Forgot your password?

Comment: Maybe (Score 3, Interesting) 176

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47584603) Attached to: Getting Back To Coding

It seems really, really tough to get anyone finance-minded in the *business* of making software to understand that it's worthwhile to do exploratory development of tools and techniques to be much more productive later on.

Perhaps, but any such exploration and the resulting tools have to beat the baseline of a decent text editor, a decent version control system, a decent scripting language, and starting to write code within a minute of deciding the project is ready to begin.

For a long-running project with many developers and other contributors performing repetitive or error-prone tasks, maybe it will be worth investigating, selecting and adopting some external tools to automate some of that work, at some stage in the project when you know where the pain points are. But if your development team aren't newbies, they will be perfectly capable of building their code manually at first, they will surely already know their universal Big Three tools very well, and importantly, they will just code up any basic automation on the fly as the project grows and the needs become apparent.

IME, that turns out to be a surprisingly tough standard to beat. I've seen many, many projects get bogged down in their own infrastructure because they felt they should use some type of tool and forced themselves to do it, not because they necessarily needed that tool or found it useful in practice. Of course good tools can be useful, and of course sometimes it is better to bring in help from outside the project rather than being too NIH about everything, but it's important to stay focussed on the goal and not to forget that tools are only means to an end.

Comment: Re:The bashing is sometimes justified... (Score 1) 110

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47580713) Attached to: Countries Don't Own Their Internet Domains, ICANN Says

I think it's important to remember that the court ruling that started all this did not say that anyone should be able to require information to be removed just because they didn't like it. The outcome relates to information that is "inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive". Also, it was explicitly stated that such determinations would need to be made on a case-by-case basis, balancing the individual's private life against the public interest.

In other words, what the ruling actually said, as distinct from the hype around it in the media or the frequent misrepresentations in on-line debates since then, isn't a million miles from the kinds of issues you raised there.

Comment: Re:Developers, developers, developers! (Score 1) 241

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47578981) Attached to: Is the App Store Broken?

Interesting observation about the other phone. I wasn't aware that anyone else had actually made it fully to market prior to Apple on that score.

As for the iOS vs. Android situation, I'm not sure we disagree as much as you suggest, but I do think perhaps we are talking slightly at cross-purposes. For example, I agree with just about everything you said about which apps are and aren't successful on the iOS platform today. As I think I mentioned right back in my first post to this thread, I don't see the wildly successful iOS app developers leaving the platform any time soon. However, I suspect those represent only a very small minority of the overall iOS developer population.

My point there is that simply in terms of the popularity of the platform -- hardware sales, in short -- Apple seems to be losing momentum, while Android devices are gaining market share. I'm not necessarily suggesting that this will result in native Android apps becoming a better market for developers. I don't think I've suggested anything at all like that anywhere in this discussion, and if I did appear to imply that then it was entirely accidental. I'm just suggesting that those iOS developers who haven't either hit the big time in the initial gold rush or carved out a niche where they can stand out and charge sensible money seem to be starting to give up and look elsewhere, wherever that might be.

Personally, I do have my (and my businesses') bet firmly on web apps being the way forward for a lot of general informational/basic interactive apps for the near future. These work portably across all the main mobile devices and of course desktops as well, they have no lock-in or tax, and most importantly, they don't come with the preconception that something good that cost a small fortune to develop should still be sold for peanuts, which means you can viably invest enough time and money to offer something well polished and comprehensive/innovative/otherwise interesting. We could have built similar things as native apps on each mobile platform, but we saw little if any advantage to doing so.

The fact that Google seem to be betting the same way, and applying their considerable resources to further that end, and slowly capturing market share from Apple (whether as a consequence or coincidentally for other reasons doesn't really matter) just makes the prospect of developing such projects as iOS apps that much less appealing in the long run.

As a final point, while there certainly are premium apps out there, typical B2C apps on the App Store are not among them. Sure, prices might be up from 5 cents to 6 cents this year, but based on the stats that have been floating around in various on-line discussions this week, it appears that I already pull in more revenue per month from a side project web app that isn't complete yet and has had almost no advertising than the average (mean) app on the App Store. We appear to have reached the point where anyone who doesn't win big fairly quickly can't actually sustain a viable business writing iOS apps, and any way you look at it, that surely can't be promising for the future of the platform.

Comment: Re:Legitimate concerns (Score 1) 274

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47578899) Attached to: UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity

And meanwhile, as you worry about a hypothetical threat from your government, real people with real lives are really having them destroyed by people who put themselves above the law through the mechanism of anonymity. The big bullies are a concern, but so are the small ones, and it's far from clear which is overall the more dangerous threat to quality of life in the western world today.

I'm happy for you that you're comfortable with a black and white view where there are absolute rights that are the only important things and where any unintended harmful side effects can be explained away somehow, but in my world there are shades of grey and no such easy resolutions to these issues.

Comment: Re:The bashing is sometimes justified... (Score 1) 110

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47578885) Attached to: Countries Don't Own Their Internet Domains, ICANN Says

Unfortunately, it's clear by this point that you don't understand what the so-called "right to be forgotten" that resulted from the European Court ruling actually is -- for a start, it doesn't involve "removing knowledge from someone else", nor to my knowledge does any technology exist that could even do that if we wanted to -- so I'm not sure there's any point in continuing this discussion.

Comment: Re:Legitimate concerns (Score 1) 274

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47577707) Attached to: UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity

The RL identities of most bullies are already known to those being bullied, yet the bullying persists.

Suspecting you know who is doing something and being able to prove it to a sufficient standard to secure some action against them are two very different things.

Some children growing up today face an entirely different scale of abuse from their peers to what anyone of my generation had to put up with, and the major difference is how much of that abuse can now be done widely and yet anonymously because of modern technologies.

I find my views on this issue unsettled, because on the one hand true anonymity effectively puts someone above the law and the GIFT applies, yet on the other the supposedly lawful authorities who should be able to act appropriately against people who break the rules for the protection of everyone else have now proven beyond any doubt that they cannot be trusted to act appropriately at all and that their political masters(?) will cover for them as much as necessary to allow this to continue.

I am coming round to the view that the ideal compromise is that no-one is truly anonymous on-line but that an identity can only be revealed to lawful authorities at some sort of significant cost to those authorities and under strictly defined rules with extensive checks, balances and transparency arrangements, with draconian penalties for anyone in public office who abuses a position of trust. But of course that is not a million miles away from the spirit of the law in many places today, it's just that the checks and balances obviously aren't effective and the odds of anyone in authority actually suffering serious consequences for such abuses in our current political climate are relatively low, so the problem remains.

Comment: Re:The bashing is sometimes justified... (Score 1) 110

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47577573) Attached to: Countries Don't Own Their Internet Domains, ICANN Says

One thing that society has learned over centuries is that when it comes to people, history is often a leading indicator of future behavior.

Interesting assertion, but I think the word "often" rather than "always" is key here.

In fact, I think that sums up one of the main problems with this whole situation: if it turns out that the above statement isn't true in some specific case, it is all too easy to do great harm by assuming that it was. A lot of the most forceful advocates for positive change in some downtown districts are former gang members who grew up and came to understand the futility and wastefulness of the violence they took for granted and participated in when they were younger.

There's also another side to this issue, which is that the information you see today might be incomplete or misleading even if it is entirely factually correct. Knowing that someone was once prosecuted for dangerous driving after writing off an oncoming car in an accident is likely to give you a low opinion of whether your car hire business should rent a vehicle to them. Maybe you would have a different view if you also knew that the swerve into the oncoming car saved the lives of three kids who suddenly ran into the road and would surely have been killed but for the driver's quick reaction, but you don't necessarily see that information as the next hit on the search engine results page.

Many experiments and models suggest that the better outcomes happen if we forgive, but do not forget.

In an ideal world, if life were fair and everyone were reasonably forgiving of human failings, perhaps that would indeed be the ideal. But right now a lot of people aren't like that, maybe even for entirely innocent reasons, and sometimes those people are making life-altering decisions about someone else. It's easy to see how terrible life could become for someone who fell the wrong side of a line maybe not even through any fault of their own, and if we can't trust society to act fairly under full disclosure, then selective disclosure is the only alternative to protect the disadvantaged.

Comment: Re:The bashing is sometimes justified... (Score 1) 110

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47577451) Attached to: Countries Don't Own Their Internet Domains, ICANN Says

Many things suppress my freedoms, sometimes including other people exercising rights of their own. As the old saying goes, your freedom to swing your fist does not trump my right not to get punched in the face. Arguably the biggest challenge of a civilised society is to establish how we will balance all of those competing interests, even when we might all agree that all of them are positive things on balance if we could consider them in isolation.

Comment: Re:The bashing is sometimes justified... (Score 1) 110

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47577429) Attached to: Countries Don't Own Their Internet Domains, ICANN Says

Why not make it illegal for employers to make use of such irrelevant information?


IMHO, most of the damage that comes from people hearing negative things about someone that might be hidden by the kind of measures we're talking about doesn't come just from the information itself. It happens because something from long ago is assumed (not necessarily correctly) to still be a reliable indicator of what someone is like today, or because the information is incomplete, taken out of context, or simply inaccurate.

If we lived in a world where everyone was fair, and wouldn't jump to conclusions they shouldn't for these kinds of reasons, there would be no need to offer this kind of protection. But unfortunately we don't live in that world, and realistically we probably won't any time soon. If you have a hundred applicants for a job to look through and a day to make a shortlist, and you see that one of the applicants has a conviction for theft, are you really going to spend another half-hour to find out that the conviction was for stealing an apple 20 years ago when the person was homeless and just needed to eat? I'm betting for 99.999% of people reviewing those 100 CVs, the answer is no, just throw it straight in the bin.

Now, if we're talking about something objective, like say whether you can get credit for a mortgage, you can mitigate the problem to a degree by requiring that a human review any automated/procedural decision taking into account the specific circumstances of the case without relying just on those kinds of assumptions. It's not as if there's going to be any doubt at the end of the process about whether or not someone got their mortgage application approved.

But for something like a job, where processes aren't always as transparent and there's a competitive environment, a tainted reputation is going to follow someone around like a cloud. The applicant isn't going to know that what ruined their chances was the wrong page showing up at the top of Google because they share their name with a serial child abuser. They're just going to get told sorry but the employer has given the position to someone else, and never have a chance to set the record straight. And so for that reason alone it is important that we try to avoid incomplete or misleading personal information becoming pervasive and permanent in our society. Because if it's out there, even someone with the best of intentions is likely to make unfair choices when faced with such information. That's just life.

Comment: Re:Developers, developers, developers! (Score 1) 241

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47577301) Attached to: Is the App Store Broken?

What was new about it was combining those features. I'm not sure what to say other than there weren't any new concepts, vs. what else was out there. They were just put together really well.

I'd argue that the form factor was novel -- no BlackBerry model of that generation had a full-size screen, for example -- but sure, I agree with your general point. That point is probably even more applicable to iPads, too. However, because, as you seem to agree, Apple did a really good job putting the whole package together, they generated hype and customers, and that in turn generated a market for the apps that would follow and ultimately the whole ecosystem we now know.

From the point of view of whether iOS is an attractive platform for developing apps today, I think some of Apple's long-standard strategy -- the emphasis on low-price apps, the 30% developer tax, the ability to kill an entire project at will -- are now starting to have the opposite effect. iOS is no longer the dominant mobile OS, and the momentum is all firmly in Android's direction for the foreseeable future too. The 30% tax and the exclusive distribution channel are big downsides for any developer, no matter how successful they are. It used to be that the sheer popularity of Apple gear, and the demographics who would buy it and then passionately advocate for it, could overcome those downsides. That's not so much the case any more, it seems.

Comment: Re:The bashing is sometimes justified... (Score 1) 110

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47575705) Attached to: Countries Don't Own Their Internet Domains, ICANN Says

Many countries have concepts in law such as convictions becoming spent after a period of time, usually a few years depending on the seriousness of the offence. The conviction is still a matter of public record, but you no longer have to actively disclose it in some situations where initially you would, and in particular, it may be removed from various routine criminal records checks that are relevant to things like applying for jobs.

It is well documented that such measures promote rehabilitation and reduce reoffending rates, and that denying a former criminal who has paid their dues a fresh start will inevitably lead to further and often worse criminal activity.

As a society we choose to "turn a blind eye" or "grant forgiveness" in these circumstances, partly as a matter of humanity but also partly out of self-interest. You are arguing for an Internet that never forgets the slightest transgression and holds it against someone forever. To me, that can only ever work in a world where we have evolved beyond paranoia and everyone acknowledges openly that everyone else makes mistakes, which sadly I doubt we're going to see in our lifetimes. In the meantime, this seems like a textbook case of "just because we can do something that doesn't mean we should", and the law seems to be siding with "no, we shouldn't".

Comment: The bashing is sometimes justified... (Score 4, Interesting) 110

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47574841) Attached to: Countries Don't Own Their Internet Domains, ICANN Says

I will attempt to address your points objectively, for whatever it is worth.

Firstly, bashing the EU for restricting free communication on the Internet is considering only selective evidence. The most common limitation on free speed today is intellectual property, and by far the biggest champion of restricting the free distribution of IP is the United States, including using all kinds of diplomatic and political tools to push the US agenda extra-jurisdictionally. The US also imposes other restrictions and censorship on-line that are not universal elsewhere in the world, for example in relation to gambling, and again has a track record of pushing its agenda extra-territorially through sometimes dubious mechanisms. I think right now a few people in the US are just feeling aggrieved because inevitably the rest of the world has started pushing back and expecting the US to comply with the rules from other places in the same way, instead of enjoying nothing but one-way traffic as it often has until quite recently.

Secondly, even if anywhere in the world did truly protect absolutely free speech, not all of us think that would be an improvement. For example, in much of Europe concepts like privacy and protecting personal data carry far more weight than they generally do in the US. In fact, it is illegal to export personal data from Europe to the US without special measures being used, because by default the US doesn't meet even our minimal legal standards for respecting individuals' privacy and personal data. But issues like free speech, privacy, anonymity or pseudonymity, and democracy are fundamentally interdependent and sometimes conflict, even before you consider more specific related issues like national security, policing, or copyright.

Finally, just as an aside, the recent "right to be forgotten" debate was triggered by a specific court case, and the rationale behind the decision is actually quite sensible. Again, there is now a fundamental tension between, on the one hand, benefitting from the free and open communication afforded by the Internet and from the ability to search for and access information on many subjects more easily than ever before, and on the other hand, preserving legal principles around justice, the protection of the innocent, and the rehabilitation of the guilty that have evolved over a long period in every civilised country of the world. The result in this particular case may seem at odds with technological reality, but that doesn't mean the principle or the logic are flawed, just that it isn't a good final solution yet. Your characterisation is also inaccurate, by the way, but I'll invite you to read some of the ample material that has been published about why the common misunderstanding you've described is wrong rather than getting sidetracked any further here.

There are no easy answers to any of these issues, but one thing is all but certain: throwing out everything our societies have learned over centuries about defending private lives and allowing people to move on from mistakes, just because a few Internet companies who have made staggering amounts of money might lose some of it if their business models were modestly inconvenienced, is not the only possible or potentially desirable way forward.

Comment: Re:Developers, developers, developers! (Score 1) 241

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47573537) Attached to: Is the App Store Broken?

Actually, it's very much the same. App development has become a winner-takes-all kind of industry, where the overwhelming majority of profit is generated by a relatively tiny number of smash hits. A few people got rich making iOS apps. Most people who make iOS apps didn't, and plenty aren't making any significant amount of money at all. That's the point of this whole discussion.

Comment: Re:Developers, developers, developers! (Score 1) 241

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47573519) Attached to: Is the App Store Broken?

I'm not disputing the facts of anything you say here, nor that Apple may have made some excellent technical developments under the hood or that their management team may have introduced commercially useful improvements behind the scenes.

But the simple reality is that when the first iPhone arrived, every geek and gadget-lover I know was interested. The media was in a frenzy about this new "smart phone" idea. Everyone was talking about it, and quite a few went out of their way to buy it.

When the iPhone 5 arrived, someone dutifully republished a press release, and the world carried on turning. I don't recall any sense of excitement in anything I read at the time, and I don't know anyone who queued up to buy an iPhone 5.

In the context we're discussing -- the app development culture for iOS devices, and whether Apple's overall kudos helps or harms the enthusiasm of app developers -- the original iPhone was a smash hit, but the iPhone 5 was an incremental revision of an existing product line. It is just this year's edition of a popular "franchise".

Same goes for the original iPad, IMHO. Other people had made tablets before. Apple got them right and made them cool and suddenly everyone wanted one. Nothing they've done in recent years generated that kind of interest, IME. Do you know any developer who switched from building some other kind of software to making iOS apps just because a smaller/lighter iPad with iOS 7 came out? Me neither, and that's my point.

Work expands to fill the time available. -- Cyril Northcote Parkinson, "The Economist", 1955