Changelog News – Episode #69

How to write a good comment

+ Distil-Whisper, C++ safety, CSS is fun again & the beauty of finished software


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David Hugh-Jones has a lot to say about what makes a good comment, Hugging Face released a distilled variant of Whisper for speech recognition, The New Stack reports on C++ creator Bjarne Stroustrup’s plan for bringing safety to the language, Jeff Sandberg declares that CSS is fun again & Jose M. Gilgado praises the beauty of finished software.



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Notes & Links

📝 Edit Notes

All links mentioned in this episode of Changelog News (and more) are in its companion newsletter.



📝 Edit Transcript


Play the audio to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧

What up, nerds? I’m Jerod and this is Changelog News for the week of Monday, November 6th 2023.

Elon Musk’s xAI announced their first AI model over the weekend. It’s called ‘grok’ and is modeled after the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Musk’s ‘Grok’ joins Zuckerberg’s ‘Meta’ as the now 2nd blatant attempt to destroy all my favorite words.

Ok, let’s get into the news before I get even more upset.

David Hugh-Jones has a lot to say about what makes a good comment. He’s not specifically talking about code comments, or commit message comments, or issue comments… but online comments in general. his advice, however, certain applies in those contexts. David says, “Most comments are a waste of time to read and write. Yet online debate is now central to politics and culture. So, making people better at commenting would be a useful thing to do.”

What follows is a litany of actionable things you can do to improve your online commenting. He starts with, “Know why you’re writing. Otherwise, you’re the sucker.” Understanding your venue is also important and brevity is the soul of whit. Ok that one is Shakespeare’s, but David agrees when he says “Short words, sentences and paragraphs are easier to read. Prose stuffed with long words will make stupid people think you are smart… and vice versa.”

There’s so much good advice here, I could read you the entire article, but I’ll stop here so as to not disappoint Bill Shakespeare…

Hugging Face released a distilled variant of Whisper for speech recognition. It’s English-only and optimized to the hilt… which resulted in running 6 times faster while being 49% smaller, and performing within 1% word error rate from the original Whisper model.

It’s designed to be a drop-in replacement and the Hugging Face team cite 5 reasons why you might use it: faster inference, robustness to noise, robustness to hallucinations, designed for speculative decoding and permissively MIT licensed.

The New Stack reports on C++ creator Bjarne Stroustrup’s plan for bringing safety to the language. Speaking at this year’s CppCon, Stroustrup addressed critics who say the problem is C++ itself, and that the solution is switching to another language. He says, “Often the safety mentioned is just memory safety — that’s not enough… And the need to interoperate with other languages, including C++ and C, tend not to be mentioned. And the cost of conversion can be ferocious. That’s rarely mentioned…”

He then went on to lay out his plan for the future of C++, which includes a new concept called ‘profiles.’ A profiles is a set of rules which, when followed, achieve specific safety guarantees. His suggested standard profiles start with Type_safety, range, and arithmetic.

This is very much a work in progress, but he has a public GitHub repo called ‘profiles’ that we’ll link to where you can go to learn more and even get involved.

It’s now time for sponsored news!

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Thanks again to Appwrite for sponsoring this episode of Changelog News.

Jeff Sanderson declares that CSS is fun again: “CSS has been undergoing a quiet renaissance lately. Lots of big features which previously required an external tool to use, are now native parts of the language, and its growing more and more all the time. If you haven’t used CSS in a long time, for whatever reason, now is the time to take a look again.”

The big features he’s referring to include custom properties, CSS nesting, color-mix, containment and style queries, and many smaller features which he thinks really add up. So much so, that pre and post processors are no longer required, even though he still uses them on larger projects.

But for small, simple projects, he doesn’t use them at all. Just pure CSS. Bundle these CSS advancements with modern JavaScript features like ES modules and HTTP 3 and perhaps the days of web dev build steps are drawing to and end?

Jose M. Gilgado writes about WordStar 4.0, a popular word processor from the early 80s. “As old as it seems, George R.R. Martin used it to write “A Song of Ice and Fire”.

Why would someone use such an old piece of software to write over 5,000 pages? I love how he puts it: “It does everything I want a word processing program to do and it doesn’t do anything else. I don’t want any help. I hate some of these modern systems where you type up a lowercase letter and it becomes a capital. I don’t want a capital, if I’d wanted a capital, I would have typed the capital.”

Jose goes on to praise the beauty of finished software. He says finished software is software that isn’t expected to change. And that’s a feature. Because you can rely on it to do some real work.

For me, the stream of constant updates and changes to software are both virtuous and troublesome. It’s a beautiful thing when your tools improve overnight. You don’t wake up in the morning and expect your trusty ole’ hammer to have some new functionality, but this happens all the time in the software world. On the other hand, you can also trust your hammer to work exactly the way it did yesterday. How many times have you launched a software tool only to find its maker has rearranged things, ruining your workflow in the process.

Jose finishes up by saying, “In a world where constant change is the norm, finished software provides a breath of fresh air. It’s a reminder that reliability, consistency, and user satisfaction can coexist in the realm of software development. So the next time you find yourself yearning for the latest update, remember that sometimes, the best software is the one that doesn’t change at all.”

That is the news for now. But don’t forget to scan the companion newsletter for more interesting bits that didn’t make the audio. If you aren’t a subscriber, get in on it for zero dollars at

We have an awesome week of podcasts coming your way: Cory Doctorow returns to The Changelog for a very serious conversation about the future of the internet and Mat Ryer returns to Changelog & Friends for a very un-serious conversation about the history of internet worms.

Have a great week, tell your friends about Changelog News if you dig it, and I’ll talk to you again real soon. 💚


Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚

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