Tweaking Tweets

Twitter has added a useful new capability: you can now embed a tweet in your tweet without having to delete characters to allow for it.

That’s it. One retweet with your comment. It’s a welcome change and solves a problem, but it’s worth pointing out that it’s a problem that Twitter created.

In a rational universe we’d have implemented links differently, as Ted Nelson wanted, and we wouldn’t be celebrating the chipping of tiny windows in walled gardens.

New from the Pragmatic Bookshelf

Here’s the latest news from the Pragmatic Bookshelf.

The very engaging and useful Your Code as a Crime Scene: Use Forensic Techniques to Arrest Defects, Bottlenecks, and Bad Design in Your Programs is now in print and shipping. We have an article by its author, Adam Tornhill, in the upcoming April issue of PragPub.

And Ruby Performance Optimization: Why Ruby Is Slow, and How to Fix It is now out in beta. It’s by Alexander Dymo, it’s edited by, uh, me, and it’s great!

It’s an API World

Seems to me that one big problem with the “create the social media platform, grow it, and figure out how to monetize it later” model is that you create existential uncertainty for anyone who might try to extend your service. You should want other developers to enrich your users’ experience, but if they don’t know what part of the ecosystem you’re someday going to wall off as your own and what parts you’ll open up for them, they attempt to extend your ecosystem at their peril.

A Piece of Pi

3.14159 26535 8979 323
846-264 3383
27950 2884
1971 (693-993)
7510 5820 (974-944) 59230
78164 0628 6208 (998) 6280
34-825-34 211 70679
8214 8086 51
0664 (70938) 4460
… that’s all I’ve got.

Delivery Truck / 3D Printer Mashup

This looks like a brilliant refactoring of industry, combining production and delivery, taking just-in-time to a new level, and eliminating unnecessary steps. As 3D printing gets more and more advanced, the kinds of products that could be produced this way would expand.

The plan suggests two other business models:

What happens if the trucks run out of raw material to feed to the 3D printer? Doesn’t this ultimately call for convenient filling stations for the truck/factories so they can top up as needed?

And then there’s the flip side of 3D printing: 3D scanners. You drop in an object and they output the code to reproduce it. We’ll need one in every home so you can say, “Hey, this whatzis broke, make me a new whatzis.”

Snow Day

I was probably twenty-one. I woke up, along with the rest of Elkhart, Indiana and environs, to stillness.
A massive lake effect snowstorm had blanketed the area overnight, and the radio report that morning was a litany of closings. All the schools, pretty much all non-essential businesses. Snowplows were on the job but wouldn’t get to secondary roads any time soon.
I was going stir-crazy by noon, so I packed a snack, bundled up, and headed out into the drifts. I was five miles out of town and I walked in the center of the cleared lane of the State highway all the way in. I had the road to myself.
In a residential neighborhood on the southwest side, I saw a girl in a parka pulling a heavily-laden sled. Something about her caught my eye and I went over to say hi. We were the only people on the street. It turned out that I knew her. She’d skated with my friend Ace that summer at the roller rink and we’d all talked over cokes between songs.
She explained that she was delivering her little brother’s newspapers for him. I’d had a paper route, probably at her brother’s age, and I knew the fierce commitment to get those papers delivered no matter what. I took the rope and for the next two hours pulled the sled while she worked on her throwing arm trying to hit porches from the street. She was pretty good.
By evening most of the roads were cleared and I had dinner in town with a friend — I’m pretty sure there was wine — and caught a ride home.
I realize that people in the Midwest and Northeast may think nostalgia for snowstorms is ridiculous, but I’ve kept that memory all these years as a model of one kind of perfect day.

What “Is” Is

Sometimes it really does depend on what the definition of “is” is.

“Is” can indicate class inclusion, or the attribution of a quality to a thing, or two different things of the same classification, or two names for the same thing.

“Is” can be precise or approximate. Sometimes something “is” what it is to some specified degree of precision.

“Is” can be temporally constrained, or not. Spanish distinguishes between these ises with “ser” and “estar.” “Estoy infermo” means “I’m sick.” “Soy infermo” means “I’m sickly.” It’s a statement about my essence rather than my present state.

We need that distinction in English. Take the sentence, “He can be charming when he wants to be.” If we were forced to decide whether his charm was an essential trait or a transient state, it would affect how we feel about this slippery fellow.