September 25, 2023

Embrace the Tarpit

Whenever a new tool in the productivity space is released - say a new To Do list or a new PK app, you’ll invariably read the following advice in every discussion around it: Beware the productivity tarpit, it’s easy to get sucked down while setting up the latest fancy app, feeling productive when all you did was moving around stuff without actually generating value.

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January 22, 2023

» After a few days of trying out microblogging here, I am now experimenting with microblogging over at Mastodon.

January 17, 2023

» Here is a mystery unsolved which was bugging me for decades - it’s about the iconic white railway clocks that used to be on all railway stations at least in Germany. The thing with these clocks is, that once every minute, the hand for the seconds stops for a period of time which is noticeable longer than one second, and I always wondered why this is the case. My most favorite explanation (they do that so that they can fake that their trains are on time) doesn’t hold after even the slightest of thinking it through.

Turns out that these hands run faster by design, they wait on the top of every minute for a sync signal that synchronizes all clocks in the railway station before starting the new minute.

Addendum: Related: A Wobbly Clock

» Nice write-up of an obscure bug which rendered Sierra games nigh-useless in 1993 and again in 2007. The fact that this bug resurfaced was due to the fact that the “fix” only moved the issue exactly 5000 days (>13 years) in the future.

» Here’s a nice write up about how the iPhone keyboard was designed. It’s hard to imagine these days, but typing on touch screens back then was simply impossible. Touch screens were essentially merely more than left-click input devices, multi touch was unsupported, and the touch screens back then were really bad at handling hit zones close to one another.

I am wondering what were the reasons to not explore T9 like input systems more. T9 was well established back then, and you could achieve insane typing speeds with it. I’d guess that this would also hold true on touch screens since the buttons can be much bigger, and there are far less rows/columns to account for than on a QWERTY keyboard.

The article mentions a similar approach and its main drawback - the fact that when you pause in the middle of a word, you have to memorize where you left off and are confronted with a word that might be very far off from what you’d intended to type. However, I have the feeling that this limitation alone could have been overcome with software alone.

January 13, 2023

» So let’s talk about Lützerath. The Wikipedia Article is a good primer as it is short and to the point. Lützerath is emotional because the Greens, long in the opposition and strongly advocating for keeping the village, is now ruling the country and has inherited the mess from their preceding government. They claim that the coal below Lützerath is needed short term (which is disputed (🇩🇪)), and they say they have saved 5 other villages in return, which, as opposed to Lützerath, are still inhabited. People dispute that these villages would have actually been in danger as well, though. (🇩🇪)

Meanwhile, offices from the Greens are being attacked by disappointed voters and activits.

The whole thing turns downright dystopian when you look at the images of the machinery and riot cops, when you learn that RWE, the company which does the mining, is happily providing vans to transport off prisoners - and bills the police for it (🇩🇪) and, of course, when you learn that the security personnel by RWE, untrained in actual policing, stands shoulder to shoulder with the police. (🇩🇪)

Meanwhile, when you hear to people responsible, you could get the impression that really no one wants Lützerath to go, yet all their hands are tied and they are bound to move on. This reminds be about the horror film Cube, where the torture machine serves no purpose at all, people have forgotten its purpose and it has only been activated to put it into use.

» Here are a couple of “extreme questions”, designed to change the way you look at your work or product and to spark new ideas. Well worth a read. Many of them are really not trivial to answer, such as: “If our biggest competitor copied every single feature we have, how would we still win?”

» ChatGPT and the like produce stuff that is plausible, but it might not be true, as illustrated in this article. I think the distinction between plausibility and truth is long overdue as this lies at the heart of fake news: Stuff that sounds plausible is taken for being true. Hopefully, AI sparks broad discussions about this topic.

» The most hearted Code-Pens of 2022 are online. Direct link to the Top 10.

While they do look nice: The most hearted pen has around 3500 hearts, and an individual can heart pens up to 3 times, so between 1200 and 3500 people have voted for it. That’s not much.

» Interesting Twitter thread around the Stockholm Syndrome. In summary, the thread claims that the incident that coined the name Stockholm Syndrome was mostly a situation where incompetent people used this made-up condition to put blame for their incompetence on the victims. It’s worth a read, though it skips over the claim Wikipedia makes that the term was coined after victims refused to testify against their captors in court and started raising money for their defense. And while we’re at it, the “Criticism” section of the same article is also well-worth a read.