A round-up of some of the intriguing, insightful, and/or thought-provoking things I read over the last week.
Joy Buolamwini, InCoding — In the Beginning (May 16, 2016)
Whoever codes the system, embeds her views. A call for inclusive code.
By the time we set a machine to work, we've made a great many choices about the scope of that work. What can be especially hard to perceive are the choices made that constrained or determined the range of options from which we chose. Code is a built environment, just like a street corner, a bathroom, or an airplane cockpit.
Susan Wu, Welcome to Diversity Debt: The Crisis That Could Sink Uber (March 2, 2017)
It’s easy to postpone thinking about diversity while building your company—until that company implodes.
... or by the time a company sets to work, for that matter.
Danny Sullivan, Google’s “One True Answer” problem — when featured snippets go bad (March 5, 2017)
Yes, there seems to be a theme here: what happens when choices get left unstated at the level of assumptions and then our systems work them out to their consequences.
Virginia Heffernan, Why @RoguePOTUSStaff Is The Best Thriller On The Internet (March 10, 2017)
@RoguePOTUSStaff is best understood as a work of imagination, a political thriller, akin to House of Cards, Wolf Hall, and Macbeth.
And @RoguePOTUSStaff is indeed prominently mislabeled. The writers insist they are White House staffers. But if you can put that claim in brackets, it’s clear that in every other way, what you are reading is a thriller, not a newspaper. @RoguePOTUSstaff is dense with fiction’s tells and hallmarks. It has a carefully drawn dramatis personae, stacked with meaningful plot-advancing dialogue. And then there is suspense. Hour after hour, the words and actions of the principals and the supporting cast are relayed in this present-tense narrative, along with heavy interpretation in the second-person plural that makes the action both more more chilling and more anxiously comical.
Story-telling is persuasion. Rhetoric and fiction have been swapping tropes and methods since time out of mind. As Harriet Jacobs put it in 1860, "I am aware that some of my adventures may seem incredible; but they are, nevertheless, strictly true. I have not exaggerated the wrongs inflicted by Slavery; on the contrary, my descriptions fall far short of the facts."
Conor Muirhead, How a Basecamp Feature Was Born (February 8, 2017)
The key in this story is the moment when somebody reframes the supposed issue from the user's point of view, rather than that of the people trying to make the solution:
This whole problem has nothing to do with "invites" - it has everything to do with "getting in." Give the link to everyone.
Allison Berke, How Safe Are Blockchains? It Depends (March 7, 2017)
Just as a business will decide which of its systems are better hosted on a more secure private intranet or on the internet, but will likely use both, systems requiring fast transactions, the possibility of transaction reversal, and central control over transaction verification will be better suited for private blockchains, while those that benefit from widespread participation, transparency, and third-party verification will flourish on a public blockchain.
Header image courtesy of Internet Archive Book Images