CodeMash 2.0.1.1 Wrap-Up

I just got back yesterday from CodeMash 2.0.1.1, held annually each January in Sandusky, Ohio at the Kalahari Water Park Resort.

I saw a lot of great sessions, but I focused mostly on a couple of topics. I really enjoyed the sessions on algorithms, parallel programming, and Netflix’s use of AWS. I attended an evangelical (in a good way) session by @jonkruger on Ruby on Rails from a .NET developer’s perspective. I also worked through a bunch of Ruby Koans during the PreCompiler. This is the year I’m going to build some Ruby on Rails projects.

Another favorite session was Functional Programming for Everyday .NET Development by @jeremydmiller. I met him the previous CodeMash in an Open Spaces session on FubuMVC. This year, his presentation on applying functional programming techniques to everyday C# programming was among the most informative and useful for my day job.

An early session on the first day, Asymptotics and Algorithms, by @garyshort was a lot of fun. I dredged up old CS undergrad knowledge as he walked through Big-O notation and measuring some sort algorithms. In fact, his presentation was better than the one I remember receiving in school.

Of course, the @chadfowler keynote was interesting. I never thought a talk that uses examples from Six Sigma management strategy for 1/3 of the material would be so entertaining.

The other keynote I loved was by Scott Chacon (@chacon) of GitHub on what he called the “Developer Driven Development” philosophy of GitHub and why it works. It was an inspiring talk with the core being that the three things that motivate creative work are autonomy, mastery, and purpose and the Open Source way of doing development with decentralized, autonomous developers who can choose when, where, and what to work on is a great model for emphasizing those motivators. It works for GitHub and it an work for you.

I may have more detailed write-ups later, but I wanted to get some initial wrap-up thoughts down while they were still fresh in my mind. I highly recommend this conference. This was my fifth year attending and next year will hopefully be my sixth.

UPS Residential Delivery Sucks

I ordered a package overnight from Amazon.com and UPS wouldn’t deliver it yesterday because I was not home to sign for it.  So, I signed the back of the slip to give them permission to leave it, attached it to my door, and went to work this morning.  Did they leave it today?  No.  Apparently, that area is only if the driver needs a signature, but not if the shipper needs a signature.  In the later case, if no one can sign for it, it doesn’t get delivered.  This is the second day that my overnight package has not been delivered.

UPS is worse than the cable company.  Their “delivery window” is 9AM – 7PM.  So, I guess if I want anything delivered to my house in the future, I’ll just have to take off.  For this package, I re-routed it to my work.

But, I have some heavy stuff coming via UPS and FedEx (~50 lbs) and large, that I can’t possibly receive at work.  So, they better not pull this crap with that stuff. 

Obama Wins!

According to CNN, Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States.  My faith in the American people to do the right thing is partially restored.  We still have a lot to do over these next four to eight years, from dealing with the financial mess, to the energy crunch, to global climate change.  But, at least now, we’ll have a competent, intelligent leader in office to guide the way.

More tomorrow.  Time for bed.

The End of the Internet is Here

The end of the Internet as we know it has arrived. Comcast has confirmed the long-standing rumor that they would implement a 250GB monthly bandwidth cap.

This may be a “generous” cap, depending on how you look at it, but if duplicated by the other broadband ISPs, it spells the end of high bandwidth video sites, backup services, teleconferencing, and anything else that uses significant bandwidth, which is everything nowadays.
Continue reading

Silverlight > Cable

I was watching the Democractic National Convention speeches on their website and I realized that the quality of the Silverlight video was much better than the blurry, low resolution, basic cable signal I get on my TV. I’ve thought in the past that a time would come where I could simply get rid of cable service all together and rely on my broadband Internet connection for all my video needs. It seems like that time may be now. The quality of online video has come a long, long way since I encountered my first Real video broadcasts in high school.

Unfortunately, if the big ISPs have their way and succeed in implementing bandwidth caps, they will kill online video. But, that’s the point.

I’ve witnessed the evolution of the ISP market since the late 90s. Back then, there were many dial-up ISPs all competing with each other. It got so bad that we even had at least one free service. But, as broadband penetration increased, the dial-up ISPs were crowded out.

Now, we have an effective duopoly in most markets, with one cable and one phone company. They both now offer video and VOIP service in addition to broadband Internet access. So, they have every incentive to do whatever they can to avoid letting their Internet division canabalize their TV and phone divisions. One way to do that is to limit bandwidth to the point where their separate TV and VOIP services seem like a deal compared to the overage charges incurred in going beyond the meager proposed caps.

The upshot of this change is that broadband in the U.S. is slow and expensive compared to other OECD countries. Capitalism at work.

Opinions

Everyone has opinions, but not everyone thinks very deeply about what kinds of opinions they hold. I strive to uphold the principle of [strong opinions, weakly held][sutton] while it sometimes seems that most of the rest of the population believes in *strong opinions, strongly held* or conversely, *weak opinions, weakly held*.

[sutton]: http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/07/strong_opinions.html

Weak opinions lead nowhere. The holder is unmotivated to develop strong supporting arguments and therefore the soundness of such opinions are suspect. You can’t learn much from someone with such opinions. I find people who hold very many weak opinions to be rather apathetic and irritating. I actually don’t encounter too many of these types of people. Maybe I am just lucky?

However, strong opinions that are held dogmatically are just about as useless as weak opinions. Such opinions have ossified and are immune to reason or counter-evidence. People holding very many such opinions can be merely annoying or occasionally very destructive if they have power to implement their views and their views turn out to be wrong. I regularly encounter people holding such opinions. These types of people are epitomized by the guests and hosts of the Sunday morning talk shows.

Strong opinions that are weakly held are what should be sought. They inspire one to develop strong arguments that are open to modification or even falsification as new evidence dictates. In order to develop and continusouly test such opinions, one needs to be well informed about the subject matter, as well as know how to properly interpret and reason about relevant data.

**Continuously testing your opinions is hard work and it must be done with discipline, everyday, if one is to avoid slipping into dogmatism.** Unfortunately, I don’t think our educational system does a good job of teaching people how to do this or how to even recognize the difference between a well supported opinion and a superficial one. That’s why, to this day, I consider Pete Amato’s [Critical Reasoning][phil105] course to be the most important course of my undergraduate college career and one that I always implore new students to take seriously.

[phil105]: http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~pa34/#Philosophy_105_Critical_Reasoning

**Striving for strong opinions, weakly held will make you a better thinker**. Question everything, seek empirical evidence to resolve disputes, and be your own harshest critic. Once the principle is internalized, you begin to see the world differently and it can be a revelatory experience. Of course, that’s just my opinion.