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Comment: Re:Except It Isn't (Score 1) 104

by rockmuelle (#47052239) Attached to: How Virtual Reality Became Reality

I've tried Occulus and agree with the parent (I'm also 40 and have been around this block before). VR will never be a mainstream, mass market application. Now that the tech is mostly working (OR is awesome - it works like we all wanted it to the first time Jaron Lanier was in the news), it needs applications. Sure, core gaming will change as will some industrial applications, but otherwise there aren't a lot of good reasons to put an app in an head mounted display. HMDs are not exactly a great fashion accessory (even at the scale of google glass).

-Chris

Comment: Didn't Happen in 2001, won't happen now (Score 1) 190

Sacramento and the rest of the Central Valley has been trying this forever. It didn't happen during the first bubble, it likely won't happen this time around. The Delta and Valley regions may as well be flyover country as far as techs are concerned. It's almost as easy to hop on a plane and be in Austin, Boulder, Portland, SLC, or any other regional tech hub than it is to drive around in CA.

I grew up in Merced and have seen this same story too many times in the past... 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s... This conversation is a good predictor for bursting bubbles, though. ;)

-Chris

Comment: Re:So a bicyclist is safer..... (Score 1) 490

I'm a bike commuter and I own two cars. I pay more taxes relative to car commuters for the use of the roads.

Of course, I could get rid of the fun car and keep just the practical one, but I'd still be paying more than most drivers relative to my impact.

For rule 1 to be a valid argument, all bikers can't own cars. In the US, that's almost universally not the case.

-Chris

Comment: Who needs watches in the first place? (Score 1) 399

by rockmuelle (#46859469) Attached to: Japanese and Swiss Watchmakers Scoff At Smartwatches

So, there are two types of people out there: those that wear watches and those that don't. I fall into the latter category. As someone who doesn't wear jewelry, I've never felt the need to accessorise with time (save for that brief period in 7th grade where I had a few Swatches... ;) ). The other reason for a watch would be practical. But here's the thing: I always know within a few minutes what time it is. If you don't wear a watch, you get pretty good at knowing the time. And, in most cases, you realise that it doesn't matter that much. Is it early? Have breakfast. Is it late? Have a cocktail. Am I at work? I have clocks surrounding me that are more accurate than any watch I'd wear.

Having played around with the "quantified self" gadgets, I can also say that they didn't give me much more than I could get through just general self awareness and a scale (or a more precise measuring device for whatever it is I'm quantifying). So, a smartwatch for me would just be a connected device for email, Web, and phone calls. My smartphone is great for that and I don't have to wear it on my wrist (see above: I don't wear jewelry). I can also set my phone aside and easily walk away from it when I need to be disconnected, which is key for long term sanity.

I know I'm only a portion of the market, but when it comes to smart watches, the manufacturers are already dealing with a segmented market. The luxury manufacturers are right to focus on what their bread and butter is: high end, mechanical jewelry (which, imho, is way cooler than a smart watch from an engineering perspective). The smartwatch space will need to focus on the intersection of smartphone users who wear watches for practical reasons and want to move away from their phone. They'll likely never capture the smartphone users who don't like to wear watches.

-Chris

Comment: A little out of touch with reality... (Score 2) 358

by rockmuelle (#46805313) Attached to: Google: Better To Be a 'B' CS Grad Than an 'A+' English Grad

"You need to be very adaptable, so that you have a baseline skill set that allows you to be a call center operator today and tomorrow be able to interpret MRI scans."

I'm not sure if this is just naivete or Silicon Valley hubris, but this statement doesn't really make much sense. MRIs are interpreted by MDs (radiologists) with years of training. Call centers can be staffed by high-school drop outs. I have friends from both ends of the spectrum in exactly those jobs and I can tell you the starting point for each career and baseline skill set are not the same. Note that baseline intelligence may be the same - my call center friends are all phenomenal musicians who put their intellectual effort into music and use call center jobs to pay the bills, but there's no way they're interpreting MRIs in this lifetime.

I'm seeing the same high level of hubris in tech right now that I saw (and was guilty of) in 1999. There seems to be this feeling that good software skills are a proxy for any other discipline. After all, if I can write an MRI app for an iPhone (or, in the 90s, if I could write a Web 1.0 MRI viewer - which I did, fwiw), then I'm clearly qualified to take the next step and start diagnosing patients (or better yet, just write an app for that, too). Once you know the jargon and basic requirements, everything else is just implementation details, right? Of course, the reality is is that those implementation details are years of dedicated training, not a few weeks of hacking. You only get so many years in life - you can't do everything with them.

In Bock's comments, I see either ignorance or sleaziness. Maybe he really believes that anyone can and should be anything and everything. In that case, he's wasting his time in HR and should become a motivational speaker. But, it also seems like he's just using this as a way to get more call center operators to believe that there's a career path at Google that will allow everyone with a CS degree to be true renaissance people. Sure, every now and then one will pull it off, but people also win the lottery. That doesn't mean everyone will.

-Chris

Comment: Re:"What I find interesting is how..." (Score 1) 1633

by rockmuelle (#46768521) Attached to: Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Literal, out of context interpretations of sacred documents by the masses has been great for science.

There is a middle ground in citizen scholarship, between taking a document at its most literal and complete deference to the the high priests. An educated populace should understand the nuances that led to a document being written in the first place and applying critical thought to determine if those reasons are still valid today or if the document should be evolved.

-Chris

Comment: Re:Overvalued (Score 1) 242

by rockmuelle (#46686131) Attached to: Dyn.com Ends Free Dynamic DNS

With all the comments about moving to other free services or using this as an opportunity to start a new business, what is the value for most people? If there are enough people that value it at a certain price such that the costs of running the business are covered, there's a business to be made. Otherwise, it's just charity on the service's part. Sure, everyone likes getting stuff for free, but even free stuff costs money for someone.

-Chris

Comment: Plot to end all ads... (Score 1) 303

by rockmuelle (#46649551) Attached to: Ad Tracking: Is Anything Being Done?

(and maybe the internet as we know it)

Here's a crowd-based experiment I've always wanted to initiate: For one day, everyone follows ads and stays on the ad site for a non-trivial amount of time.

If everyone clicks on ads (or even a small percentage of people), monthly ad budgets will be very quickly drained. The companies will have received no value from their ad spend (if they do at all as it is). Google, et al. will get a one day windfall from the ad revenues. It might take a few coordinated "denial-of-ad-attacks", but eventually vendors will start to question the value of their internet advertising budgets and find better ways to spend their money connecting with customers.

Of course, a side effect of this might be killing the goose that laid the golden egg. If Google and Facebook suddenly lose their primary source of revenue, they will have to look for other ways to monetize their services (maybe just asking users to pay? if Facebook's numbers are real (haha), $5/month/user would be ~$5B/month ,which is not bad).

A more devious alternative would be to have ad blockers silently follow the ads and "fake" a user session...

Comment: US Intel Said this on Day 1 (Score 4, Interesting) 491

by rockmuelle (#46565573) Attached to: How Satellite Company Inmarsat Tracked Down MH370

What's most interesting is that the anonymous reports from the US intelligence community the day after the plane disappeared said that the plane was on the bottom of the Indian Ocean. These claims seemed a little odd at the time since there was no supporting evidence at all and rescuers were still looking for debris on the original flight path. But, it's looking like they were spot on.

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the only real conspiracy in this whole affair is the US govt's cover up of the initial leak. The plane itself likely just suffered a catastrophic failure and lumbered on until it ran out of fuel. But, the US govt also likely tracked it the entire time. That's why someone was able to make a confident pronouncement so quickly. They knew exactly where the plane was, if not exactly what happened. But, this intelligence capability (tracking all flying objects all the time) is probably highly classified. Rather than give it up for a civilian SAR effort, they decided to keep it under wraps, knowing that eventually the plane would be found and the capability is far more useful if no one knows it exists.

Comment: Re:Backward compatibility is expensive (Score 3, Interesting) 199

by rockmuelle (#46516705) Attached to: A Call For Rollbacks To Previous Versions of Software

This. Software is expensive to maintain. For every old, supported version that a customer can rollback to, the company must maintain development and support infrastructure. This is likely a full time QA person whose job it is to ensure the rollbacks work, at least a part time developer to fix things that break the rollbacks, the team that supports the packaging and distribution of the rollback versions, and the front line support staff to answer calls when something goes wrong with the rollback. Already, that's at least 3 FTEs and likely 5 or more. Just to support rollback functionality. To put a price on it, it's at least $300k/year in direct costs, and more in opportunity and indirect costs.

For free apps, or apps that only cost a few dollars, there's absolutely no way a company can justify the cost and effort to do this.

Now, if users were willing to pay $50 for an app, then there would likely be resources available to support this. Of course, with those prices, the dev processes could be more robust and the need to rollback would be greatly diminished.

tl;dr: you get what you pay for.

-Chris

Comment: Re:Startups Aren't Really Job-Creators In Practice (Score 1) 303

by rockmuelle (#46446681) Attached to: Google Chairman on WhatsApp: $19 Bn For 50 People? Good For Them!

I think you nailed it in calling out that Eric Schmidt realizes this was a very bad move for Facebook and shows that Facebook is not really competition. "Good for them" is simply a way of saying that these guys made out like bandits at someone else's expense.

Facebook can only pull off a few more of these big deals before their cash is gone and their stock is worthless. If they have to do this every time a new startup starts to take users away (which seems to be what really happened with WhatsApp - losing everyone but the US to another messaging platform couldn't have been good for FB), they'll be out of money and equity quicker than you can launch a startup at SXSW.

Eric Schmidt knows this and hance can easily laugh it off. I'm sure Eric also knows what Facebook's actual user base is (hint: there's no way it's anywhere near 1B people, some simple top-down modeling should be enough to convince anyone that there is no way 1/7 of the world's population is actively using FB, kinda like when the Oscars used to claim 1B viewers). WhatsApp was probably just the confirmation he needed to write off Facebook as a competitor.

Ok... hopefully that's all the DST-sleep-deprivation ranting I'll do today...

-Chris

Comment: Data Scientists are this bubble's Web Masters (Score 2, Interesting) 139

by rockmuelle (#46410175) Attached to: 'Data Science' Is Dead

I've been working with big data since before it was a term and currently run a scientific software company that touches on many aspects of "data science". Many of my colleagues also work in the field. I've seen many fads come and go. Data Science as a profession is one of those.

Most people who call themselves data scientists are really just doing "big data" processing using tools such as Hadoop. They are delivering results to managers who have jumped on the big data band wagon and, not knowing any better, have asked for these skills. In 99% of the cases, the processing is simply haphazardly looking for patterns or running basic statistics on data that really isn't that big. However, there is a lot of low hanging fruit in data that hasn't been analyzed before and most practitioners who've suddenly become data analysis experts are rewarded for trivial findings. A tiny bit of statistics, programming, and data presentation skills go a long way.

Compare this to the Web Masters of the late 1990s. The Web was new and managers knew that they needed Web sites. HTML and CGI were techie things but also fairly easy to learn. A group of people quickly figured out that they could be very important to a company by doing very little work and created the position of Web Master. A tiny bit of programming, sys admin, and design skills went a long way.

Web Masters disappeared when IT departments realized that you actually needed real software developers, real designers, and real sys admins to run a corporate Web site. Sure, the bar is still low, but expertise beyond a 'For Dummies' book is still needed. And, few people can be experts in each area, hence the need for teams.

Real data science has actually been around for a long time. Statisticians and data analysts have been performing this role for decades and have built up a lot of rigor around it. It a tough skill set to develop, but a very useful one to have. "Big Data" distracted people a bit and let the current generation of data scientists jump in and pretend everything was new and we could throw out the old methods. As the field evolves, data science will necessarily transition back to the experts (statisticians) and become a team effort that includes people skilled in programming, IT, and the target domain (analysts).

That said, there's good money to be made right now, so if you have Web Master on your resume, you might as well be a data scientist while you can. ;)

-Chris

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