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Career vocal.media

83% of developers suffer from burnout

Burnout has reportedly reached a critical point in the software developer circle since the onset of the Covid-19 health crisis. A recent study by Haystack Analytics, a company specializing in productivity of engineers, found that 83% of software developers suffer from burnout. The main reasons given by the latter to explain this exhaustion are high workload (47%), process inefficiency (31%) and lack of clarity of objectives and targets (29%).

That few?! 😏

Rachel Stephens RedMonk

Kindness, tech staffing and resource allocation

Rachel Stephens, trying to reconcile the claims that the tech industry is vastly overstaffed with other claims of vast resource scarcity:

Both things can be true: it’s not a clear over- or under-staffing problem. It’s a problem of proportionality. There can definitely be organizational bloat… At the same time, there are also areas in tech that remain chronically understaffed and under-resourced: OSS project maintainers, people working on-call support, and people writing documentation to name a few.

An interesting analysis with a much-needed call for kindness to our fellow nerds as they face these tumultuous times.

And (I can’t believe I’m writing this, but the jokes about Twitter layoffs in particular keep coming at a surprising rate) be kind to people facing layoffs. Losing your job is awful in the best of circumstances; going through it in such a public and charged situation must be emotionally grueling. Be kind.

Culture time.com

A timely TIME interview with Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko

Apropos of nothing 😉

Mastodon, a decentralized microblogging site named after an extinct type of mammoth, recorded 120,000 new users in the four days following billionaire Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, its German-born founder Eugen Rochko tells TIME. Many of them were Twitter users seeking a new place to call their online home.

Those users, whether they knew it or not, were following in the footsteps of Rochko, 29, who began coding Mastodon in 2016 after becoming disillusioned with Twitter. “I was thinking that being able to express myself online to my friends through short messages was very important to me, important also to the world, and that maybe it should not be in the hands of a single corporation,” Rochko says. “It was generally related to a feeling of distrust of the top down control that Twitter exercised.”

Adam and I first spoke with Eugen in 2018 (before it was cool) and even signed up on his instance, but haven’t started posting there… yet. I’m a bit skeptical of its ability to scale beyond technologist circles. But maybe that’s okay?

André Staltz staltz.com

The myth of mass collaboration

André Staltz:

I used to believe there was mass collaboration on the internet. But I’ve realized that collaboration is extremely hard. It does not scale, especially not at internet scale. The examples we look up to are either not collaborative on the microscopic level, or are rare exceptions to the rule.

The examples he’s referring to are “Wikipedia, open source projects such as Linux, hacktivism, and crowdsourced science experiments such as Rosetta@home.”

This post is sobering, but André speaks from a lot of experience.

JavaScript github.com

A web-based implementation of The Matrix's digital rain

This project is a web implementation of the raining green code seen in the Matrix franchise. It’s built right on top of the upcoming graphics API WebGPU, but falls back to the functional WebGL wrapper, REGL; its previous Three.js version is maintained in a separate branch.

I used to spend countless hours in college scouring the web for the best digital rain screen saver for my laptop. Sounds like the author is with me on that:

The number of implementations out there of this effect is a testament to the size of the film’s impact on popular culture. For decades, I’ve enjoyed searching for and comparing them from time to time. That’s probably how you arrived here— it’s fun to see what kinds of solutions different people come up with to a problem, when the process is purely recreational and its success is subjective.

This one’s really nice and even has a 3D mode. The README says it’s “made with love”, but from what I can tell it’s almost entirely JavaScript. 😜

A web-based implementation of The Matrix's digital rain

iliana etaoin iliana.fyi

There is no “software supply chain”

iliana etaoin:

There is a lot of attention on securing “software supply chains.” The usual approach is that you want to try to avoid security issues in your underlying components from impacting customers of your product; and when they do, you want to be able to respond quickly to fix the issue. The people who care about this class of problem are often software companies. The class of components that are most concerning these companies are ones where unpaid hobbyist maintainers wrote something for themselves with no maintenance plan.

This is where the supply chain metaphor — and it is just that, a metaphor — breaks down…

I think we all know this intrinsically, but it’s easy to forget. iliana goes on to describe feelings I’ve heard expressed by a few maintainers recently:

I just want to publish software that I think is neat so that other hobbyists can use and learn from it, and I otherwise want to be left the hell alone. I should be allowed to decide if something I wrote is “done”. The focus on securing the “software supply chain” has made it even more likely that releasing software for others to use will just mean more work for me that I don’t benefit from. I reject the idea that a concept so tenuous can be secured in the first place.

Miłosz Piechocki codewithstyle.info

What makes a senior engineer? Writing software vs building systems

A lot of ink has been spilt over the years trying to elucidate the divide between junior and senior. Miłosz Piechocki makes the distinction this way:

Junior Engineers care about writing Software. They value code quality, employ best practices, try to adopt cutting-edge technologies. They invest a lot of time into learning new technologies. To them, the ultimate goal is to create elegant, performant, maintainable software.

Senior Engineers care about building Systems. To them, creating software is just one of the steps. First of all, they question whether the software needs to be built in the first place. They ask what problems would it solve and why it’s important to solve them. They inquire who will be using the software and on what scale. They think about where the software would run and how they’re going to monitor whether it’s working properly. They also decide how to measure whether the software is actually solving the problems it was supposed to solve.

He goes on to describe how hard it is to build Systems and lists activities that are part of that process.

Jacob Kaplan-Moss jacobian.org

Quality is systemic

Jacob Kaplan-Moss with a hot take on software quality:

Software quality is more the result of a system designed to produce quality, and not so much the result of individual performance. That is: a group of mediocre programmers working with a structure designed to produce quality will produce better software than a group of fantastic programmers working in a system designed with other goals.

What does he mean by “a system designed for quality”? Read on to see for yourself..

Culture whytheluckystiff.net

_why's Estate

whytheluckystiff.net is back online and now hosts links and mirrors to everything the man published on the internet during his illustrious career.

It works sort of like a museum that sells maps.

If you’ve never heard of why the lucky stiff, click through to get acquainted. If you were fortunate enough (like myself) to be around when he was actively creating things, click through for some top notch nostalgia.

Culture blog.ploeh.dk

We need young programmers; we need old programmers

Mark Seemann explains why we need young people in the software industry:

We need young people in the software development industry. Because of their vigour and inexperience, they’ll push the envelope. Most will fail to do the impossible, but a few succeed.

And why we also need old people in the software industry:

We need old people because they’re in a position to speak truth to the world… Old people have less on the line, so they can speak more freely. If someone you used to admire retires and all of a sudden starts saying or writing unpleasant and surprising things, there might be a good explanation, and it might be a good idea to pay attention.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) alexanderwales.com

The AI art apocalypse

Alexander Wales:

This image was created by an AI, MidJourney. All I had to do was type in a prompt (“wildfire”) and aspect ratio. This AI is pretty good, but nowhere near the state of the art, and AI like it are, over the next few years, going to make art like this available within seconds at a cost of pennies. This applies not just to “art” like the above, which is going to accompany my prose and worldbuilding projects, but to almost every area of life where you see pictures of any kind. I think it’s hard to understate how big of a deal this will end up being, and this blog post is largely my attempt to collate a lot of the arguments under one roof, in part because some of the arguments aren’t actually arguments at all.

Command line interface lifehacker.com

I raised my kids on the command line... and they love it

John Goerzen built a computer for his 3yo, installed Debian on it, and set up a GUI for it.

The looks of shock I get from people when I explain, as if it’s perfectly natural, that my child has been able to log in by himself to a Linux shell since age 3, are amusing and astounding. Especially considering that it is really not that hard.

It’s not that hard, but it is so foreign to people that they’re quickly impressed by such things. Still, John decided to introduce his kids to a GUI eventually:

Jacob mastered the basics of xmonad really quickly. Alt-Shift-C to close a window. Alt-Shift-Q to quit back to the “big black screen”. Alt-Shift-Enter to get a terminal window.

We launched thunar (the XFCE file manager) and plugged in his camera. He had a good deal of fun looking at photos and videos from it. But then I dropped the true highlight of the day for him: I offered to install Tuxpaint for him. That’s probably his favorite program of all time.

Tux Paint!

History dev.jimgrey.net

Working in the software industry, circa 1989

Gather round while Jim Grey tells a (long) tale.

My 33rd anniversary in the software industry was the Sunday that just passed, July 3. I remember the date because my second day on the job was a paid holiday!

I want to show you just how far our industry has come and how much we’ve learned.

The more things change:

Lots of things we all take for granted didn’t exist. The Internet existed but not the Web. Software was delivered to customers on tapes or floppy disks. The CD burner was still a few years in the future. Java didn’t exist, JavaScript didn’t exist, .NET didn’t exist.

The more they stay the same:

There was a holy war over text editors. IDEs weren’t a thing yet, so we all coded in a text editor. I was firmly in the Emacs camp, but most of my co-workers loved vi.

Career successfulsoftware.net

No-one knows what they are doing

Wise words from Andy Brice:

When I was a child I assumed that all the adults running the world knew what they were doing. Now that I am an adult, I am under no such illusions…

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Most of us who are running businesses had no real idea what they were doing when they started, and still struggle with decisions now.

I tell people this all the time when they ask me for advice. I’ll still give them my advice. But it comes with the disclaimer that I really have no idea what I’m doing. 😆

Lars Wikman underjord.io

What ID3v2 could have been

Lars Wikman on the history of ID3 tags:

If you were a Winamp user back in the day, or curate an MP3 collection currently, you might recognize the humble ID3 tag. It is what the metadata in the MP3 file is made up of. First it was pretty limited in the version later dubbed ID3v1. Like any good 2.0 they added a ton more fields, features, removed character limits and it was suddenly ID3v2. The latest spec is ID3v2.4 while the most commonly adopted one seems to be ID3v2.3. I recently found myself having a reason to dig into this specification.

I wonder what reason he might have to dig into this spec? Could it be for a soon-to-be-announced collab with his friends at Changelog? 😏

This post is not about the technical intricacies of the format… This is about a simpler time, where people saw the wild possibilities of music on computers and when people cared about files, damnit. This is about some of the most interesting and entertaining things I’ve run across while reading the spec.

Cloud github.com

Store files as YouTube videos == infinite disk space

YouTubeDrive is a Wolfram Language (aka Mathematica) package that encodes/decodes arbitrary data to/from simple RGB videos which are automatically uploaded to/downloaded from YouTube. Since YouTube imposes no limits on the total number or length of videos users can upload, this provides an effectively infinite but extremely slow form of file storage.

Filed under: ways-no-youtube-engineer-ever-imagined-people-would-use-their-software

Jan Schaumann netmeister.org

If programming languages were Futurama characters

Good news, everyone! Jan Schaumann merged Futurama with your (least) favorite programming languages. Amy Wong is… Ruby?!

Object-oriented, cute, really popular, and a bit naive. Had a bit of Fry grafted onto herself for a while. Also had a thing with Bender. And Zapp. Easy going, but doesn’t do well in difficult situations, falls over easily.

Bender is Shell. Fry is Perl. If you care at all for his reasoning, you’ve already clicked through!

Gui Heurich code-anth.xyz

Chunky Bacon

Gui Heurich on one of the legends of the Ruby community, _why the lucky stiff.

Through the things that he built, the way he performed, and the books that he wrote, _why makes us think about code and also about ourselves. It makes us think about ourselves as programmers. In a sense, _why was the meta-programmer, the one that generates other programmers by promoting reflexivity.

Data visualization howisfelix.today

Felix Krause put his "whole life" into a single database

I used scare quotes around “whole life” because those are his words and surely there’s a lot more to life than things you can quantify, but still: this is interesting

Back in 2019, I started collecting all kinds of metrics about my life. Every single day for the last 2.5 years I tracked over 100 different data types - ranging from fitness & nutrition to social life, computer usage and weather.

This data produces 44 graphs that are all shared publicly on the website.

Felix Krause put his "whole life" into a single database

Dominick Schroer schroer.ca

The joy of small projects

Dominick Schroer:

When was the last time you completed a project? When was the last time you started a project? Have you every felt that you were trapped working on something that you don’t enjoy anymore? Size is something that I’m sure most developers with the drive to do side projects have felt. Recently I have been completing more projects with more success than ever before. This is my new process.

His 4-step process is so simple it might be brilliant.

Career lepiter.io

Developers spend most of their time figuring the system out

So what?

Well, that is the single largest expense we have. If we want to optimize anything in our discipline we should look at this part first. We talk often about how we build systems, but how often do you talk about how you spend the “figuring out” time? If we do not talk about it, it’s not explicit. If it’s not explicit, it does not get optimized.

In addition to the author’s suggested solution to this problem allow me to add: developer retention! Nobody has more to figure out in a system than the people who just joined the team. Cut down on that (via better compensation, workplace satisfaction, etc.) and you cut way down on that oh so expensive “figuring out” time.

Developers spend most of their time figuring the system out

Culture mashable.com

How Tumblr taught young women to code

Last year, TikTokker Avery Steeves posted a video asking why no one talks about how there’s an entire generation of teenage girls who taught themselves to code HTML on Tumblr. “People are like, ‘Oh, there’s no girls in STEM,’” she says, imitating the faceless internet mob. “No, there were! They were just making pale blogs.”

OK so we don’t usually link to Mashable (first time ever?), but this was cool news to me, so I thought it was worth passing along. Long live HTML!

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