Thursday, April 12, 2012

More quick links

More of what has caught my attention recently:
  • $1B for Instagram was silly and caused by fear ([1] [2] [3] [4]), but it is impressive the scale Instagram built with just three engineers ([5] [6])

  • Felix Salmon at Reuters writes that Twitter is under revenue pressure and will start doing things that make the site much less pleasant to use. I'd say Facebook is under similar pressure. Both likely will do increasingly aggressive attempts to sell their users to advertisers and may face a backlash. ([1] [2] [3])

  • Google has millions of machines ([1] [2] [3]), so many that "a performance improvement of even 1% can results in millions of dollars saved", which explains why they spend so much time on the details, like how threads run on cores and estimating disk space needed ([4] [5])

  • Great recent talk by Googler Jeff Dean on problems due to hitting occasional latency in large scale distributed systems, some surprising and useful advice here. ([1] [2])

  • While 89% of ad clicks are incremental (visit wouldn't have happened without the ad), only 50% of ad clicks on the top ad are incremental. Is that due to ads on navigational queries? And does Google effectively force companies to buy those ads (so competitors don't get them) even though the ads are not very effective? ([1])

  • "In this two-part blog post, we will open the doors of one of the most valued Netflix assets: our recommendation system." ([1])

  • "Yahoo's Chief Product Officer Blake Irving resigns" over disagreements on strategy, in particular he was "concerned about the massive engineering and research talent exodus of late, especially in Yahoo's vaunted Labs arm." ([1] [2])

  • The field of astronomy appears to be going through a major shift to large scale analysis of truly massive data sets ([1] [2])

  • Amazing to me that Walmart has taken this long to ramp up online against Amazon. Amazon even has been called the "Walmart of the Web"; you going to take that, Walmart? ([1])

  • A clever analysis deduces that Amazon has 450k machines in AWS. ([1] [2])

  • A video out of Microsoft Research shows how different interacting with a tablet would feel if touch response times could be made faster. Very compelling. ([1])

  • Other work out of Microsoft Research demos a Kinect-like gesture interface built using what is essentially echolocation via a laptop's built-in microphone and speaker, no other hardware required. (video [1] and CHI 2012 paper [2])