Wednesday Linkblogging 2012-09-19

I’ve volunteered to help out in my daughter’s kindergarten class on Wednesday mornings, so that’s going to cut into my available writing time on those days. Since my time is short, I thought I could use Wednesdays to throw out some interesting links I encounter each week. Ready, steady, go…

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My old Baseball Toaster buddy Jon Weisman is retiring from daily baseball blogging. Anybody can recognize quality writing, and Jon has been one of the best team bloggers anywhere. But people who haven’t blogged usually don’t realize how incredibly difficult it is to keep up the quantity. Most people who try blogging give up after just a month or three, because it’s too hard to keep going, day after day. Our lives get in the way. Jon’s ability to maintain both the quantity and the quality of his writing for 10 years has been astounding to me. But even Jon is human, and he’s decided that now is the time for him to move on. He’ll still be writing at his day job, the entertainment awards blog at Variety. Best of luck, Jon!

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Speaking of life getting in the way, researches have found that all throughout human history, mankind has had a distinct preference for a maximum commute of 30 minutes each way. No matter whether we’ve travelled by foot, by horse, by bicycle, or by automobile, we’ve arranged our lives so that our work and our homes are no more than 30 minutes apart. This limit is called Marchetti’s Constant.

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Yesterday, I wrote about some political questions that are looking for an answer. Today I saw that Stephen Johnson has written a book called Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age, about some political answers that are looking for questions. It looks interesting, and will definitely add that one to my Amazon wish list. Here’s a YouTube preview of the book:

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Here’s a thought experiment for you, as an extension of Johnson’s idea: if you wanted to start up a business whose purpose was to disrupt government, how would you do that? I don’t mean disrupt government in the political way, like in organizing big protests or anything. I mean disrupting government in the Clayton Christensen sense: creating an innovative product that starts out small, but eventually grows to performing some of the same functions as government at a cheaper cost than government can compete with.

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Christensen has a new book out that’s also on my Amazon wish list called “How Will You Measure Your Life?” The book extends the metaphors he uses to measure businesses to our personal lives. Here’s a TED Talk he gave about the topic:

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Finally, my friend Bryan Pendelton pointed to a 1980 Turing Award acceptance speech by Tony Hoard. The money quote is this:

Programmers are always surrounded by complexity; we cannot avoid it. Our applications are complex because we are ambitious to use our computers in ever more sophisticated ways. Programming is complex because of the large number of conflicting objectives for each of our programming projects.

I conclude that there are two ways of constructing a software design: One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies.

This tension that exists in computer science between simple and complex, is also a tension that exists in American politics. I think a lot of people who are fed up with both parties and the whole political system, are really feeling that the system has gone overboard on the “so complicated” end of the spectrum. That’s definitely the case with the financial crisis: it got so complex, nobody could see where the deficiencies were. They weren’t obvious.

You’d expect that the backlash to that would be toward a simplicity movement, where the rules and the system become so simple that any deficiencies become obvious again. I keep hoping that one of the political parties, probably the Republicans since it seems like idea that might land closer to their hearts, latch on to this idea. But it probably won’t until one of them loses so badly that they obviously need to change course in some way.

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