Mark Smith’s Newsletter - Saturday 27th March, 2021

Intel Foundry Services, Creator Economy, Medium, Substack, Influencers, No-code, Platforms, Crypto & NFTs, RMS, ESM, new codebase tips, YouTube tech, foldables, Tailwinds, LXD, pipes, privacy, Zuck...

Hello and welcome to my newsletter!

Another season 2 instalment…

BrooklynbridgeNFT by The_Unamed_Artist_John_Cleese

Following some comments on Indie Hackers, I’ve added some subheadings to the intro section so it’s easier to parse and navigate. I decided to go with News, Tutorials, Technologies and Write-ups, I might change these a bit over the next few weeks.

There is also some NFT artwork!

It’s ended up being another long one, so you probably want to grab yourself a drink and a snack…but there are loads and loads of awesome articles, and a lot of tech industry synergies coalescing.


Intel Foundry Services

The biggest announcement this week was from Intel. They have taken quite a few hits in the last few years, and Apple’s move to M1 arm chips has everyone thinking they are in decline. Their CEO keynote this week outlined a very strong roadmap that aims to restore the company to its former glory. Of the announcements in the keynote, Intel Foundry Services is the most ambitious, and will see them expand into fabricating x86 but also ARM and RISC-V chips for 3rd parties. New factories to be opened in the US and in the EU. It’s a big move, and reminds me of Amazon Web Services in concept but for hardware, and might very well create the growth they need for the next 10 years. The world is moving to digital at an increasingly rapid pace and they want to be making the chips.

Creator Businesses

There has been a lot of movement in recent weeks in the so called Creator Economy. This is the term loosely associated with influencers, independent writers, and the other people creating content and products in the social media space. It’s the modern way of creating digital goods.

An analysis piece from Ben Thompson about Substack and it’s strategy to view writers as independents. There’s also a piece about Substack’s approach to content moderation, something which all the platforms are doing these days. Medium also announced a pivot to what is essentially a Substack model, and is causing some controversy in journalism circles. The space is certainly seeing a lot of movement, which is being bolstered by the Fintech / Crypto startups and music streaming services. If you remember the last few weeks saw Jack Dorsey’s Square acquiring Jay-Z’s Tidal. The big play here is that they see creators will be creating businesses and they want to be building the modern tools to make this a reality.

If you are looking to get a better general sense of the shape of the creator economy, definitely have a listen this week’s Recode Media podcast Peter Kafka interview with Christina “Tinx” Najjar who became a TikTok star overnight and discussion with Vox’s Rebecca Jennings about the economics of being an influencer. The businesses that are being created from social media stars have very unique properties and occur in very different ways to classic media businesses.

All this user generated content is changing how we moderate online platforms, and there’s an really interesting Techdirt Podcast interview with Alex Feerst, former Head of Trust & Safety at Medium, that discusses many of the important and difficult topics.

There’s a great Indie Hackers Podcast this week, with Courtland interviewing Ben Tossell, their conversation is an interesting window into what it’s like building a business and have it acquired. They are both in the community side of the creator economy, with Ben’s Makerpad having been acquired by Zapier, and Courtland’s Indie Hackers acquired by Stripe. Makerpad is right in the middle of the no-code movement which has been picking up steam in recent weeks, I have certainly noticed an uptick in related stories. It’s an area of tech that I’m interested in since my years working for an enterprise software starup, I coded lots of components for their no-code workflow builder, which ai used to build some very complex media ingest and processing workflows.

Speaking of which, I noticed yesterday that my old employer Signiant, has started acquiring software startups. They have been building a platform for media production collaboration. It’s based around file movement, and they have APIs to quickly setup media collaboration environments. The interesting thing is that along with the wave of creator economy businesses, there’s been a parallel wave of innovation in more traditional media businesses, most of which have been transitioning to digital. They’ve been at the forefront of that for years, with most of the biggest media companies in the world being customers. In recent years they have been helping these companies move to the cloud. I’m really interested to see how they integrate Lesspain Software into the platform, especially because it’s a maker of classic media production tools, but also tools social media content production.

Crypto and NFTs

The crypto space continues to move at quite a pace. It’s become apparent to me that they are driving a lot of the innovation in other parts of the tech industry. It makes sense that the new ways of communicating online would require new ways of building and financing companies. It’s a bit of the wild west at the minute, but that’s the meme heavy vibe that’s always driven things on the internet, so it’s fitting.

If you’re looking to get a handle on crypto, then check out John Oliver’s seriously sarcastic but also quite informative episode about Cryptocurrencies, despite his head-body problem.

The auction of Jack Dorsey’s first tweet NFT continued throughout the week, eventually selling for $3 million. All proceeds have been given to the charity Give Directly. In what is likely completely unrelated, a giant boat called Ever Given has been stuck in the Suez Canal, completely blocking it for the past 3 days. WTF.

In other NFT shenanigans, John Cleese is selling a Brooklyn Bridge NFT. It currently has a $35,643.51 highest bid.

The Ride Home Podcast had a special bonus episode that explores whether NFTs are actually good for artists or not. There’s definitely some shady stuff going on in places.

Richard Stallman is Back

The other big news this week was in the governance layer. Richard Stallman is back on the board of directors of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). It’s very controversial as he quit a few years back after an outpouring from the community at some things he wrote online. By the looks of things, running communities over the long term can get very complicated.


There’s a tutorial on how to quickly familiarise yourself with a new codebase. Something that we all have to do at some point, and there are some very useful and practical tips.

Validating data is super important in any applications that are receiving data from users, and an increasingly popular way to do that is to use JSON schema, so the Understanding JSON schema ebook is worth a read.

I mentioned my worry about the state if the NodeJS module system last week, so I’ve included a tutorial on how to create modules that work for CommonJS and ESM. It’s kind of complicated.


The technology stories that jumped out it me this week were YouTube testing product detection software, Samsung getting really into foldable phones, there’s even talk of a double hinged model, Docker alternative LXD is worth looking at especially after the Docker forced upgrade incident, and Torvalds on where rust fits into Linux.


A piece that compares Tailwinds CSS and Bootstrap and a really great article on building your own yahoo pipes, great example of where “no-code” software can make a lot of sense.

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 often interesting in their own right, and often end up developing into something more substantial further down the line.

The writeup of the Reddit Account Saga will have to wait until next week. The only other big thing for me was a reminder of the years passing me by. That one hit me quite hard.

Ok that’s me done for this week, time for another coffee…

I hope you enjoy the links!

Special mentions

Stuff from me

🚀 Some really useful comments about the latest edition of the newsletter on Indie Hackers, next week I’m going to try adding some subheadings in the intro section, hopefully it will make it easier to parse and navigate - Thanks @alexanderg :) #

Stuff from around the web


The #1 tip to familiarize with new JavaScript Codebases - If you are a programmer and are going to read one article today, read this one - It’s full of super practical advice and techniques to quickly analyse an unfamiliar codebase so you can get a rough idea of where all the hot parts are, and which places might need refactoring - Many of the techniques work in other languages or have equivalent tools #

How the Irish became white - The mythologies of our societies are the software of the past, for all their inconsistencies, they have much much better longevity than any of the bits and bytes we write as software developers, that’s worth remembering; I once watched the queen of England be shown the book of Kells, she was visiting Ireland, I was watching the television in the reception waiting to go and do a software demo for some media execs, I wondered what it must be like to do a demo for a monarch #

Trump returning to social media with 'his own platform' in 2-3 months - However you feel about Trump it’s certainly interesting to see that the only way to be stable online is to have your own platform, fine if you are a millionaire, but what about regular people? Trump does SaaS will be super interesting to watch #

Time is running out to bid on an NFT version of Jack Dorsey’s first tweet - Current highest bid is $2.5 million by @sinaEstavi, all proceeds will be donated to. Give Directly, a charity that gives money directly to people living in poverty #

Google and the Age of Privacy Theater - Great article that looks at the Ad Tech privacy and tracking story, the new technologies being developed look likely to be discriminatory, enable scammers and liars, maximise engagement at all costs, lead to the creation of dubious recommendation algorithms, and might actually make tracking worse by linking activity to your email address - In addition there is this fact worth considering: “Even if you, personally, avoid being tracked, you still live with the consequences of an economy built on monitoring people’s behavior” #

John Cleese (Verified) - “Hello! It is time you meet my alter ego "Unnamed Artist" I'm delighted to offer you the opportunity of a lifetime. I'm selling my 1st NFT. Though bidding starts at 100.00, you can “BUY IT NOW” for 69,346,250.50!” #

Richard Stallman is Coming Back to the Board of the Free Software Foundation, Founded by Himself 35 Years Ago #

Comparing Tailwinds CSS and Bootstrap implementations of the same website - Article goes into some of the reasons for using Tailwinds CSS (I haven’t tried it) over Bootstrap (I’ve used it a lot), the most persuasive being, in my opinion, getting used to not relying on the framework’s components, and better handling of responsive design and dark mode #

The infinite drum machine - Create beats using sounds from the everyday world - Pretty fun audio project #

The Blob Opera - I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing when I recorded this but I think it turned out quite well all things considered #

Samsung bets big on foldable smartphones amid chip crunch - I’m interested to learn about web development efforts aimed at these new foldables, also they have mentioned that they are working on a double foldable phone, what is that going to look like? #

YouTube experiment will auto-detect products in videos and provide related content links - Good to see some actual innovation in Ad Tech rather than all the surveillance tracking, hyper linking video is pretty cool #

Jack Dorsey’s first tweet sold as an NFT for an oddly specific $2,915,835.47 #

Richard M. Stallman returns to the Free Software Foundation Board of Directors - I once attended a lecture given by RMS in the UK at a university just outside London around 2004-ish, it was very good, very inspiring, he didn’t interact much with anyone before or after the lecture, he was very busy typing away on his laptop #

Daily Overview - Dutch Tulips - It’s the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, flowers will be in bloom soon #

OVH writes off another data centre – SBG1 – and reveals new smoking battery incident - More details about the big OVH fire, interesting if you are a sysadmin or live in the EU #

Building my own yahoo! pipes - Awesome writeup of using Node-RED to build some cool RSS feed scrapers and processors, includes some excellent screenshots of the workflow canvas so you get a really good idea of what is possible - I really would like to do some work with Node-RED, it looks like it could be a really useful tool to use in creating modern news workflows #

LXD is a next generation system container manager - Someone in an HN thread I was in earlier recommended this as an alternative to Docker #

Messaging platform provider Discord reportedly exploring sale at $10B #

Please don't upgrade Docker without asking first (HN Thread) - There is a bit of a discussion going on around the latest Docker releases which do forced automatic upgrades, that in some cases break the installation, and there is some concern about how the Docker team has handled the situation, very relevant since many modern developer environments rely on Docker #

Quite a lot of people are not happy about RMS returning to the FSF’s board, based on this article it’s hard to tell who is hated more Trump or Stallman #

Linus Torvalds on where Rust will fit into Linux #

Douglas Adams found writing torture - I can relate, also I am reminded that he died at 49, I can practically see that number when I stare into the distance, maybe by 49 I will be happily working on exciting web development jobs #

Sovereign Writers and Substack - Ben Thompson analysis piece on the changing publishing industry, lots of great insight, the part that stands out to me is how the new system will be sustainable, especially because writers that do analysis, very often rely on regular journalists to report the news, but if they all become independent writers, then that is going to be problematic, which is probably why advertising is so prevalent - In the past many independent writers would have started their own media businesses, but it’s not clear that will happen if all the technology is outsourced to cloud software companies #

Medium is moving to a Substack style model, citing the fact that total readership has increased, but readership for it’s publications has not, so it is offering current editorial team voluntary exists via buyouts and plans to hire individual writers going forward #

Understanding JSON Schema - eBook that “aims to be the friendly driving instructor for JSON Schema” #

Intel announces that it is opening some new factories and a ‘Foundry Service’ where it will manufacture chips for 3rd parties, supporting both x86 and arm architectures, they might even manufacture some of the new M1 chips for Apple - Interesting pivot given the state of the industry, if you can’t beat ‘em... #

Intel Unleashed, Gelsinger on Intel, IDM 2.0 - Reviewing the recent Intel announcements, it’s a strong roadmap and re-organisation, it reminds me a bit of when Amazon created Amazon Web Services, but what’s interesting is that it’s for hardware rather than software, it might very well be setting them up for a very large growth trajectory in the coming years #

Zuckerberg suggests how to tweak tech's liability shield - He’s proposing that platforms should be required to demonstrate they can remove content at scale, great if you have already built your fortress, not so great for the rest of us #


Ride Home Podcast - Are NFTs bad for artists? - Brian and art circle connoisseur Ti Zhang discuss the many ways NFTs are actually disenfranchising artists rather than helping them, I had foreseen some of these issues and mentioned them last week, but there are a load more that I was unaware of, there are a few high profile artists where it's working great, but for average artists, there are scams, it takes away their ability to choose to participate, and there are even problems with the robustness of the NFTs, lots of problems that need fixing in this space, if you are into NFTs then this episode is a must listen #

Recode Media Podcast - How Christina “Tinx” Najjar became a TikTok star overnight - I’m quite interested in finding out more about the so called “creator economy” because it seems that tech companies are making moves to grow this segment, so I found this an interesting episode, it’s not super technical but you get a very good picture of the major trends and forces at work, the interview with Tinx is followed by a general discussion about how creators are making money, the question I’m asking myself is if there is a place for freelance web developers in this new world or are the big platforms hoovering everything up for themselves? #

Techdirt Podcast - The State of Trust and Safety - Interview with Alex Feerst, former Head of Trust & Safety at Medium - Platforms have evolved a lot in recent years and have exposed the human side of our interactions online, teams have formed to moderate, it’s a difficult and tiring job where many very difficult decisions have to be taken per day, and someone will be unhappy 100% of the time, other topics covered include consistency, unit economics of justice, the marching band beating up the football team, the mindset of being able to think about all the ways things could go wrong, problems turning inside out, the snake eating it’s tail, human subjectivity, the surprising frequency of things being described as ‘self evident’, social platform design, trolls being like fans but reverse polarity, blockchain and distributed technologies, the horsemen of the content moderation apocalypse, most content moderation issues eventually boiling down to a storage or payment issue, and a lot more - It’s a surprisingly casual conversation given the often difficult subject matter #

Indie Hackers Podcast Ep #197 Inside Zapier’s first acquisition with Ben Tossell of Makerpad - I enjoyed this episode because both Courtland and Ben have had very similar entrepreneurial journeys, having both had their community based businesses acquired by a large technology company, there are lots of great insights into what the process of building and selling a company is actually like, it’s also interesting because Makerpad is in the No-code space #


Thanks for reading!


Mark Smith‘s Newsletter is a weekly roundup of some of the best javascript, tech and web development links published to my daily linkblog.

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Have a great weekend and a fantastic next week!