Learning to Fly by Missing the Ground

by Venkat on November 20, 2014

Earlier this year, I turned forty.

I’ll give you a moment to choose between “crap I’ve been listening to an out-of-touch old dude who looks younger than he is” and “crap, I’ve been listening to a ponderously self-important kid whose picture I never bothered to look at.”

Forty is an milestone in the middle of the uncanny valley of life. At forty, you’re supposed to be silently suffering the mistakes of the previous generation and making mistakes for the next generation to suffer. It’s a time of life to be shutting the hell up and doing Real Things in short.

Some of my old college friends are doing that. And making obscene amounts of money, collecting titles and stuff.

Failing that, it’s a time to be raising kids by way of apology for not doing Real Things (implicitly hinting that your kids will do Real Things, which seems to involve teaching them to play the piano for some reason that has never been entirely clear to me).

Many more of my old friends are doing that. Clearly, the next generation will not suffer from a lack of piano players.

Forty is not an ideal age to be blogging. Because it’s not an age anyone is particularly eager to hear from. At twenty-five, you’ve got inspiring dreams and ideals to share. At fifty, you’ve got complete stories to tell and lessons to convey.  At forty, if you’re not overworked and too busy to blog, you’re just a distraction for everybody.

As far as I know, none of my old friends is blogging. One is a journalist, but that’s different.

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The Design of Crash-Only Societies

by Ryan Tanaka on November 14, 2014

Ryan Tanaka is a resident blogger, visiting us from his home turf at http://ryan-writer.com.  The improv session that inspired this article can be found here.

Blue Screen of Death Windows 8

Crash-only software: it only stops by crashing, and only starts by recovering.  It formalizes Murphy’s Law and creative-destruction into an applicable practice, where the end-of-things and the worst of outcomes are anticipated as something to be expected as a routine occurrence.  When done well, however, it has the potential to make software more reliable, less erratic, faster and easier to use overall.

But there is also a social component to crash-only designs that has yet to be fully explored: the potential for using these ideas to develop practices for building communities and social applications online.  As the worlds of tech, politics, and culture continue to collide, the demand for alternative modes of communication will likely continue to rise.  Crash-only designs hint at possible new approaches toward community and content moderation on the web, expanding the means and methods by which online content and interactions can be organized more effectively and intuitively.

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Don’t Surround Yourself With Smarter People

by Venkat 11.05.2014

There is an idea that I have been guilty of uncritically parroting and promoting in the past: surround yourself with smarter people. Another popular version is never be the smartest guy in the room.  Beneath the humblebragging  in both versions (your cut-off for smart is a de facto declaration of “look how smart I am; only Einsteins are […]

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Crash-Only Thinking

by Venkat 10.29.2014

A few weeks ago, I learned about something called crash-only software  (ht, Robert Greco). This is software that has no normal “start” or “stop” mechanisms. It can only be stopped by crashing it. Often this means unplugging the computer physically. It can only be restarted through some sort of failure-recovery routine, with a hard reboot being […]

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Playing Games to Leave Games

by Sam Bhagwat 10.21.2014

Sam is a 2014 blogging resident visiting us from his home blog at Moore’s Hand. When I was a kid I played a lot of chess. On Saturdays my mom and I would get up early and drive an hour to a high school somewhere around Michigan. She would bring a box of old New […]

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The Adjacency Fallacy

by Venkat 10.08.2014

Lately, I’ve been having quite a few conversations with people who are trying to reinvent themselves for the new economy. The most common pattern is MBA-types trying to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurial types. The second most common pattern is mid-career types who would normally be moving into either middle management roles trying to reinvent themselves as […]

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The Political Hangover of Prohibition

by Editor 09.30.2014

This is a guest post by Craig Roche, a data scientist and artisanal landlord. Whiskey is very easy to make.  Farmers used to make it at home using their crops, and Henry Ford designed the Model T to run on home-distilled ethanol.  George Washington distilled 55,000 bottles/year when he retired from being President. Even the mutineers […]

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The Rhythms of Information: Flow-Pacing and Spacetime

by Ryan Tanaka 09.24.2014

Ryan Tanaka is a blogging resident visiting us from ryan-writer.com. For every article that he writes, Ryan also improvises a live musical piece as means of organizing his ideas. (Below, or here.) “Flow Pacing” is a phrase used in chemical, sewage, and water facilities in order to describe the treatment methods of its contents, often referring […]

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We Have Them Surrounded in Their Tanks

by Jordan Peacock 09.17.2014

Jordan is a 2014 blogging resident visiting us from his home turf on Google+ and hewhocutsdown.net. “We have them surrounded in their tanks.” So spoke Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, the infamous Iraqi Information Minister in the first days of the American invasion. His missives should be an inspiration to public relations personnel everywhere; he was unshakably on-message even as the […]

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Geopolitics for Individuals

by Kartik Agaram 09.09.2014

Kartik is a 2014 blogging resident visiting us from his home turf at akkartik.name. I recently spent a month playing a board game called Diplomacy, and it turned out to be a surprisingly mind-broadening experience. Pretending to be the German Empire before the First World War, exchanging missives all day with the other “great powers” […]

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