Tag Archives: career

Medium.com: The 36 People Who Run Wikipedia

Participation and administration works not because anyone is paid or recognized, but apparently because people are authentically interested in the project. In fact, many stewards have expressed adamant opposition to payment. Among the stewards I talked with, satisfaction depended only on the intrinsic nature of the project itself: instant gratification from immediate publishing, the ability to spread knowledge, and learn — and yes, because it is fun.

Yup, the largest and most successful collaborative project in history, the modern center of human knowledge — a radically participatory model for this technologic age — is possible because people find it inherently satisfying to participate.
The 36 People Who Run Wikipedia

It’s an old story but it’s true: loving your work matters in the deepest ways. If you don’t love your work, questioning your motivation is fair, if not required. Those motivations may outweigh any satisfaction derived from your work, but work satisfaction does make for a clear benchmark.

On the flip side of this, however, is that in my first class at school, my professor absolutely drilled it into our heads that Wikipedia is really only good for a very general, broad overview of any topic, a place to find a starting point for deeper learning elsewhere more than anything, and that it cannot be trusted as cited, reference material for an academic paper. For everything that Wikipedia content gets things right, there are enough other things that are wrong, so trusting Wikipedia is next to impossible. For those areas where I have deep knowledge I found it lacking in detail much more than getting things wrong, and that could be argued as being just as bad. Whether or not inaccuracies abound in all areas I can’t really say, but that professor definitely changed our views of Wikipedia in an instant. Wikipedia is still admirable in its ambitions and outcomes, all the same.

Double-booking

Double-booking your appointments does not necessarily mean you are productive, nor appear busy in a good sense of the term. Double-booking may make you appear productive, but it’s a false economy. In reality, you double-booking makes people around you unproductive. While you are in one meeting getting something done, you likely have people waiting for you to get started in another meeting, or at least have question hanging waiting for you to answer them, should you tear yourself away from your current meeting to attend the other one. Making people wait on you is easily argued as being disrespectful to all those other people as well, because they all have jobs to do, none of which should consist of waiting on one person to get things done (thought, if that is the case, even informally, then there’s a deeper problem with you and your organization). Then by pulling out of the first meeting to go your simultaneous second meeting puts all those people you just left in the same place as the people who are waiting on you. Double-booking basically says that you over-commit; you don’t know how to pick your battles; and it’s time to delegate.

Don’t you agree?

Every once in a while, I get an email proposing some decision starting or ending with the phrase “don’t you agree.” Whether the proposal is something I agree with doesn’t matter; sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t. Either way, I have never liked this phrase for the fact that I feel it puts the receiver immediately on the defensive. By adding “don’t you agree” to a question makes an assumption that the receiver is going to agree but that assumption has a real chance of being false.1 We really have no idea all of what the other person is thinking. Using “don’t you agree” forces the receiver’s hand to defend their position in the real chance that, no, they don’t agree, but now they are compelled to explain why, even on those things that needn’t be explained because the answers are completely obvious, causes needless chatter, could be none of your business, whatever. Forcing an explanation is putting up a last-second hurdle that has to be overcome, no matter how small that may be.

In other words, ending with the phrase “…, don’t you agree?” is a passive-aggressive move in enough contexts that its usage really ought to be avoided should you want to be perceived as someone with whom collaboration is easy. Don’t you agree?


  1. You know what happens when you assume, right? It makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”

EFF: Adobe Spyware Reveals (Again) the Price of DRM: Your Privacy and Security

The publishing world may finally be facing its “rootkit scandal.” Two independent reports claim that Adobe’s e-book software, “Digital Editions,” logs every document readers add to their local “library,” tracks what happens with those files, and then sends those logs back to the mother-ship, over the Internet, in the clear. In other words, Adobe is not only tracking your reading habits, it’s making it really, really easy for others to do so as well.
EFF: Adobe Spyware Reveals (Again) the Price of DRM: Your Privacy and Security

Adobe collects information about whatever book you happen to be reading using Adobe Digital Editions, which potentially means your entire ADE collection. Then ADE sends that information back to Adobe in the clear, meaning anyone snooping can read it.

Intentional or not, I find none of this surprising.

Github Student Developer Pack

There’s no substitute for hands-on experience, but for most students, real world tools can be cost prohibitive. That’s why we created the GitHub Student Developer Pack with some of our partners and friends: to give students free access to the best developer tools in one place so they can learn by doing.
Github Student Developer Pack

The list of software and subscription offers is truly impressive. I won’t use half the stuff, but others like Atom, I’ve been wanting to try, but haven’t for precisely the reason they give.

Adobe Digital Editions is *still* the worst ebook reader I have ever used.

Somehow, Adobe managed to upgrade Adobe Digital Editions from version 2 to version 3 with absolutely no improvement. This is impressive in its own way. Text selection for highlighting is still a complete disaster. The app still translates my moving the pointer one pixels to jump the selection of a single sentence to half a paragraph, a problem that inarguably plagued the last version.

That the app was allowed to be released with such a major bug in a vital feature of any ebook reader, is astounding to me. Now I get the impression that the app lives in some sort of development backwaters, using version numbers simply to call attention rather than indicating any real improvements (which puts it in line with past Creative Suite upgrades).

For a company that is in the business of making books and wants to be in the business of eBooks, Adobe Digital Editions is just an embarrassment.

I’ll know it when I see it, and this isn’t it.

SILE versus Word

When most people produce printed documents using a computer, they usually use software such as Word (part of Microsoft Office) or Writer (part of Open/LibreOffice) or similar–word processing software. SILE is not a word processor; it is a typesetting system.

SILE versus TeX

SILE is basically a modern rewrite of TeX.

SILE versus InDesign

InDesign is a complex, expensive, commercial publishing tool. It’s highly graphical–you click and drag to move areas of text and images around the screen. SILE is a free, open source typesetting tool which is entirely text-based; you enter commands in a separate editing tool, save those commands into a file, and hand it to SILE for typesetting. And yet the two systems do have a number of common features.

So, essentially, this is a rewrite for TeX. But the reality is that creating complex layouts really, truly requires GUI layout tools. No matter how good the output is for this application, it’s entering into an firmly-established market with a few, large, expensive players, and not a lot of action. Publishing automation tools are nothing new, but one has to give up a certain amount (usually a lot) of control to create a document on the cheap. Even for those workflows that are intensely reliant on templates, designers are still working in InDesign for the initial design, which is then handed off to a person, or more frequently a system, to translate into something to be automated.

TeX has already been done, and automated layouts have already been done. I’m a long-time user of TeX, and I love it, but I don’t feel this has a long road in front of it.

The economics of a web-based book: year one

Let’s face it, un­less you’re re­ally slow on the up­take, you’ve out­fit­ted your web browser with an ad blocker. Ha ha, you win! But wait—that means most web ads are only reach­ing those who are re­ally slow on the up­take. So their dol­lars are dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­por­tant in sup­port­ing the con­tent you’re get­ting ad-free. “Not my prob­lem,” you say. Oh re­ally? Since those peo­ple are the only ones fi­nan­cially sup­port­ing the con­tent, pub­lish­ers in­creas­ingly are shap­ing their sto­ries to ap­peal to them. Even­tu­ally, the con­tent you liked—well, didn’t like it enough to pay for it—will be gone.

Why? Be­cause you starved it to death. The im­mutable law re­mains: you can’t get some­thing for noth­ing. The web has been able to de­fer the con­se­quences of this prin­ci­ple by shift­ing the costs of con­tent off read­ers and onto ad­ver­tis­ers. But if read­ers per­ma­nently with­draw as eco­nomic par­tic­i­pants in the writ­ing in­dus­try—i.e., refuse to vote with their wal­lets—then they’ll have no rea­son to protest as the uni­verse of good writ­ing shrinks. (And make no mis­take—it’s al­ready happening.)
The economics of a web-based book: year one

Either I’m slow on the uptake or I’m just really good at ignoring advertising, because I don’t have an ad blocker in my browser. I have long since disabled Flash, however, but that was more because it was a needless drain on my processor and battery than anything. But, this is an interesting way of thinking about the issue of blocking the ads of ad-supported endeavors. Be careful what you ask for (block ads supporting the content you find useful) because you are going to get it (crappy content because people who can value their time monetarily aren’t going to write content that won’t pay).

A Dream Come True

The JavaScript OSA component implements JavaScript for Automation. The component can be used from Script Editor, the global Script Menu, in the Run JavaScript Automator Action, applets/droplets, the osascript command-line tool, the NSUserScriptTask API, and everywhere else other OSA components, such as AppleScript, can be used. This includes Mail Rules, Folder Actions, Address Book Plugins, Calendar Alarms, and Message Triggers.
Apple: Javascript for Automation Release Notes

This is a dream come true for me; really heady stuff. Applescript has been foundational to my career, but I never once—not once—liked the syntax nor the environment. Giving Javascript a first-class implementation could be very beneficial, I think, as there are a hell of a lot more Javascript developers than there are Applescript developers. The problem still exists with wonky scripting support in applications (I’m looking at you, Adobe with your fancy-pants JSX). Perhaps by removing the Applescript barrier to automation will bring some new talent into this niche area that has been too specialized for its own good. Up until now, the Yosemite update was pretty “meh,” but now I’m excited.