Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.

The lesson of Yahoo! Pipes is a brutal one: never trust big companies. They’ll offer you nice things. Politely decline and build your own.

A subculture I didn’t know existed: shoplifting bloggers. They go and steal shit, then post on Tumblr about it.

Some claim that it is fake: that they actually buy the stuff for real and then post it on their shoplifting blog to get some unearned street cred or to role play, and some add legal disclaimers of the form “this is for entertainment purposes only”.

hoxton beard owners looking uncomfortable in a suit dot tumblr dot com - make this happen please.

50 Lies Programmers Believe

  1. The naming convention for the majority of the people in my country is the paradigm case and nobody really does anything differently.
  2. Names are all representable in US ASCII.
  3. Unicode has properly solved the problem of language encoding.
  4. Gender is immutable and fits cleanly into an enumerated list of two options.
  5. A person’s legal name is how they identify to the world.
  6. In general, openness is preferable to privacy.
  7. Postcodes or ZIP codes are a good way to identify the location someone is in rather than an arbitrary string used for routing mail.
  8. Everyone has a phone number and that phone numbers map 1-to-1 with people.
  9. Objects of any size can be delivered to one’s home at any time.
  10. Users give a fuck about security.
  11. The tech industry is a meritocracy.
  12. The tech industry is magically free of the prejudices of wider society.
  13. Date and times are precise rather than vague.
  14. We now have the one true data representation format: JSON.
  15. Names can be easily categorised by gender.
  16. Single sign-on services reduce complexity and ease user registration.
  17. Users have a single sign-on for the single sign-on provider.
  18. There is a meaningful distinction between an HTTP resource that has been called an API and one that serves HTML.
  19. A web app is a distinct and meaningfully different animal than a web site.
  20. CSS can be “object-oriented” or “functional” rather than a declarative rules language with a moderately complex inheritance model.
  21. Unit tests catch all the problems that type checkers or static analysers would.
  22. Writing unit tests is fun rather than a tiresome necessity.
  23. Getting 100% test coverage ensures bug free software.
  24. A methodology propagated primarily through expensive training courses will lead to the production of significantly better software.
  25. Reformulating an understandable bug report (“the Froobnicator class throws an uncaught exception when the input contains UTF-8”) into a long-winded user story (“as a developer, I want to be able to run this software without seeing a 500 line stack trace when…”) will magically make it easier to plan work.
  26. Having people wholly unfamiliar with a code base performing a quick review of code style and variable naming practices will ensure that bugs are caught.
  27. Having team members unfamiliar with a particular facet of a code base come up with arbitrary estimates based on their hunches will solve all estimation woes.
  28. “Rock stars” will fix all problems.
  29. This cool new thing you saw on Hacker News will solve all your problems and can be put directly into production with no issues.
  30. Security is simply a “layer” one need add to a piece of software.
  31. GPS signals are usually reasonably accurate in most circumstances.
  32. Only mobile devices need to provide geolocation support.
  33. Anything that runs Windows, Mac OS X or non-Android flavours of Linux should not be thought of as a mobile device even if it is a teeny ultraportable laptop you carry around with you everywhere.
  34. Mobile devices are used on the move with low bandwidth, even if they are being used by someone sitting on a sofa watching TV.
  35. Syncing over the Internet rather than directly between two computers is the simplest and most efficient way to share data.
  36. Distributed version control is made even more awesome by having GitHub as a single point of failure.
  37. There are no technical fixes to societal problems.
  38. Bitcoin is a technical fix for a societal problem.
  39. apt-get install bitcoin-qt solves the usability problems of Bitcoin. (I’m not making this one up.)
  40. People basically act rationally. (Don’t worry, the majority of economists believe this one too in spite of the existence of astrologers, homeopaths, theologians, the National Lottery, and psychics claiming to be able to talk to your dead pets.)
  41. People update their software frequently.
  42. If you have too many options in your software, you just hide them away in a “hamburger” menu and the problem is solved.
  43. The social networks used by programmers in the Western world broadly reflect the social networks used by people around the world.
  44. My behaviour-driven development tool’s fancy colourful feature list HTML output is ever looked at by non-technical management.
  45. Stated MIME types accurately reflect payload content.
  46. Being able to check code in at 30,000 feet using Git (or Mercurial etc.) is a feature I shall use, rather than taking advantage of all the free alcohol on the plane to make air travel slightly more tolerable.
  47. Seconds since epoch is a sensible date format. (And there is a commonly agreed epoch.)
  48. One’s database or application framework recognising timezone-aware dates solves timezone-related issues.
  49. Arguments about methodology will produce better software.
  50. Installing homebrew to install npm to install bower to install Angular (etc.) to avoid writing a raw AJAX call is reasonable.

Software is terrible.

Codeship Manager for iOS has amazing notifications. I push some code up, my phone flashes up that the build has started. Then I get a home screen notification and a subtle little audio notification to tell me whether the build has passed or failed. Love it.

Been reading about hackathons where the code ends up belonging to the organiser, but the legal liability (e.g. against patent troll) rests with the developer. The lawyers that came up with that nasty, exploitative little wheeze are truly engaging in some pretty clever disruption.

I finally tried out BitTorrent Sync today. It’s ludicrously simple and unlike Dropbox, they don’t scan your private files for DMCA violations or have former senior U.S. politicians on their board (Condoleeza Rice has openly supported illegal, warrantless NSA wiretapping).

Dropbox is still something I use as there are various ways I can’t not use it. I’d prefer it if BitTorrent Sync were open source—if only so it can get a proper security audit—but I trust it more than I trust Dropbox. I’m starting slow and using BitTorrent Sync for some pretty simple stuff (syncing my ~/Library/Fonts folder is what prompted me to try it).

The Armenian Eurovision entry will soon be summoning the dead. Who will promptly go back to the grave when they hear the noise.

Jeremy Keith has smart things to say about browser support.

I’ve been screwed over in the past by saying “we’re going to support IE9, IE10 and all versions of Firefox, Safari and Chrome that people actually use”. I’ve done this based on solid data—basically, going to Google Analytics, dumping the data out and applying the Pareto Principle and a craptastic Python script I have that extracts the information I need out of the morass of Google Analytics mess.

The problem occurs because then (a) we don’t build the back-end in a sane, reasonable, agile1 way (like, say, having good programmers building it in Django, instead management decides that it needs to be built by enterprise Java devs in some monstrosity of a CMS that refers to itself as an “enterprise portal engine” or some other bullshit) and (b) the front-end gets built in some crack-addled, buzzword-compliant JavaScript framework picked because it is on Hacker News and is sexy. If we built websites in a sane and rational way, this shit would be so much less complicated.

  1. By ‘agile’ in this context, I mean simply that it is built with technologies that make it easy to adapt to change based on feedback from design and front-end developers. Like, say, Django or Rails rather than Spring, and deployed on Heroku (at least during development) rather than some half-baked ops process.