Source: How to Build Good Software | Civil Service College Singapore, by Li Hongyi
How useful a piece of software can be is usually limited by its complexity rather than the amount of resources invested in building it. … Building good software involves alternating cycles of expanding and reducing complexity.
There is no such thing as platonically good engineering: it depends on your needs and the practical problems you encounter.
Software projects rarely fail because they are too small; they fail because they get too big.
A good engineer has a better grasp of existing software they can reuse, thus minimising the parts of the system they have to build from scratch. They have a better grasp of engineering tools, automating away most of the routine aspects of their own job. Automation also means freeing up humans to work on solving unexpected errors, which the best engineers are disproportionately better at. Good engineers themselves design systems that are more robust and easier to understand by others. This has a multiplier effect, letting their colleagues build upon their work much more quickly and reliably. Overall, good engineers are so much more effective not because they produce a lot more code, but because the decisions they make save you from work you did not know could be avoided.
Source: The Real Problem At Yale Is Not Free Speech | Palladium, by Natalia Dashan
This is a story about an institution and an elite that have lost themselves.
Pretending to be poor is a lot easier than pretending to be rich—just because there are so many different ways to be poor. … But lying about anything is tricky—you risk being found out—so what were these people trying to accomplish by acting broke? And this raises the broader question: why pretend to be of a social class you are not?
Poor people pretend to be rich to look cool. … Rich people pretend to be poor to fit in.
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with haphazard and sometimes warped class signaling. But if you put on a façade for long enough, you end up forgetting that it is a façade. The rich and powerful actually start believing that they are neither of those things. … They forget that they have certain privileges and duties that others do not.
conferences where everybody lifts their champagne glasses to speeches about how we all need to “tear down the Man!” How we need to usurp conventional power structures. … But when you look around at the men and women in their suits and dresses, … you notice that these are the exact same people with the power—they are the Man supposedly causing all those problems that they are giving feel-good speeches about. … They are the people with power who fail to comprehend the meaning of that power. They are abdicating responsibility, and they don’t even know it.
The elite are expected—by everyone else, and by each other—to use their power to make sure society works properly. That is, they are expected to rule benevolently. The reason they are expected to do this is that if they don’t, nobody else can or will. The middle class and the poor do not have the powers and privileges that the rich and elite do, and cannot afford the necessary personal risks. But without active correction towards health and order, society fails. … When they misunderstand both the nature of power and their own power, how can they be expected to coordinate to use that power to rule well? How can they be expected not to abuse it?
Yale students, if they weren’t powerful when they came in (and most of them were), they gain power by being bestowed a Yale degree. What would you do with this power? You don’t want to abuse it; you’re not outright evil. No, you want something different. You want to be absolved of your power. You are ashamed of your power. Why should you have it, and not somebody else—maybe somebody more deserving? You never really signed up for this. You would rather be somebody normal. But not, “normal,” normal. More like normal with options and vacations and money “normal.” Normal but still powerful.
Source: The Costs of Reliability | LessWrong 2.0, by sarahconstantin
“Why can people be so much better at doing a thing for fun, or to help their friends and family, than they are at doing the exact same thing as a job?” … I think it has a very mundane explanation; it’s always more expensive to have to meet a specific commitment than merely to do something valuable.
The costs of reliability are often invisible, but they can be very important. The cost (in time and in office supplies and software tools) of tracking and documenting your work so that you can deliver it on time. The cost (in labor and equipment) of quality assurance testing. The opportunity cost of creating simpler and less ambitious things so that you can deliver them on time and free of defects.
Source: Speed matters: Why working quickly is more important than it seems, by James Somers
The obvious benefit to working quickly is that you’ll finish more stuff per unit time. But there’s more to it than that. If you work quickly, the cost of doing something new will seem lower in your mind. So you’ll be inclined to do more.
The general rule seems to be: systems which eat items quickly are fed more items. Slow systems starve.
Source: Don’t Give White Nationalists the Post-9/11 Treatment | The Atlantic, by Max Abrahms
What is the optimal response to terrorism? Regardless of the type of terrorist threat, domestic or international, counterterrorism must always strive to achieve two crosscutting goals. The first is to neutralize existing terrorists. And the second is to do it in way that doesn’t generate new ones in the process. Whereas underreaction fails at the former, overreaction tends to fail at the latter. The key to achieving this tricky balance is to aggressively go after only legitimate terrorists, lest we inadvertently spawn future ones.
To this end, law enforcement must develop a subtle understanding of what constitutes extremism, and a thick skin. As a term, extremism is used sloppily to denote both a person’s political goals and the methods used to achieve them. There’s an important difference, though, between rooting for extreme ends and using extreme means to realize them. Chat rooms are full of people expressing sundry offensive—even reprehensible—political visions. The smart counterterrorist swallows hard and leaves them alone. But it’s interdiction time the moment the prospect of violence is even mentioned as a way forward.