Mark Smith’s Newsletter - Saturday 9th January, 2021

Github darkmode, BBC cloud, linux5.11, crypto, APIs, Twttr&pods, free AWS training, Asahi Linux M1, new GPT3 AIs, IoT, tag clouds, OSSinWH, freelancing, NodeJS strategy, Notion, multicloud, pods&vids

Hello and welcome to my newsletter!

Another season 1 instalment…

The minor controversies continued for me this week. I decided to do a bit of investigation as to why my Reddit profile was looking weird. It hasn’t been loading properly when I’m logged out, and it’s been happening since at least mid November last year. The long and short is that my account might have been shadowbanned, but weirdly this must have happened before I had ever posted anything to the account. There’s more details in this IH thread. And of course this all coincided with Trump getting banned everywhere. I still have no idea what’s going on with my account or how to fix it because their support just ignores my attempts to contact them. Any ideas how to fix it would be very helpful.

My mission this week has been to give my LinkedIn profile a bit of a makeover. I decided to finally start using the recommendations feature, because I think it will help with client prospecting. I found it a bit strange asking old colleagues and clients for recommendations, but now some of them are in and I couldn’t be happier, they are truly great - thank you!

I’m still figuring out the balance when negotiating freelance work. If you don’t ask any questions, you risk putting yourself in a bad situation, but if you ask too many then the client can get cold feet. Such a difficult balancing act sometimes! 

I’ve had feedback from a few people that agree with my stance on job interviews, so that was quite nice.

As far as news goes, the week started off very strong with two excellent pieces from the BBC engineering team describing their recent move to a mostly cloud based setup. It’s super interesting to see how massive websites are being architected, and to learn about the trade-offs they faced.

The other story that stood out for me was that Amazon announced it’s going to be training millions and millions of people for free on it’s cloud platform. That’s pretty huge. The future is going to be cloud in a big way.

And there are some pieces about changes related to tech that will arise because of the incoming Biden administration in the US. Freelancing looks to be affected, and there will also likely be a big open source advocate on the Whitehouse staff, so that’s pretty exciting.

Lots of other good reads, though a bit light on javascript articles this week. That’s how it goes sometimes.

I hope you enjoy the links!

Special mentions

Stuff from me

🚀 New Blog Post: Web development technologies bucketlist for 2021 - Getting this year’s blogging ball rolling, making a list is a good way to start

🚀 Housekeeping note: I’ve added links to some of the NodeJS working group repos to my blog post - Reasons to use NodeJS for developing your backend systems

🚀 Re-post: The coming revolution in freelance web development

Stuff from around the web


GitHub dark mode - I missed this earlier in the month, I’m testing it out, it’s pretty cool

How the BBC World Service migrated 31 million weekly readers to an isomorphic react app - Pretty great writeup from the engineering team about their migration from a PHP monolith, it’s cool that they are running server rendered React now, they do a lot of great work when it comes to accessibility since their sites are published in so many different languages and are optimised to run in a huge variety of network connectivity conditions, I’d like to know more about the backend the new system is using, something the article doesn’t cover, did they change backend language? They mention it’s running on cloud infra, but where? And are they using serverless?

Moving BBC Online to the cloud - The engineering team writeup of their recent move from on-premises infrastructure to mostly cloud based where they are using serverless technologies extensively - Very clear articulation of the project high level goals, a description of the layered approach that enables code re-use but also keeps the flexibility to create custom specialised solutions, the re-organisation into teams focussed on page types and common concerns such as development methodology and hosting, interspersed with lots of development principles and guidelines - I have worked on several big projects at the BBC, it’s a staggeringly large organisation, so I am aware of how massive an undertaking this re-architecting of their infrastructure must have been, kudos to all the teams that made it happen

Linux 5.11 dominated by descriptors for new AMD silicon

Jack Dorsey says proposed cryptocurrency regulation would create ‘perverse incentives’

An API Is a Promise - Interacting With Valuable Capabilities - I like this perspective, it’s simple to understand, feels like a good mental model

Twitter buys Breaker social podcast app to boost new Spaces

Amazon wants to train 29 million people to work in the cloud - On the one hand I think this is great, it opens up lots of opportunities for people and small businesses, on the other hand I’ve spent a lot of time, money and considerable effort learning these technologies over the years, and now a huge load of noobs are going to start lapping me while making comments about about my appearance, circle of life? (I was feeling a bit old and cranky when I posted this)

Dell’s automatic webcam shutter is genius and every other laptop should steal it - I definitely like the idea of a webcam shutter but I personally think I would prefer a manual shutter than an automatic one

Asahi Linux aims to bring you a polished Linux experience on Apple Silicon Macs

This avocado armchair could be the future of AI Trained on images+captions from the internet rather than curated data sets, two new GPT-3 based AI models, DALL-E which draws images from imputed text and another called CLIP which selects generated images that best match inputted text are used together to create interesting artwork, could lead to AI with better understanding of every day concepts

Challenges Concerning IoT - Highlights a bunch of important challenges, the most interesting that I hadn’t considered is the issue of bandwidth allocation that will arise later down the line when billions of devices are all operating based on a client/server architecture, basic activities like authentication might start to cause network congestion problems

Create a tag cloud with HTML and CSS - I love tag clouds, I have one on the blog and I use it all the time, and this article is a light read with some nice examples

Open Source developer David Recordon to announced as the Director of Technology for President Biden at the Whitehouse - I wonder if they’ll be running Linux Desktops, wouldn’t that be cool?

How freelancing will change under President Biden - Would be great if they made some policies that dealt with the awful way the recruitment process in tech is structured, which is a very real problem for freelancers

The nodejs/next-10 group are working collaboratively on the strategic direction of NodeJS, here’s an interesting retrospective board that displays the wants of the various constituencies, i.e. end-users, application operators, application developers, library/package authors, organisations with investments in NodeJS, and NodeJS code maintainers

Facebook and Instagram ban Trump for 24 hours - Apparently he posted messages he shouldn’t have, I’d like to see what he posted, can’t find any sites that have copies of the tweets, it’s timely for me because the past few days I’ve been fighting a apparent ban (though no way for me to find out for sure) on Reddit, they banned my account before I ever posted a single post!

UK watchdog to investigate Nvidia’s $40bn Arm deal

slowly falling in love with notion - Brad Frost reviews Notion, it’s a really well though out and nice bit of writing, I’ve been hearing and reading about Notion all over the place recently, in podcasts and on blogs, sounds like a great productivity tool

Cloud Manager - A New Multicloud PaaS Platform Built on Kubernetes - The ability to run your applications seamlessly across cloud providers is going to be a big trend in the next few years because although so far we have seen costs mostly getting cheaper, that might not always be the case, it’s still relatively early days for cloud technologies, costs will vary over time, companies will get bought and sold, and there will be shifts in power dynamics in the cloud space

Gaming Software Pioneer RAD Game Tools Now Part of Epic Games

Building better new cities in Southeast Asia - I am a bit hesitant to link to this article because at first glance it seems very critical of the region, and I’ve been here for a while now and I see that life is _damn difficult_ for so many, they are having to build all these new developments in an unimaginable realm of chaos, they have to make a lot of compromises and progress is hard and slow, but it’s happening, and a lot of it is amazing - I’ve met the author of the article James Clark and he’s a nice bloke who’s been in the region much longer than me, and any comments he’s making are from a place of tremendous affection he has for all the places mentioned and their people, and his articles are heavily researched, with a lot of thought and effort going into them, so I think that some of what he’s saying is worth considering - I also think it's fantadtic because it puts the word out that progress is happening, and it’s interesting and it’s real life


Some Recent Videos About Websites That Are Pretty Good - Chris Coyier’s roundup of some dev videos he’s been watching, including why the web is a mess, recreating the Discord sidebar, progressive enhancement, a look at modern javascript and a cssbattle - I haven’t watched any of these yet but Chris has great taste when it comes to frontend development and I wanted to add some frontend links, plus based on his descriptions they look interesting


Jack Dorsey and Running Two Companies - Matt Mullenweg (Automattic, Wordpress) interviews Jack Dorsey (Twitter, Square), hoping to have some time to listen to this later


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.

If you liked this newsletter you might like my blogdaily linkblog or experimental podcast :)

I’m a freelance web developer, consultant and automation engineer, consider hiring me!

Have a great weekend and a fantastic next week!