Saturday, March 11, 2017

Following up

I haven't been writing an awful lot recently. I've been quite busy with my new day job, and we also took a delightful 3-day weekend trip to the mountains with my granddaughter.

But here's a few things I wanted to share.

  • I wrote a fairly long essay about the importance of hiring.

    As is so often true, The Awl said it simply, more crisply, and more powerfully than me: If It Walks Like A Jerk And Talks Like A Jerk: Call him an asshole, not “brilliant,” and don’t hire him.

    I’ll tell you what: first of all, stop calling him that. Brilliant is just how we excuse Jerk. It’s how he gets away with bad behavior, like sexual harassment and insubordination (and yes, he is usually a he). Let me get all third grade on you for a second here: If you’re so brilliant, then why haven’t you figured out how to be good at your job? The jury is long out on the jerks’ performance: they may be highly productive, “but they are not, however brilliant business people,” wrote Cliff Oxford in the Times. This is because good business people, strangely enough, are good people.
  • I mumbled for a while about the challenges of making a highly-reliable web service.

    Amazon, who know a lot more about this than me, released a great post-mortem about just how hard it is: Summary of the Amazon S3 Service Disruption in the Northern Virginia (US-EAST-1) Region

    We are making several changes as a result of this operational event. While removal of capacity is a key operational practice, in this instance, the tool used allowed too much capacity to be removed too quickly. We have modified this tool to remove capacity more slowly and added safeguards to prevent capacity from being removed when it will take any subsystem below its minimum required capacity level. This will prevent an incorrect input from triggering a similar event in the future. We are also auditing our other operational tools to ensure we have similar safety checks.

    Some people (although not very many) had actually prepared well enough to be able to survive this outage and remain operational: Mitigating an AWS Instance Failure with the Magic of Kubernetes

    At Spire, we’ve been using Kubernetes for a little over 9 months at this point, the last 6 of which were in production. It’s transformed our workflow and provided us with a significantly more reliable product. If you’re considering a move to Kubernetes, I highly recommend it. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that is guaranteed to leave you in awe at least a few times.

    And, of course, it's not enough for those services just to be highly reliable and available, as MIT's Technology Review observes: they have to be secure, too: Centralized Web Services Are Wonderful—Until They Go Wrong

    Cloudflare points out that the flaw meant that its servers leaked private information just once in every 3.3 million Web requests it dealt with. But such is the scale of Cloudflare’s operations that those numbers add up—and quickly. Among its clients are the likes of Uber, Fitbit, OKCupid, 4chan, and 1Password. All told, as many as 120,000 pages per day from 3,438 domains could have leaked data, and the bug remained undiscovered for over five months.
  • I worried a lot about the Oroville Dam.

    Ideasman69 has put up a stupendous series of pictures and videos about just how bad it actually was:

    Those pictures are astonishing.

  • I fretted about the amazing pace of construction near the Transbay Terminal.

    WebCor have recently updated their project page with some new architectural drawings: First and Mission (Oceanwide Center)

    the development includes the construction of two high rise towers and the renovation of two existing buildings, 78 and 88 1st Street. The 910 foot tall, 61-story 1st Street Tower will include a 4 story basement, a 7-story tall open public space on the ground level, 33 stories of office space (1.35 million square feet) and 109 ultra-luxury condos. The steel 1st Street Tower will be the second tallest building in San Francisco and will be targeting Platinum LEED Certification.

    At 610 foot tall, the concrete 54-story Mission Street Tower consist of a 169 key Waldrof Astoria hotel and 156 ultra-luxury condos. The unique fa├žade of this tower will be natural stone with protruding glass bay windows.

    Meanwhile, one block in the other direction, at 181 Fremont, they're looking for buyers: The tallest penthouse apartment in San Francisco is going on the market for $42 million — take a look inside

    The unit rises 700 feet above the city, making it the tallest residence on the West Coast. Its price tag also makes it one of the most expensive listings San Francisco has ever seen.

    Somehow, "tallest" doesn't seem like quite the right word to use, here.

And, since I've already distracted you pretty well, a few other things that I thought worth noting:

  • A lovely essay about a wonderful author: 5 Things You May Not Know About Margaret Wise Brown
    I have long had an image in my head of what Margaret Wise Brown must have been like and Amy Gary's new book, In the Great Green Room totally blew that away. Brown was a firecracker. She was an innovator. She was amazing.
  • The utterly superb team at Double Fine is going to give VR a try: Legendary game developer Tim Schafer tells us why he's excited for more 'Psychonauts' games, virtual reality, and the new Nintendo Switch
    Schafer: The thing about using clairvoyance in Psychonauts is that it didn’t just let you teleport around, but also let you feel like you’re seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. So if you’re looking through the world through the POV of a big person or a small person or a tiny crab sandwich, or some insects, or giant creatures — you want to feel big, or you want to feel small. We want to represent that altered mental state as you see through their eyes, so it’s teleportation but also an empathy device.

I'm sure that's enough for a while; we'll talk again soon.

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