The Best of 2017
A yearly review of the best things that I did, read, or discovered in 2017. You might also find the posts from 2016, 2015, and 2014 to be interesting.
Great blog posts
How I Got My Attention Back
- I continue to believe that the way people's attention is being stolen by apps and games tuned to extract ad revenue is one of the greatest problems of this decade. This post discusses one person's attempt to break out of that trap - if only for a month.
- Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I originally read this a few years ago, but 2017 saw me re-reading it and enjoying it again. This advice about how to create meals continues to be relevant after 11 years as fad diets come and go.
The Data that Turned the World Upside Down
- To me, one of the most interesting pieces of news that came out of the American election last year was the report that a little-known data mining firm, Cambridge Analytica, may have been using Facebook data to develop highly specific targeted advertisements to influence the results of the election.
Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?
- If Cambridge Analytica could mobilize Facebook data to influence the results of an election, what happens when governments start using this data to influence the behaviours of its citizens?
Zebras Hate You For No Reason: Why Amdahl's Law is Misleading in a World of Cats (And Maybe in Ours Too)
- The obtuse title from a blog about writing code for embedded devices hides a lengthy, comprehensive, and pragmatic bit of writing about the trade-offs of making performance optimizations in code and their impact on software, businesses, and the world.
Luddites have been getting a bad rap for 200 years. But, turns out, they were right
- The word "Luddite" is synonymous with a person who is afraid of technology. But what's been lost over time is that they were fighting for workers rights in an age of increased automation at the start of the 19th century. It's a message we should re-examine as AI threatens to automate jobs away from millions.
How I got to 200 productive hours a month
- I'm not sure how I feel about all the recommendations in this post, but it's interesting to read about what approaches other people are using to deal with attention bankruptcy, and acts as a good resource for things I can try.
'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia
- I suppose I had a bit of a theme this year with my favourites. This one is an interview in The Guardian with a number of designers and developers from the valley discussing their views on the addictive feedback loops that permeate apps and games in 2017.
Choose The Right Language To Save The Planet
- Short and sweet. How much carbon dioxide is your computer program responsible for producing? I haven't verified the math, but I think the idea is important for the future of the industry.
Something is wrong on the internet
- As 2017 drew to a close, this post combined several of my 2017 concerns to paint a dismal picture of the future. AI-assisted content generation, designed to be addictive to generate ad revenue, targeted at children. This post was alarming enough to make Google take notice and change some of their policies towards uploaded content on YouTube.
Introduction to Contract Programming
- Contracts in programs are a powerful idea. I've been writing code with this idea for a while but never really had the correct terminology to describe or think about the idea before.
- One of the smartest minds in the valley has this to say about the future of AI and humanity: "We will be the first species ever to design our own descendants. My guess is that we can either be the biological bootloader for digital intelligence and then fade into an evolutionary tree branch, or we can figure out what a successful merge looks like."
Make Stronger Offers to Engineering Candidates and Boost Your Closes
- It's getting harder to hire candidates for software engineering positions. This article summarizes a number of strategies for making sure you understand a candidates motivations, and creating a job offer that speaks to them.
Favourite books read
Earth in Human Hands
- Whether we realize it or not, and whether we want it or not, humans are now sitting in the driver's seat when it comes to the future of the planet and life on it. This book starts at the very beginning with an overview of how life has affected the planet in dramatic ways over millions of years, then looks to the future with what this means to our own future, and even the threats and potential in the search for extra-terrestrial life.
What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming
- One of the greatest barriers to action in stabilizing global climate isn't the technology, or even economics - it's psychology. This book is important for people who want to see action on global climate because it has a wealth of ideas about what individuals can do, and what they should not do, to inspire others to action.
Favourite musicians discovered
- Her style is difficult to pin down. It's like alternative rock, but simple, unrefined, and at times bitterly funny.
John Butler Trio
- I've heard music from the John Butler Trio off and on - most likely via the now silenced "The Signal" program on CBC Radio 2 - but this year was the first time I spent some time really listening to this folk/blues/roots group.
- You won't find a CD under his name, but you've almost certainly heard his playing on Michael Jackson's Black or White, The Goo Goo Dolls' Iris, or anything by Rick Springfield. I love the instructional videos he's been putting up on his YouTube channel to help out guitar players.
Favourite games played
- Originally released in 2013, I finally took the time to play through it this year. I loved the story and gameplay, and it's great to see Laura Croft reborn as a strong female lead character.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst
- Another reboot with another strong female lead. It features a compelling story, refined art style, and smooth free-running gameplay.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- At times quite frustrating with some instant "you lose" situations, Breath of the Wild successfully throws out some established conventions from classic Zelda games and introduces a truly open, living world with lots of secrets to find and places to explore.
Online courses completed
None again this year
Favourite papers read
No favourites this year. I did read a number of papers on optimization of SAT solvers but nothing worth sharing here.
Open-source projects I contributed to
- a Chrome browser extension that removes the "Hot Network Questions" from StackOverflow to prevent some potential for distraction while coding.
Programming languages I'd still like to try next year
State of plans from 2017
Write 3 blog posts about climate change and technology
- Ha. Nope.
Read 20 books
- Books read: 5. I'll chalk part of that up to returning to school over the summer.
Write and record an original piece of music
- I didn't do this either.
Plans for 2018
- Write 3 blog posts about climate change and technology. Let's try this again!
- Read 5000 pages. Measuring books read has been motivating me to avoid large books like Godel, Escher, Bach, so this year I'll try measuring the number of pages read instead
- Write and record two original pieces of music. One to make up for 2017 and a new one for 2018.