Tableau slices and dices data

November 30, 2008

When did software get so powerful? I suppose it is “just” the combination of several HCI advances. The drag and drop, the live updating, the ability to select and filter. Still, I find the demo of Tableau Software impressive.

In the beginning, people programmed their hobby computers using toggle switches. The answer to HCI was “what user?” Then there was text, and written commands. Then there was the mouse and graphics. But what amazes me is the level of complexity the Tableau software seems to capture. It reminds me of this excellent Ted presentation by Hans Rosling about the power of data.

The best holiday of them all

November 30, 2008

I agree with Alex Massie. Thanksgiving really is the best holiday. Not cherishing consumerism, nor created to sell cards, it celebrates family and giving thanks for what we’ve got. See the Kurt Vonnegut poem at the bottom. I hope to see the rest of my family soon. I hope you had a good thanksgiving as well.

Ebert, film critics, and canaries

November 29, 2008

Roger Ebert sees a trend away from intelligent news to infantile news. The canary in the mine is the thoughtful film critic.

Concerning most social trends, I generally think they aren’t better or worse, just different. I get superb economic coverage from McArdle, EconLog, and Marginal Revolution. I have trouble believing it would have been better back in the day reading my daily paper.

I wonder what Andrew thinks. He follows the MSM more than most people I know. I don’t rely on the paper for authority. I tailor my news based on the personalities that I grow to trust. Perhaps the papers are striving for survival incorrectly, by moving away from intelligent commentary, instead of toward it. But also the people who want to follow the mundane were probably underserved in the previous market.

Exploding Offers

November 29, 2008

Joel on Software give advice on Exploding Offers. Luckily I didn’t have to deal with this, because the two interviews were close enough together. However one piece of advice that I would add. Given the choice, put the smaller company second, since smaller companies tend to turn around with offers faster than bigger ones.

From Email = Efail to Portrait of a N00b

November 29, 2008

I started several hours ago by reading Email = Efail at CodingHorror. The point of the article, and the ones to which it links is that email doesn’t scale. One email is trivial to deal with, like a pebble. 1000 emails in a day later, the pebbles have turned into an avalanche. Also, emails are one to one, no one else benefits from the work put into them. Thus it is better to have the conversation in a public place, where others can benefit. Examples of better media are: blogs, twitter, and wikis.

As I was reading the first post, I started ctrl-clicking every link that seemed interesting. It took quite a while for me to explore the tree. Effectively I was doing a breadth-first search. I was being exposed to a lot of thoughts I hadn’t seen before. Toward the end I came across Portrait of a N00b by Steve Yegge. He explains that immature programmers frequently feel the need to explain every state of the program with comments. As they mature, they are able to keep track of more details and let the code speak for itself. I don’t know where I am in the process, but I definitely appreciate clear code over verbose comments.

Update: Note to self, never make a blog post before finishing the referenced article. I guess I have to reserve judgment on Steve’s comments about Java. I’ll be working with more dynamic languages once I start at Facebook. The first code I worked with at my last job was C++ and didn’t have comments. However, it wasn’t well engineered. There was copious repetition of code, and refactoring was a dirty word. The Unit tests that Steve maligns would have made it much easier to modify behavior. The second code base I worked on was Java and quite legacy. It had more comments, but again refactoring was rare. I think its biggest problem was feature bloat, without worrying about the best architecture to handle all the features. I hope to do some side projects soon with django wh ich is based on Python, so maybe I’ll have more to report.

Initial thoughts on Twitter

November 28, 2008

I Want Sandy is going away. It was a great service where you can send a brief email saying something like, “remind me to call my sister on 11/19 @sms” and it would send you an email and text reminder on the instructed day. It was exactly what I needed. The company has been purchased by Twitter, but the service will be discontinued.

That was the impetus for me to sign up for Twitter. I have some friends who have been using it and swear by it. So I took the plunge. The first choice was what name to use. Over the years, I’ve grown attached to the handle trikyguy, but I decided to be out there and use fratrik. On a side note, when I started this blog, I thought I was being anonymous. The email on the About page doesn’t include my name and the url doesn’t include my name. Several months later, I realized each post was getting tagged with Craig Fratrik. So much for anonymity.

Concerning Twitter, so far I’ve used it to share a couple interesting posts as I read them. I’m not integrated in the community sufficiently to actually have a conversation yet, but that’s what a lot of people swear by. It seems to me like light-weight blogging. (Obviously I’m not the first person to have said something like this about Twitter.) I wish it helped me find links after the fact. If I post something here, even if it’s just a link, it’s a lot easier to find after the fact. I’ll let you guys know how it goes.

Clive Crook advises Republicans

November 25, 2008

Here’s the link.

In my view, the challenge for the party is not, as many argue, to decide whether it is a movement of social conservatives, of fiscal conservatives, or of soft libertarians. To win elections, the Republican party has to gather support from all of those groups. If any one faction comes to dominate the party – as social conservatives have lately threatened to – its prospects are diminished. To get along with each other, nevermind with the independents and uncommitted liberals whose votes the party needs, Republicans first need to develop their capacity for tolerance.

Read the whole thing. It’s pretty solid and reasonable.