Archive for January, 2013

Links I liked (edition #2)

January 3, 2013

Hello again.

This is the second edition of Links I liked. You can find the first one here.

There’s a great blog called Not Exactly Rocket Science which has been around for a while and is now hosted by National Geographic. It covers a wide range of topics at a level of complexity that’s one step up from the popular science books of Gladwell et al, but still very accessible to non-experts.  That’s a trick statement, of course, since even experts in one specialism are basically interested and vaguely-educated observers in just about every other area of science. Anyway, here’s a fun article on how concepts are mapped in the human brain.

Basketball is fun to watch, perhaps because it happens in very short bursts of crazy activity. Good for those with short attention spans.  The NYT recently did a long profile of the Oklahoma City team, focusing on how darn nice they all are. Ironically, therefore perhaps not so good for those with short attention spans.

My friend and colleague Tom has a thing about sailing. He does it a lot, when he’s not writing the UK Government’s digital strategy, and he’s pretty good at it. Now he’s written a lovely, short piece about Malcolm Barnsley, the designer of the fastest sailboat in the world. As Tom says, “the brutal fact of the matter is that ideas are cheap. Malcolm spent a decade making a potentially great idea work.”

Okay, another piece about the US presidential election of 02012.  Nate Silver runs the numbers and explains what changed between 2008 and 2012 state by state.

Remember the Large Hadron Collider? The big tunnel under the Swiss-French border where they recently detected something that’s almost certainly a Higgs Boson. (There seems to be some uncertainty about whether it’s “the” Higgs boson, but we’ll save that for another day.)  Anyway, now that the excitement has died down it’s worth going back to January 2010 and re-reading this Vanity Fair piece about the origins of the LHC, the disaster of September 19th 02008 and the process of rebuilding that led to a press conference of beaming particle physicists on 4th July 02012. (Sorry about the pun.)

Finally, a long posting about the “three kinds of platforms you meet on the Internet” (an example of each type being Flickr, Facebook and Heroku). It was originally written by Marc Andreessen, who was a co-founder of Netscape and is now a successful venture capital investor. For some reason his blog went offline a few years ago, but fortunately someone put a mostly-complete copy of his back catalogue on the Internet.  And if you liked that one you should also read (or re-read) Steve Yegge’s rant about why Google doesn’t build platforms like Amazon builds platforms.

That’s all for today. Sorry again for the lack of attribution (also known as the “hat tip“).

Links I liked (edition #1)

January 2, 2013


I read a few hundred blogs. Mostly it’s pretty ephemeral stuff, but sometimes it’s worth sharing with a wider audience.  So in the style of Chris Blattman’s “Links I liked” and O’Reilly Radar’s “Four short links”, here are some things on the Internet that are worth reading.

Lots of people have written about how the Obama campaign used technology.  Very little of it is worth reading, apart from this interview with Daniel Ryan and this profile of Harper Reed and the Obama for America tech team.

Remember letter writing?  People wrote letters, this guy typed them in, and now you can read them on his website. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, etc.

The Indigo Trust is unusual among grant-giving charitable trusts.  They blog about what they fund and why they fund it.  More foundations and trusts should do this.

Steve Blank writes a lovely blog about his experiences starting and growing technology businesses in the USA – but it has plenty of wise words for non-US, non-tech entrepreneurs too. (Why read this guy and not the other 5,000,000 people who blog about entrepreneurship? Partly because he did it 7 or 8 times and made his investors and colleagues lots of money, and partly because he writes pretty well.) It’s well worth reading through the entire blog if you have a couple of hours to spare. Put very simply, he advises entrepreneurs to spend time with potential customers to work out what they actually need and what they will actually buy.  Then, and only then, invest significant amounts of time and/or money to develop the product and scale up the business. See also – a succinct, common sense approach in line with Steve Blank’s advice, and some UK-specific information on starting a company, registering your intellectual property, etc.

[Warning: This next link is very geeky!] My friend Adam works on web security at Google.  He gave a talk recently about a new way for website owners to reliably know about all the SSL certificates that have been issued by certificate authorities for a given Internet domain name (including certs that shouldn’t have been issued). If you understood any of that, read the transcript of the talk.

And finally, a slightly unfocused, meandering but nonetheless enjoyable article about the New Yorker magazine’s fact-checking process, and a chat with the editor, David Remnick.

(I’ll do another list in a few days, but this one is already getting quite long. Also, I didn’t note down where I first saw these links, so I can’t give the correct attribution. Sorry about that.)