Mark Smith’s Newsletter - Saturday 3rd April, 2021
Congress, YouTube protection, Facebook feeds, Substack funding, Intel vs TSMC, NFT&Crypto surge, Deno, Apple privacy blocks, Google Maps, Cryptojacking, AirBnB training, NodeJS certification, Fastify
Hello and welcome to my newsletter!
Another season 2 instalment…
I’m quite liking the new intro structure so I’ve kept it very similar this week, updating the news subheadings with the latest trends.
I emailed Substack support, to see if there was a way to link from the intro to the links further down the page, and they replied saying it’s not currently possible. They have passed on the suggestion to their product team. With that in mind I decided to keep the “double jump” links rather than link to the articles directly in the intro. I know it’s a bit unusual, but I think there is some value in being able to see how the newsletter is put together, and the links often have additional context. I dunno, maybe it could become ‘the thing’ that sets it apart from other newsletters? A bit like those restaurants where you can see into the open kitchen, get a sense of the ambience, all the chefs preparing and cooking the delicious food. It’s currently just me here in the kitchen, and I guess I’m also doing the ‘front of house’ in this analogy, but who knows, maybe that won’t be the case forever. I’d love to hear what you think.
Last week there was a huge amount of interconnected stories, which is cool but can make it more difficult to synthesise a coherent intro. This week feels a bit more ‘normal’ in that regard, a few narrative trends and a bunch of bits a pieces that don’t fit snugly into any trend yet, but are interesting anyway.
I was able to write a bit of automation to pull the links out of the linkblog, which will make things a bit easier going forward. There’s still so much cool automation that could be done though.
I still haven’t written up my Reddit Account Saga experience, maybe next week.
The week started off with the congressional hearing where the members of congress appeared to demand that the tech CEOs censor the internet even more aggressively. The generational divide was in full view, and the tech CEOs became somewhat exasperated with the questioning, with Jack Dorsey eventually trolling congress on Twitter as the events unfolded.
In other articles I read and podcasts I listened to, the general sentiment was that though congress have improved their technical understanding of the space, it was difficult to make any progress until they have finished publicly airing their grievances. I wonder whether the same situation will repeat itself in 20-30 years when my generation have become congress peoples, or maybe we will have been effectively silenced by then. Is that what we really want? Doesn’t censorship feel like the cause and the solution to a lot of these issues? I don’t know if that’s a good dynamic.
Social Media Features
There was some movement in social media spaces as far as features go, with YouTube introducing wellness features to protect creators from ‘dislike mobs’, Facebook bringing back the time based non algorithmic feed, and Substack raising $65 million which will most likely lead to new features, I’m hoping for an API :)
I was a bit sarcastic in my post about Facebook’s feed updates, the truth is, I like that they have made it possible to switch to a purely timeline based feed. Algorithms can be cool, but IMO you always want the ability to switch between curation systems.
Chips are usually a bit off topic for this newsletter, but there is so much movement in the space, and it ultimately affects everything at the software level in some way, so I’m including it here. I wrote about it last week and there are more developments.
There was a good analysis piece of the challenges ahead for Intel. A good follow up piece from last weeks $20 billion roadmap announcements.
Taiwan based TSMC, who are by far the world’s current leaders in chip manufacturing for all electronic devices, announced they will invest $100 billion dollars into new production of chips. They say it’s to meet the demands of the chip crisis, but it comes right after Intel’s announcement, so it very much looks like a reaction, and quite a big reaction at 5x the investment that Intel announced. Just the sums of money that are being pushed around here should let you know how important this area of tech is geopolitically. I read somewhere that people are wondering where the money is going to come from as their balance sheet only shows around $20 billion.
There was an announcement of Armv9, a new ARM architecture which has some interesting security features, so as well as development on the business side of things, the technology is improving too.
NFT and crypto currencies getting real
There has been an increasing amount of NFT content the past 3 weeks or so. Check out the archives if you are interested. There was a noticeable increase in the quality of NFT related content this week, both in written and podcast media. It seems like NFTs and crypto are starting to crytalise for people.
As far as podcasts go there was a16z’s excellent very in depth episode about NFTs, Tim Ferris’ mind blowing interview with Balaji Srinivasan all about the crypto future, and a Lex Fridman interview with Nic Carter which has a practical and pragmatic view on Bitcoin and how it will likely affect the whole financial sector. Three very different podcasts in style and content, but each one is really worth the time to listen, and once under your belt, you will have a really good sense of the past, present and future of crypto.
And there were more interesting crypto articles and projects...
The eco friendly alternative to Etherium called Hic et nunc which can be used for NFTs, and it’s also written in NodeJS, which is super cool.
Drapper Labs, the company that has been behind the recent surge in sports NFTs has raised $305 million in funding from a mixture of NBA stars and venture capital firms
Enjin has raised $19 million in funding to work on an NFT optimised blockchain
Other Bits and Pieces
These haven’t dropped into any obvious narrative yet but look pretty interesting to me:
Developers starting to report Apple App Store has started blocking apps that track users
The full story behind Amazon private labels, it’s not as obviously egregious as meets the eye
The tutorials this week were more ‘high level’ than hands on coding type articles, but I think interesting none the less, and included incremental static regeneration, developing a talent stack, and an example wining slide deck for raising funding.
A useful tool to compare cities quality of life so you can more easily plan making a big move.
Google made some big improvements to it’s Google Maps product. I think there is still a lot of innovation to come in the maps space.
A very convincing piece about why to move from Express to Fastify. The speediness is enticing but I think it’s the async/await error handling that is the most interesting.
I found this writeup of some Cryptojacking security research very interesting both from a technical perspective but also to more fully understand the cost to society of these type of money making schemes.
Airbnb published a really nice writeup of their latest new hire on-boarding program that aims to get everyone focussed on mobile. I have extensive experience creating technology focussed on-boarding and training programs, so it was really great to read about what life is like in the more established tech companies. Sounds like an awesome place to learn and work.
As usual all the articles from the linkblog in chronological order are included below, which is also a good way to explore, there are some pieces there amongst the main summary items that didn’t make it into the main themes, but these are interesting in their own right, and often end up developing into something more substantial further down the line.
That’s all from me this week…
I hope you enjoy the links!
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Stuff from me
Nothing from me this week :(
Stuff from around the web
Glen Greenwald reviews the congressional hearings, the government wants more censorship, it all sounds very bad, I like that Dorsey took the call from his kitchen, and that he pushed back against the interrogation, the description of Zuckerberg’s testimony is kind of classic and amusing, but weirdly I don’t think it makes him look bad, maybe robot Zuck is his way of pushing back, strange to see the generational gap so evident and in public, I’m interested to read some other angles on these hearings substack.com #
MDN localization in March - Tier 1 locales unfrozen, and future plans - They are retiring a bunch of incomplete locales, which will still be available for download, but separate from the main site mozilla.org #
What does it mean to buy a gif? - Quite a solid explanation of why NFTs make sense in the art world, tldr it’s really very similar to how the art world already handles limited edition numbered and signed prints jackrusher.com #
Hic et nunc - public smart contract infrastructure on Tezos Blockchain, considerably more environmentally friendly than Bitcoin and Etherium, can be used to mint NFTs, still in alpha stage hicetnunc.xyz #
Jack Dorsey is just trolling Congress with Twitter polls now - The inner web developer in me is trying to imagine the wow-that-poll-feature-sure-was-a-good-idea feeling that no doubt ensued theverge.com #
Linus Torvalds worries kernel 5.12 might be ‘one of those releases’ that lands a tad late - “io_uring continues to have noise in it, this time mainly due to some signal handling fixes, that removed a fair amount of problematic special casing, but the timing certainly isn't great.” theregister.com #
Announcing the Deno Company - “We have raised 4.9 million dollars of seed capital”, “Deno will remain MIT licensed [...] We don’t believe the open core business model is right for a programming platform like Deno”, “Our business will build on the open source project, not attempt to monetize it directly” deno.com #
Compare cities on quality of life, cost of living, salaries and more - Explore where to move based on your personal preferences - Looks like an interesting site to do research, here’s an example city page for London teleport.org #
Arm Announces Armv9 Architecture With Major Performance, ML And Security Enhancements - Securitywise they are introducing the concept of realms, which need to be supported in software, but offer the possibility of hardware level separation between trusted and untrusted data for running applications hothardware.com #
Dapper Labs announced a $305 million funding round Tuesday from another batch of National Basketball Association stars and a venture capital firm backing its runaway hit, NBA Top Shot - The NFT run picks up more steam coindesk.com #
YouTube is experimenting with hiding dislikes to protect creators’ well-being - “It’s experimenting with hiding dislikes to discourage ‘dislike mobs’ from deliberately downvoting videos from creators and channels” theverge.com #
Incremental Static Regeneration - Its Benefits and Its Flaws - Good to know what this is since you hear people talking about optimising static sites a lot, article does a good job describing it, tldr some rather big disadvantages - “A pretty big footgun that ultimately is confusing for users, and frustrating for developers” netlify.com #
Here's How I'm Fighting Cryptojacking and Doing Good Things with Content Security Policies - Great writeup from a security researcher that looks at an old domain that was previously used for cryptojacking, the author buys the domain, does some analysis of the traffic still hitting the site and shows why it’s a really good idea to set a CSP policy on your website, including adding a report-uri troyhunt.com #
How We Enable Airbnb Team Members to Code Like a Mobile Engineer - The two things that struck me from this great writeup, is how important mobile is becoming in modern development, but also, based on how amazingly well thought out the training program appears, how different working at a startup and a medium sized company is compared to working for a large established tech giant, it’s literally two different worlds medium.com #
TSMC Unveils $100 Billion 3-Year Plan To Fuel R&D, Chip Fab Expansion - Looks like it might be a response to Intel’s plans announced recently, their investment will be 5x that of Intel’s, that’s a lot of investment hothardware.com #
A16z Podcast Ep #630 - All about NFTs - Lots of good NFT related info, including a general discussion of crypto and NFTs, what is an NFT and what is not an NFT, NFTs for digital and physical goods, social tokens, converting a non-fungible token to a fungible tokens by fractualinizing it, owning parts of tv shows, social value correlated with the amount of times digital item is shared / replicated, the ability to prove that you were an early adopter / supporter simplecast.com #
Tim Ferris Podcast Ep #506 - “The Episode of Everything” - Interview with Balaji Srinivasan former CTO of Coinbase and General Partner at Andersen Horowitz - Seriously good in depth discussion on the future of crypto, super long range local and global implications, likely new applications, societal impact, there is so much in this episode, starts off with journalism and it’s perverse incentives, a better way with citizen journalists, and then goes off on a wonderfully colourful, insightful and mind expanding journey into crypto, just a pleasure to listen to Balaji talk at length about crypto because, presumably because of his time at Coinbase and Stanford, he has so fully internalised the crypto abstractions and dynamics and is able to paint such a vivid picture, past, present and especially future, that it all seems so obvious, inevitable and exciting - It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to discover that he is actually a time travelling alien from outer space tim.blog #
Source Code Podcast - Fixing the internet one browser at a time - Interview with Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker that I found really interesting because she has a wealth of experience in open source communities, has seen things develop from the early utopian web to today, and leads an organisation that is unique in its approach, and is adapting to the modern realities of the world wide web simplecast.com #
Lex Fridman Podcast Ep #173 - Nic Carter - Bitcoin Core Values, Layered Scaling, and Blocksize Debates - I decided to not take notes on this one so I could really concentrate on the content, so I don’t have a summary, I can say though that it’s a great episode, very different pace and style to other recent crypto / blockchain podcasts I’ve been posting recently, it’s got a nice balance of the history, economics, politics and software development topics at play, and concentrates on the hear and now of Bitcoin, very pragmatic and practical with good explanations, you’ll be left with a clear view of the landscape and a good sense for what shape the near term Bitcoin future will have lexfridman.com #
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Have a great weekend and a fantastic next week!