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Comment: Multiple whiteboards + Google Hangout (Score 4, Interesting) 116

by swillden (#49154779) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Whiteboard Substitutes For Distributed Teams?

Okay, so the submitter asked for "good" solutions, and this may not qualify, but it's what I do: A whiteboard at each location, with a camera pointed at it. I can't draw on your drawing, but I can see what you draw, and you can see what I draw. I've experimented with various web-based shared whiteboards, but they all require drawing on the computer. Even with a tablet (either Wacom-style attached to a laptop/PC or a mobile device) and a pen, a real whiteboard is better.

In my case, generally there are at most three locations in the meeting, and usually only two: My home office and a group of people in a conference room. Having more may make the "real whiteboards" solution less effective.

Comment: Re:And no one cares (Score 4, Funny) 146

by swillden (#49154727) Attached to: Google Taking Over New TLDs

Well, then that's their limitation, not mine. I am tired of this trend of dumbing things down to the lowest possible.

Damn straight. It's like all these stupid GUI interfaces. I mean, I can see using a graphical interface if you're editing photos or something, but for reading and writing text? It's ridiculous and just makes it so that stupid people can do it without having to understand anything.

It all started with visual text editors, you know? Line editing was good enough, heck, you could argue that it made things too easy, too. What was really good was when we used toggle switches to enter data and read the output from a sequence of lights. If you can't mentally translate binary to ASCII you don't deserve the power of computation.


Comment: Re:And no one cares (Score 2) 146

by swillden (#49154699) Attached to: Google Taking Over New TLDs

Right on. It annoys me when I see people using google search to go to a specific website, rather than use the address bar to go there directly. If you try to explain to them that the address bar will take them there without having to click the first search result, it's like they don't even want to know.

I think this is just a further extension of the location bar vs search bar change.

I remember when I first saw the Chrome omnibox. It offended me. Mildly, but still. I know the difference between a search and a URL, and I am perfectly capable of clicking into the correct bar. Then I actually used the omnibox for a while (because Chrome was so blindingly fast compared to other browsers at the time) and found that when I jumped back to Firefox I got annoyed at the mental effort required to use the split location/search fields, even though it was trivial.

The fact is that low effort is not the same as zero effort. I like the omnibox because I just click and type, no need to spend a millisecond deciding which box I should click into.

I can see what you describe as the next step, so people don't have to bother understanding, or thinking about if they do understand, the difference between "cnn" and "". Or I suppose those who type slowly may prefer to omit the last four characters purely for that reason.

Comment: Re:I wonder how much hyperloop will really cost (Score 1) 127

by swillden (#49154621) Attached to: Hyperloop Testing Starts Next Year

I hope Elon Musk isn't getting arrogant, with the push into communication satellites, and hyperloop. The size of the hyperloop vehicles, suggests that it will have a lower capacity than a high speed rail line.

But much higher velocity, which can be combined with frequent runs to create high capacity.

If a high speed rail line wanted to, it could run the long, double deck high speed trains from Japan, that can carry ~1,600 passengers, every 3 minutes. Multiple trains could be stuck end to end.

That would provide massive throughput, but higher latency.

Comment: Re: Mistake or canny PR? (Score 2) 98

by swillden (#49154075) Attached to: Google Reverses Stance, Allows Porn On Blogger After Backlash

I have a friend at Google that says the real backlash was internal, and he thinks Matt Cutts even threatened to quit over this.

(I'm a Google employee)

Internal backlash was massive, and as far as I can tell hugely stronger than the fairly mild complaints outside the company. The strength of the internal opposition took me by surprise. I understood that while Google doesn't wish to censor the web it also doesn't wish to be the entity serving up sexual content. That seems like a reasonable position to me. I thought the 30-day notice was a bit short, even though the terms of service only offer 14 days, but other than that it seemed reasonable to me, basically bringing blogger into line with the policies in place for YouTube, etc., for years.

Many of my colleagues, however, vehemently disagreed, calling it censorship, application of one region's values upon the world and generally declaiming it as the beginning of the end for Google as a force for openness and access to information. Many called the decision deeply inconsistent with Google's stated mission, "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful". The internal memegen system was awash in anti-censorship memes, and one of the memegen team went further and more or less shut the system down in protest, replacing it with a complaint about the blogger shutdown. Eng-misc, a high-volume internal mailing list for random discussions of, well, anything, was overrun with threads complaining about it. The founders got hammered with questions and complaints in the weekly company-wide TGIF meeting (which is actually held on Thursday these days, so more Googlers around the world can see it live).

It's been quite the storm.

As soon as the internal reaction started I expected the reversal, though it went further than I expected. I thought the result would just be more notice, maybe 90 days. But I suppose that's because I thought the basic decision was reasonable, and only the short notice unreasonable. Many others felt differently, obviously.

It's going to be interesting to see if this provokes re-examination of the YouTube and G+ policies. I doubt it, but I was wrong about the nature of the reversal, too.

Comment: Re:It's almost like the Concord verses the 747 aga (Score 2) 127

by swillden (#49153949) Attached to: Hyperloop Testing Starts Next Year

Actually, it's the Return on investment (ROI) that matter in business. Or in other word, how many time it'll take to make enough profit to cover the cost of the initial investment. And in this case, the US$9.95 billion California High-Speed Rail is a huge example on how much money you can make on transportation.

Using the $56 million per km quoted on California High-Speed Rail as the low estimate of how much it would cost to build a hyper loop, the minimum cost across the US would be $56 million per km * 3000 miles * 1.6 km per mile = $270 Billion dollars MINIMUM. That's going to have a hell of a long ROI, and because of that I can't see anyone in their right mind financing such a project in the near future.

Did Musk ever propose transcontinental hyperloops? I don't believe he did. As I recall this was always intended as a regional transportation technology, something for distances short enough that air travel is inconvenient because of the airport delays at both ends, but long enough that traditional train travel is too slow.

Comment: Re:Genius. (Score 4, Informative) 200

by swillden (#49150045) Attached to: Lenovo Saying Goodbye To Bloatware

Genius executive: Maybe we should promise not to do stuff like that anymore.

Super-genius executive: Maybe we should promise not to do stuff like that any more, but exempt "security software and Lenovo applications". That way we can continue getting paid by McAfee and others to continue loading their stuff, as long as they don't mind us slapping our logo on it.

Comment: Re:... Driverless cars? (Score 1) 290

So... you still have nothing to cite.

Just the fact that you're trying to pretend that this all stopped in the 1930s means I have no more patience for this tangent.

I said no such thing. You were the one who brought up the 30s, I just used your era.

And I really have no dog in this fight, and would be interested to hear about examples of the Teamsters behaving badly in recent years. So I asked if you had any evidence that they still behave this way. You apparently don't.

Comment: Re:... Driverless cars? (Score 2) 290

They are drivers not coders. We can build a metric to rank them. (Packages/hour - (SafetyWeight * accidents/year)) would work for drivers with similar routes.

At UPS they incent performance for drivers in ways that don't interfere with the seniority system.

Accident handling is pretty simple: If you have one, barring really, really clear evidence that it's not only not your fault but there is no possible way you could have avoided it, you're fired. The Teamsters lawyer will fight to get you a decent severance package, but that's it. Even with said evidence, you'd better not ever have another.

As for packages/per hour, UPS has a system that calculates the time required for a given route, including driving and deliveries. Drivers get paid max(route_time, actual_time), so if they can get the route done in less than the estimated time they get to go home early without losing pay. Experienced drivers can always beat the estimated time, usually by large margins, and even in the event of breakdowns, etc.

Further, habitually beating your route time gives you the opportunity to take on longer routes. So, many good UPS drivers habitually do 12-hour routes in 7 hours, which means they get paid for 14 hours (the last four of the 12 are time and a half) for working 7. Meanwhile, drivers who habitually take longer than their estimated times get assigned shorter and shorter routes, and, of course, there is a point at which drivers are taking so much longer than the estimate, that they can be fired for cause.

BTW, if you have the perception that UPS drivers are well-paid, you're both wrong and right. Their nominal hourly wages are decent, maxing out at around $20 per hour or a bit above, but those who work hard can easily earn lots of "fake" overtime, as in my example of 14 hours' pay for 7 hours' work. That plus massive amounts of real overtime around the holidays means that UPS drivers' incomes can approach six figures -- but only if they work hard.

Comment: Re:Why is this insightful ? (Score 2) 184

by swillden (#49146037) Attached to: Facebook Puts Users On Suicide Watch

This is utter bullshit. Most people which seek suicide do not "do it without telling it". In fact many have along phase where you can detect symptoms (unfortunately most often hindsight) and call for help.

A little more nuance:

Suicide attempts can be generally divided into sincere and insincere. Insincere attempts are those that aren't really intended to succeed, but just to call attention to the person's suffering in a way that is hard to ignore. Most attempts by people who think "This will show them all" are insincere, because the person's goal isn't really death. This doesn't mean insincere attempts aren't dangerous, they certainly are. The individual needs to get close enough to death to make it convincing, and a slight miscalculation -- by someone who isn't thinking all that clearly -- can be fatal.

Insincere attempts are basically always preceded by a long period of calls for help, of the form you mention. Sadness, thoughts of death, wishes for death, etc. Algorithms should definitely be able to detect this, and warning someone who can take action can save lives.

Sincere attempts may or may not have this call for help phase. People who are self-possessed and determined don't often commit suicide, but when they do, it's often without any warning. Most people will call for help for a while, but the biggest warning sign of a sincere attempt is that the calls for help cease. The individual suddenly cheers up, often without any apparent cause. The cause is that they have decided to end their lives, and that decision lifts a burden off of them and makes them feel much better. This cheerfulness also facilitates their planning of an effective suicide. Another key characteristic of this sudden happiness is that it rarely includes discussion of the person's future, because they've decided they don't have one.

I think very good algorithms could also detect this process of sadness with occasional thoughts of death, followed by sudden present-focused good cheer, and this is the situation in which prompt and active intervention is most crucial.

I'm an engineer, not a psychologist, but my personal life has unfortunately included a great deal of exposure to these issues.

Comment: Re:... Driverless cars? (Score 1) 290


I think you're applying their reputation from the 30s. I'm not a fan of unions in general, but I see a little of the modern Teamsters though my brother, a UPS driver. UPS is a union shop. Other than their strict enforcement of a seniority system, I frankly don't really see any problem. I think they do a lot of good for the UPS drivers, and see no evidence that they believe it's still 1930.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.