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Comment Don't be an idiot (like I was) - max-out on math! (Score 1) 656

Early 30s, undereducated, curmudgeonly, senior software developer here.

Not only is math my weakest area, but that weakness was probably partly due to my self-defeating and self-fulfilling belief that I didn't *need* much math, so I got my CS degree from a shitty university with just through Calc 2 and a couple non-calculus-based stats classes. No linear algebra, no dynamics, no quantum-anything, no Fourier analysis, no algebraic topology, no number theory, no discrete math, etc..

And so I've spent the last decade writing stupid CRUD-and-forms apps. It's boring shit that only pays high-5-figures (in my top-3-by-population U.S. city as I work in university research, though I am repeatedly sought by some of the biggest names among tech employers. But I choose my current employer for the work-life balance).

But to go anywhere more-interesting -- say, working on self-driving cars, or data-mining stocks or health data, or building robots -- I need more math. Shit.

I have taught myself some linear algebra from a LA book, at least, as well as learned some slightly less-basic stats (e.g. Markov models) and taken a couple graduate-level CS courses in AI and ML. But it's definitely not enough to break-free of my self-imposed intellectual chains.

So, get as much math as you can -- not because you'll definitely use it (maybe, maybe not), not because it's fun (but if it is for you, great; it is for me, when I understand it), and not because it's important for its own sake (by definition, anything that isn't eventually useful is useless), but because it gives you FLEXIBILITY later in life. And you have no way of knowing, a priori, whether you will need that flexibility.

I'm not original in this thinking. Learning more math is what Nassim Taleb would consider an example of "robustification" -- becoming robust against unknown undesirable future "bad" events or scenarios.

My strong advice: Don't be so damned efficient - or arrogant/overconfident - in your learning that you fail to robustify yourself against a future you that is smarter and wiser than the current you.

Comment Re:Developer rebellion? (Score 1) 491

This. I would shower you with mod points, if I could.

As a professional developer since the early 2000s, I've been saying the exact same things about agile processes ever since I was introduced to them. I've come to like TDD (if it's taken as a guideline rather than an ideology in which perfect code-coverage is achieved), if it's combined with heavy, Waterfall-like requirements analysis up-front, and a reasonable amount of documentation.

But on the whole, everything else seems to be a management trick to try to screw devs into longer hours for no extra pay, and into producing more-frequent status reports, more-fragile/less-error-handling software, with a shorter time-to-delivery.

After seeing dozens of projects numbering in the double-digits this way (a few of which I've participated in), across almost as many organizations, I'm convinced that most of agile methodology -- in practice, if not in ideal -- is bullshit snake-oil sold to senior management to try to make junior management look "proactive" and up-to-date on the latest tech and management trends. These junior managers are complicit with consulting firms selling their business process services to convert clients to using agile methodology (I was once such a consultant paid partly to spread the gospel). But frankly, this is the standard relationship seen between consulting firms and their clients: clients buy-into the idea that the unearned perception of competence propounded by the consultancy, and believe (wrongly, in a significant percentage of cases) that the consultancy's employees are more-competent than their own... "A fool and his money are soon parted".

The best I can say about Agile is that I believe at the time it was created (back around 2000), by Martin Fowler, Kent Beck, etc., it may have been a clever way to stanch the offshoring trend of the time, by claiming that close face-to-face interaction between project stakeholders (devs, managers, BAs, end-users, etc.) was critical to project success. I've found this is actually very, very true -- but this is frankly a very, very old management lesson. That, and I don't think Waterfall (which I've also spent lots of time doing) is the right methodology, either. The least-bad methodology really depends on the purpose and reliability requirements of the software project...

Comment Re:Slave owner ? (Score 2) 220

Indeed. Moreover, Jefferson himself fought in Congress to abolish slavery: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson_and_slavery

In the Virginia Assembly, in the 1780s Jefferson supported a bill to prohibit the state from importing slaves. In the 1784 Congress, Jefferson proposed federal legislation banning slavery in the New Territories of the Northwest, but it was not passed.[4] In 1804 as president, he refused to recognize Haiti, a new republic established by a slave rebellion, and in 1805 and 1806 enacted an arms and trade embargo against them. In 1807 he signed a bill prohibiting the US from participating in the international slave trade; it had been protected from federal regulation for 20 years under compromises of the United States Constitution.[5]

True, it was philosophically-hypocritical of him to own slaves and only free two of them. But, it also believed that Jefferson believed that if freed, his slaves would be re-captured and would be treated much-worse elsewhere (so I learned from a tour guide when I visited his Monticello home several years ago). His position, then, seems to have been one of pragmatic harm-minimization, rather than ideological purity. For his time, his anti-slave stance was quite progressive, even though by today's standards, he would be (rightly) demonized and considered a laughingstock.

Comment Re:About time (Score 1) 306

If they went all out enforcing every law on the books, A) serious crimes would be neglected, and B) lots (more) innocent people would be caught up in things that aren't their fault, or even worth wasting everyone's time over.

True enough insofar as the quantity of laws exist. But anything less than perfect enforcement of the law has the following consequences:

1) Selective enforcement, which tends to imply arbitrary enforcement, which tends to coincide with discriminatory (racist, sexist, etc.) enforcement.

2) The proliferation of laws you rightly note make enforcing the law in-full so difficult. (If a law is not fully-enforced, then when somebody breaks that law and nothing happens, what is the response of the victim? "There oughta be a law!")

I submit to you that if the law were enforced fully and to the letter, citizens would pay more attention to the laws on the books and -- because "ignorance is no defense", and because even lawyers and IRS agents do not understand all the laws that they specialize in (much less the ones *outside* their specialties) -- we would have far-fewer laws... laws, which, as Ayn Rand said, are created so that we may classify people as criminals who previously would not have been so-classified.

I want every speed limit in my city enforced as strictly as possible -- so that people will get pissed-off at the low limits and demand they be raised. (It happened in Illinois after the 1995 federal highway speed limit was repealed: the governor wanted to keep the speed limit at 55mi/h, but almost overnight, due to a torrent of angry phone calls and letters, he backed-away from that position.) Likewise with every other law, for the same reason.

Comment Re:Liberty Theater vs. Security Theater (Score 1) 1051

On the plus side, at least the privatized security theaters could compete against each other -- assuming an agglomeration of security services doesn't corner the market. (e.g., Blackwater/Xe/Academi providing screening for >= 90% of airports)

And, unlike with the Federal government, at least you can sue businesses, as well as file criminal charges against their employees (assuming Congresscritters don't insert immunity clauses - which seems likely).

Comment Re:It's about damn time (Score 1) 1051

The >3000 people who died on 9/11 might disagree.

Then millions of Americans who were not killed on 9/11 apparently (from various news reports) disagree with those 3,000. Your argument is classic post-hoc reasoning: the 3,000 did not experience the security-state Medusa that is the DHS and its subsidiary TSA. Those unfortunate individuals would have had only the same pre-9/11 experience those of us older than a teenager had.

Given that information, they *might* have come to your assumed conclusion -- but given our experiences of the TSA in response to 9/11, they might *not* have come to your conclusion.

One who thinks in probabilities does not think as you do. In assessing terror risk, you sound like somebody who failed Probability 101, or one who is a timid, whiny person, easily-frightened by bearded men speaking a foreign language while carrying box-cutters.

An aside: Also, it is morally-presumptious, arrogant, and intellectually-flatulent of you to claim to know what the victims (or anyone else, living or dead) would say.

Comment SO scoring is not comparable across questions (Score 1) 352

Can't post a comment on his blog. Post and preview just reload the page. Cookies are on for blogspot and I've a google.com account. No other way to contact Peter. I presume blogspot requires cookies enabled for some additional domain, but there's no way to find out. I'm gobsmacked as ever that a major web-site either doesn't know or doesn't care this occurs - both causes are stupifying.

My would-be comment;

I believe this analysis is fundamentally incorrect, due to the StackOverflow scores having a different meaning than that required for this analysis to be valid.

Difficult questions and answers, which require a great deal of specialist knowledge, receive very few votes, since almost no developers are qualified to hold an opinion.

I've answered questions on lock-free data structures which have in the end obtained one or two votes - because hardly anyone has spent the years required becoming competent in this field.

I've provided one sentence of grandma-wisdom about someone's problem at work with their boss asking them to use pirated software and I think I received 40 votes - 400 points.

Quick and simple answers to simple questions receive the highest number of votes.

I think the scoring system actually reflects the most popular answer for a single given question; that the scoring system is only meaningful *within the answers for a single question*. It selects and rates between them.

As such, this higher-level analysis, comparing scores *across questions*, is fundamentally incorrect. It requires scores to be a type of indicator which they are not.

To summarize; if answers requiring years of learning lock-free gains very few votes, but one-liners telling someone they'll have more problems in future get very many votes, the actual number of votes an answer receives does not indicate the skill or experience of the person posting the answer. It only reflects the rating of answers *for that one question*. If you wish to compare answers on a per person basis across questions, I think all you can do is consider the position of the answer within all the answers for that question, and assign a value to that position.

If this were done, my lock-free answer, which was top of the list of a very short list, would receive the top score, which my one-liner, which was I think second or third of the answers to that question, would receive a lower score.

Comment Amazon censor negtive review by not accepting them (Score 1) 201

I've written one or two Amazon reviews - normal reviews, quite positive, they were accepted.

Then I bought a DVD - a Nick Cave live in concert DVD - and I panned it. (There was a logo, "MC", on a black oval, BIG, and present ALL THE TIME through the whole video, in the top left - it ruined the DVD). I said - "don't buy it".

Amazon never posted that review.

I've thought for a long time that Amazon censors reviews - if it really pans the product, it doesn't get on the Amazon site. ALL the Amazon reviews are in that sense corrupt, because Amazon remove the really negative reviews. You only see the more positive reviews.

Comment what about freedom? (Score 1) 848

> 57% of Italian Households voted in this public measure. While democracy should trump all, is it wise to hold majority opinion so high that it slows down
> progress?

This is wrong in so many ways.

If I want to build a nuclear power plant, that's my business (as long as I don't pollute the environment and so on).

It's my money, I bought the land, the people building it agreed to build it in exchange for the money I pay them, etc.

Then I can produce energy. Now, if there are Italians who don't *want* energy from nuclear sources, then what should happen is that they should buy their energy from providers who offer non-nuclear plans.

This way those who agree with nuclear can buy nuclear and those who don't, don't. We don't have any one group forcing itself on everyone else - which is what we see here, both in Italy and in Germany, just by different means.

If nuclear really is unpopular, if enough people don't want it, it really won't exist, not because we happen to have an untrustworthy State or fickle Public which for now ban it, but because the mass of people just won't buy the stuff.

What's happening now in Italy and in Germany is really horrible. It's unfree. It's one group forcing something upon everyone else.

Slashdot however is IME rather left-wing and is in favour of using the State to force things upon others, so long as whatever it is being forced is something Slashdot approves of, like State funded science subsidy or flights to Mars. Slashdot does not understand freedom.

Comment Slashdot disappoints (Score 0) 174

Slashdot disappoints the hell out of me.

You'd think - you'd hope - this would be a liberal forum. Would have a care and an interest in freedom.

But every time I talk about *freedom* - about NOT forcing other people to do things - I get modded flamebait or troll.

Whenever someone posits forcing others to do things you LIKE, you're all for it. Shit yeah, tax the hell of people for research-this or free-eduction-that or travel-to-mars-by-2020 the other.

Whenever someone describes people being forced to do things you don't like, you're up in arms!

The idea that people *shouldn't be forcing others* is alien to Slashdot - this forum is no different to any other; neo-conservative, red-neck religious, left-wing liberal - you all have the things you like and the things you don't like, you all completely disagree on what those things are, but you DO all believe in forcing others to do what you want.

From my POV, it's all one and the same.

This post too will, if it's read - the thread is old now - will be modded flamebait. Slashdot - like all those other forums - does not comprehend existential criticism. Anything which invalidates Slashdot is flamebait/troll. It's a way of not thinking.

Comment Act of Evil (Score -1, Flamebait) 174

That education act was an act of pure evil.

If I take my money, which belongs to me, and I open *my* school, it's *my* business - and no one elses.

No one else has *any* right to come along and order me around - let alone ordering me who my students will be.

There's this thing, it's called Freedom. It means no one can force you to do things, or deceive into doing them - unless they're acting in self-defence, and this isn't self-defence.

India is poor for a reason - it's Government. The State is profoundly corrupt and protectionist. This act is just another example of the State forcing others to do its bidding.

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