment that hesitating at the angles of stairs the realization came over me with full force that a good part of the remainder of my life was going to be spent in finding errors in my own programs."

-Maurice Wilkes, Memoirs

Open Plan

Apple Park's Open Work Spaces

I've had the misfortune to work in "war rooms" (no fighting allowed!) and "open plans" before, and for some reason I always think of this, for a moment before the noise distracts me:

Some things about living still weren't quite right, though. April for
instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in
that clammy month that the H-G [Handicapper-General's] men took George and Hazel Bergeron's fourteen-
year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn't think about it very
hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn't
think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his
intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his
ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a
government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would
send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair
advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel's
cheeks, but she'd forgotten for the moment what they were about.
On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George's head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits
from a burglar alarm.

—Kurt Vonnegut, "Harrison Bergeron" (1961)