Sunday, August 28, 2016

More quick links

A tightly curated list of what has caught my attention lately:
  • New Yorker on AI: "A lot of what people are calling 'artificial intelligence' is really data analytics -- in other words, business as usual. If the hype leaves you asking 'What is A.I., really?,' don’t worry, you're not alone .... Intelligent software helps us interact and deal with the ... [information] onslaught ... winnowing an increasing number of inputs and options in a way that humans can’t manage without a helping hand .... A set of technologies that try to imitate or augment human intelligence .... [But] we are a long way from creating virtual human beings ... In the meantime, we're going to have to deal with the hyperbole surrounding A.I." ([1])

  • Tim O'Reilly: "Humans are increasingly going to be interacting with devices that are able to listen to us and talk back .... [Alexa] demonstrates that conversational interfaces can work, if they are designed right .... Smaller domains where you can deliver satisfying results, and within those domains, spend a lot of time thinking through the 'fit and finish' so that interfaces are intuitive, interactions are complete, and that what most people try to do 'just works'." ([1])

  • Netflix: "We think the combined effect of personalization and recommendations save us more than $1B per year" ([1] [2] [3])

  • "The main reasons cited for using ad blockers include avoiding disruptive ads (69%), ads that slow down their browsing experience (58%) and security / malware risks (56%). Privacy wasn’t the top answer. So Facebook thinks if its can make its ads non-interruptive, fast, [useful,] and secure, people won’t mind." ([1] [2])

  • According to the NYT, Uber lost $1.2B on $2.1B in revenue in H1 2016 ([1] [2])

  • "Amazon reaches new high of 268,900 employees — skyrocketing 47% in just one year" ([1])

  • Amazon's going hard for Netflix on their key vulnerability, strength of the catalog ([1])

  • Great example of how Bezos sees failure as just a step toward success, following up on their $170M loss from an expensive Amazon Fire Phone with another (and I think very promising) attempt using existing cheap phones ([1] [2])

  • Talks from ScaledML 2016, including Jeff Dean, Qi Lu, Ilya Sutskever, and more ([1] [2])

  • Great paper on the data pipelines at Facebook and some of their design tradeoffs ([1])

  • Good article on Facebook's approach to research, not separate from engineering, not part of engineering, but just open ([1] [2])

  • Great article in ACM Queue on Amazon's microservices, which allows for "permissionless innovation" and has many benefits for testing, deployment, debugging, and reliability ([1] [2])

  • Nice example of fine-grained control of data center power and cooling using machine learning to save electricity ([1])

  • Precision agriculture using GPS, self-driving tractors, and crop and nutrient sensors ([1])

  • Pew Internet study of Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), lots of remarkable details, including that most workers are making less than $5/hour, almost all less than $8/hour ([1])

  • "The line between outright deception and poor user design is often hard to distinguish" ([1])

  • "[The] many confusing design decisions made us wonder if projects were assembled entirely from poor stackoverflow posts" ([1] [2])

  • Amusing story of what happens when a geolocation is missing ([1])

  • On education: "A feeling of hopefulness actually leads us to try harder and persist longer -- but only if it is paired with practical plans for achieving our goals, and specific, concrete actions we’ll take when and if (usually when) our original plans don’t work out as expected." ([1])

  • On management: "We have to give them the space to fail in the short term so they can succeed and grow in the long term ... There is that magical moment when we delegate and allow an emerging leader to grow into their new responsibilities, and they end up being way better at it than we ever were. That’s real management success." ([1] [2])

  • On teams: "The best teams respect one another’s emotions and are mindful that all members should contribute to the conversation equally ... A shared belief that it is safe to take risks and share a range of ideas without the fear of being humiliated." ([1] [2])

  • Comic on being data-driven and how it sometimes feels ([1])

  • Xkcd on self-driving cars: "This car has 240% of a horse's decision-making ability" ([1])

  • Xkcd: "Is this a normal bug?" ([1])

  • Xkcd on code quality ([1])

  • SMBC comic on statisticians ([1])

  • SMBC comic on economists and the golden goose, don't miss the mouseover text: "A physicist would figure out how the Goose was transmuting elements without getting to a high temperature, then use the trillions of dollars to build a really sweet fleet of quadcopters" ([1])

  • SMBC comic that perfectly captures why I love talking with geeks, it's the infectious enthusiasm ([1])

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