navi
An interactive cheatsheet tool for the command-line. Displays useful help info, argument suggestions, etc. Pretty cool.

Amazon Twitter Snark

Amazon Twitter Army Handpicked for “Sense of Humor”
The Intercept described an Amazon internal program to have employees defend Amazon on social media. Maybe it’s just me, but if you’re paying your employees to try to convince outsiders that they’re not in an abusive work environment, maybe errr that’s not a good sign? Has anyone ever said, “Being an {anything} is dignifying for me” and meant it?

Amazon worker: extra 10min break

Some Amazon employees thought an official account had been compromised when it was sending snappy comebacks to members of Congress.

Amazon: We didn't make the laws

To be fair, this is a good point: if the tax code allows massive corporations to minimize their taxes, of course they will, it would be dumb of them not to.

Yuval Noah Harari: Lessons from a year of Covid | Free to read | Financial Times

2020 has shown that humanity is far from helpless. Epidemics are no longer uncontrollable forces of nature. Science has turned them into a manageable challenge.

Why, then, has there been so much death and suffering? Because of bad political decisions.

In the war between humans and pathogens, never have humans been so powerful.

Moving life online

Alongside the unprecedented achievements of biotechnology, the Covid year has also underlined the power of information technology. In previous eras humanity could seldom stop epidemics because humans couldn’t monitor the chains of infection in real time, and because the economic cost of extended lockdowns was prohibitive.

In contrast, in 2020 digital surveillance made it far easier to monitor and pinpoint the disease vectors, meaning that quarantine could be both more selective and more effective. Even more importantly, automation and the internet made extended lockdowns viable, at least in developed countries. While in some parts of the developing world the human experience was still reminiscent of past plagues, in much of the developed world the digital revolution changed everything.

In the US, only about 1.5 per cent of people work on farms, but that’s enough not just to feed everyone at home but also to make the US a leading food exporter. Almost all the farm work is done by machines, which are immune to disease. Lockdowns therefore have only a small impact on farming.

Imagine a wheat field at the height of the Black Death. If you tell the farmhands to stay home at harvest time, you get starvation. If you tell the farmhands to come and harvest, they might infect one another. What to do?

In 2020, global trade could go on functioning more or less smoothly because it involved very few humans. A largely automated present-day container ship can carry more tons than the merchant fleet of an entire early modern kingdom.

True, cruise ships with hundreds of tourists and aeroplanes full of passengers played a major role in the spread of Covid-19. But tourism and travel are not essential for trade. The tourists can stay at home and the business people can Zoom, while automated ghost ships and almost human-less trains keep the global economy moving. Whereas international tourism plummeted in 2020, the volume of global maritime trade declined by only 4 per cent.

It is often said that every civilisation is just three meals away from barbarism. In 2020, the delivery people were the thin red line holding civilisation together. They became our all-important lifelines to the physical world.

The internet holds on

As humanity automates, digitalises and shifts activities online, it exposes us to new dangers. One of the most remarkable things about the Covid year is that the internet didn’t break. If we suddenly increase the amount of traffic passing on a physical bridge, we can expect traffic jams, and perhaps even the collapse of the bridge. In 2020, schools, offices and churches shifted online almost overnight, but the internet held up.

After 2020 we know that life can go on even when an entire country is in physical lockdown. Now try to imagine what happens if our digital infrastructure crashes.

It took several months for coronavirus to spread through the world and infect millions of people. Our digital infrastructure might collapse in a single day. And whereas schools and offices could speedily shift online, how much time do you think it will take you to shift back from email to snail-mail?

What counts?

The Covid year has exposed an even more important limitation of our scientific and technological power. Science cannot replace politics. When we come to decide on policy, we have to take into account many interests and values, and since there is no scientific way to determine which interests and values are more important, there is no scientific way to decide what we should do.

For example, when deciding whether to impose a lockdown, it is not sufficient to ask: “How many people will fall sick with Covid-19 if we don’t impose the lockdown?”. We should also ask: “How many people will experience depression if we do impose a lockdown? How many people will suffer from bad nutrition? How many will miss school or lose their job? How many will be battered or murdered by their spouses?”

Even if all our data is accurate and reliable, we should always ask: “What do we count? Who decides what to count? How do we evaluate the numbers against each other?” This is a political rather than scientific task. It is politicians who should balance the medical, economic and social considerations and come up with a comprehensive policy.

Fighting the epidemic is important, but is it worth destroying our freedom in the process? It is the job of politicians rather than engineers to find the right balance between useful surveillance and dystopian nightmares.

Second, surveillance must always go both ways. If surveillance goes only from top to bottom, this is the high road to dictatorship. So whenever you increase surveillance of individuals, you should simultaneously increase surveillance of the government and big corporations too. For example, in the present crisis governments are distributing enormous amounts of money. The process of allocating funds should be made more transparent. As a citizen, I want to easily see who gets what, and who decided where the money goes. I want to make sure that the money goes to businesses that really need it rather than to a big corporation whose owners are friends with a minister. If the government says it is too complicated to establish such a monitoring system in the midst of a pandemic, don’t believe it. If it is not too complicated to start monitoring what you do — it is not too complicated to start monitoring what the government does.

Third, never allow too much data to be concentrated in any one place. Not during the epidemic, and not when it is over. A data monopoly is a recipe for dictatorship. So if we collect biometric data on people to stop the pandemic, this should be done by an independent health authority rather than by the police. And the resulting data should be kept separate from other data silos of government ministries and big corporations. Sure, it will create redundancies and inefficiencies. But inefficiency is a feature, not a bug. You want to prevent the rise of digital dictatorship? Keep things at least a bit inefficient.

Over to the politicians

But today humankind has the scientific tools to stop Covid-19. Several countries, from Vietnam to Australia, proved that even without a vaccine, the available tools can halt the epidemic. These tools, however, have a high economic and social price. We can beat the virus — but we aren’t sure we are willing to pay the cost of victory. That’s why the scientific achievements have placed an enormous responsibility on the shoulders of politicians.

It is the job of politicians rather than engineers to find the right balance between useful surveillance and dystopian nightmares

Unfortunately, too many politicians have failed to live up to this responsibility. For example, the populist presidents of the US and Brazil played down the danger, refused to heed experts and peddled conspiracy theories instead. They didn’t come up with a sound federal plan of action and sabotaged attempts by state and municipal authorities to halt the epidemic. The negligence and irresponsibility of the Trump and Bolsonaro administrations have resulted in hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths.

The early months of 2020 were like watching an accident in slow motion. Modern communication made it possible for people all over the world to see in real time the images first from Wuhan, then from Italy, then from more and more countries — but no global leadership emerged to stop the catastrophe from engulfing the world. The tools have been there, but all too often the political wisdom has been missing.

Foreigners to the rescue

One reason for the gap between scientific success and political failure is that scientists co-operated globally, whereas politicians tended to feud. Working under much stress and uncertainty, scientists throughout the world freely shared information and relied on the findings and insights of one another. Many important research projects were conducted by international teams. For example, one key study that demonstrated the efficacy of lockdown measures was conducted jointly by researchers from nine institutions — one in the UK, three in China, and five in the US.

In contrast, politicians have failed to form an international alliance against the virus and to agree on a global plan. The world’s two leading superpowers, the US and China, have accused each other of withholding vital information, of disseminating disinformation and conspiracy theories, and even of deliberately spreading the virus. Numerous other countries have apparently falsified or withheld data about the progress of the pandemic.

The lack of global co-operation manifests itself not just in these information wars, but even more so in conflicts over scarce medical equipment. While there have been many instances of collaboration and generosity, no serious attempt was made to pool all the available resources, streamline global production and ensure equitable distribution of supplies. In particular, “vaccine nationalism” creates a new kind of global inequality between countries that are able to vaccinate their population and countries that aren’t.

It is sad to see that many fail to understand a simple fact about this pandemic: as long as the virus continues to spread anywhere, no country can feel truly safe. Suppose Israel or the UK succeeds in eradicating the virus within its own borders, but the virus continues to spread among hundreds of millions of people in India, Brazil or South Africa. A new mutation in some remote Brazilian town might make the vaccine ineffective, and result in a new wave of infection.

in the present emergency, global co-operation isn’t altruism. It is essential for ensuring the national interest.

In the age-old war between humans and pathogens, the frontline passes through the body of each and every human being. If this line is breached anywhere on the planet, it puts all of us in danger. Even the richest people in the most developed countries have a personal interest to protect the poorest people in the least developed countries. If a new virus jumps from a bat to a human in a poor village in some remote jungle, within a few days that virus can take a walk down Wall Street.

If Covid-19 nevertheless continues to spread in 2021 and kill millions, or if an even more deadly pandemic hits humankind in 2030, this will be neither an uncontrollable natural calamity nor a punishment from God. It will be a human failure and — more precisely — a political failure.

Chaos Engineering

DevSecOps and Security Chaos Engineering - Aaron Rinehart

Culture

https://p16.praetorian.com/team-survival-guide/2017/index.html#page/1

TODO netflix guide + book

The Transcending Nature of a strong Company Culture

No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer.

GitLab Team Handbook
Massive public handbook from GitLab (over 3,000 pages of text when printed) on everything from their values and culture, to hiring, engineering, marketing, sales, finance, product strategy, and more.

Life at 32F: Why Structure Eats Culture for Lunch

https://about.sourcegraph.com/handbook

https://apenwarr.ca/log/?m=201909

https://medium.com/@bchesky/dont-fuck-up-the-culture-597cde9ee9d4

https://scottberkun.com/2014/critique-dont-fuck-up-culture/

Hire people who give a shit. - Rational in the Fullness of Time

Creating Interactive Fiction Games

Twine: an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.

  • You don’t need to write any code to create a simple story with Twine, but you can extend your stories with variables, conditional logic, images, CSS, and JavaScript when you’re ready.
  • Twine publishes directly to HTML, so you can post your work nearly anywhere. Anything you create with it is completely free to use any way you like, including for commercial purposes.

Writing web-based interactive fiction with Ink
Ink was designed as a pluggable component that integrates into a traditional game engine. Has been used by a number of respected indie games, including two that were nominated for IGFs in 2018.

Writing

rubymorillo/pocket-tech-writing-list: A small but formidable list of technical writing resources for developers

See also “on writing more” from braindex

notes-on-writing/notes_on_writing.md at master · mnielsen/notes-on-writing

How to write in plain English

[A Founder’s Guide to Writing Well — 8 Writing Tips First Round Review](https://firstround.com/review/a-founders-guide-to-writing-well/)

Technical Writing Courses
“This collection of courses and learning resources aims to improve your technical documentation. Learn how to plan and author technical documents. You can also learn about the role of technical writers at Google.”

SEC402: Cybersecurity Writing: Hack the Reader
Free course by SANS covering topics including the five “golden elements” of effective reports, briefings, emails, and other cybersecurity writing, hands-on exercises from common security scenarios, the key topics that are important to address in security reports and other written communications, practical checklists for writing clearly and effectively, and more.

How (some) good corporate engineering blogs are written

Interesting example of using a metaphor / personal story to make a blog point 8 Disney’s Carousel of Progress & Facebook see prof-galloway.md

https://boz.com/articles/communication-is-the-job https://boz.com/articles/eli5 Thx Colin Greene @libber

A Few 80/20 Tips for Writing

(183) LEADERSHIP LAB: The Craft of Writing Effectively - YouTube

https://adaged.blogspot.com/2020/04/good-writing-is-business-advantage.html

https://www.mcls.io/blog/encouraging-a-culture-of-written-communication

You Might as Well Be a Great Copy Editor