Monster Talk has gone independent

The excellent podcast Monster Talk, hosted by Blake Smith and Dr. Karen Stollznow, has gone independent.

It used to be connected to Skeptic, the magazine which is edited by Michael Shermer. Even though the podcast had no connection to Shermer, it still meant it was hard to promote the podcast, or even worse, support the podcast financially, without somehow benefiting Skeptic and Shermer.

Luckily, this is no longer the case. A few weeks ago, Smith and Stollznow went independent with the podcast, which is now produced by Blake Smith’s company Monster House, LLC.

If you want to support their new independence, Blake Smith has set up a fundraiser and they have a patreon

I haven’t been able to find a link to the actual podcast which isn’t under the Skeptic domain, but I am sure it is only a matter of time before they have a website I can link.

 

Goodbye Rutger Hauer

I know I am a couple of days late, but as most of you probably know by now, Rutger Hauer passed away a few days ago, 75 years old.

Rutger Hauer is most well known for his role as the replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner, which he played masterfully. One of his many great scenes in the movie, and perhaps the most famous, was his death scene.

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The most amazing part of that monologue at the end, is that Hauer wrote it himself, apparently not being happy with the scene as it was written in the script.

While his role as Roy Batty was incredible, and well worth remembering, I also remember him from many other movies:

The Hitcher, Escape from Sobibor, Ladyhawke, the Blood of Heroes, Wedlock, Split Second, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fatherland, and Sin City. While most of these movies aren’t great movies (Ladyhawke very much the exception), Rutger Hauer gave his all, and made his roles memorable, and the movies entertaining.

Oh, as an aside, it should be mentioned, that Blade Runner was set in 2019, so Roy Batty died that year. Something fans obviously noticed straight away when Rutger Hauer died.

European scientific or health personnel, please sign this manifesto

The Association to Protect the Sick of Pseudoscientific Therapies from Spain, and several other European organizations have gotten together to write a European manifesto against pseudo-therapies

It says, in part:

European directive 2001/83/CE has made –and still makes— possible the daily deceiving of thousands of hundreds of European citizens [10]. Influential lobbies have been given the opportunity to redefine what a medicine is, and now they are selling sugar to sick people and making them believe it can cure them or improve their health. This has caused deaths and will continue to do so until Europe admits an undeniable truth: scientific knowledge cannot yield under economic interests, especially when it means deceiving patients and violating their rights.

Europe is facing very serious problems regarding public health. Over-medicalization, multiresistant bacteria or the financial issues of the public systems are already grave enough, and there is no need to add to that gurus, fake doctors or even qualified doctors who claim they can cure any disease by manipulating chakras, making people eat sugar or employing “quantic frequencies”. Europe must not only stop the promotion of homeopathy but also actively fight to eradicate public health scams, which implicate more than 150 pseudo-therapies in our territory. Thousands of citizens lives depend on that. In fact, according to recent research, 25.9 % of Europeans have used pseudo-therapies last year. In other words, 192 million patients have been deceived [11].

Europe being concerned about the misinformation phenomena but at the same time protecting one the most dangerous types of it, health misinformation, is just not coherent. This is why the people signing this manifesto urge the governments of European countries to end a problem in which the name of science is being used falsely and has already costed the life of too many.

I do not fulfill the criteria for signing the manifesto, but I fully endorse it, and hope that any readers out there, who fulfill the criteria, will read the manifesto in full, and sign it.

It is about time that we got rid of pseudo-science in our health care in Europe.

The Danish election

June 5 is the Danish Constitution Day, and this year it was also the Danish election.

The Danish election was basically a choice between an environment-focused center-left coalition or a right-libertarian coalition, and there was a lot at stake.

Happily the center-left coalition won.

Nearly as important, the center-left coalition won in a way, which probably will force the major party, the Social Democrats, to tone down their xenophobic tendencies, and help make the country better for immigrants and refugees.

Also nearly as important, a fascist party that had entered the election, didn’t get anyone elected. Unfortunately a far-right, xenophobic party, Ny Borgerlige, got in with 4 mandates. Happily, the existing far-right, xenophobic party, Danish Peoples’ Party, got slaughtered, and is down 21 mandates to 16 mandates.

The Guardian has a good commentary on the election results from Denmark: Europe, take note: in Denmark, the humanitarian left is on the rise

On a more personal note. As I have written before, I supported a specific candidate, Samira Nawa (link in Danish), and I am happy to report that she got elected to the Danish parliament.

Book review: Accelerate

Book review of Accelerate: The Science Behind DevOps – Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Nicole Forsgren, PhD, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim.

If you have been at any programming or agile related conference within the last 8 months or so, you will probably have heard people recommend Accelerate. One of the reasons it is often recommended is that it explains the importance of DevOps for high performing tech organizations. This is not really anything new, but what Accelerate does, is base it on actual science, and not just anecdotes and opinions – something we see all too often in the tech field.

The findings of Accelerate is based upon the survey data collected through the yearly survey “State of DevOps” in the years 2014-2017. Those data clearly demonstrated that a high performing organization performed much better than a low performing organization, but they could also be used to explain what caused this differences in performance.

The book is split into 3 parts, a conclusion, and some appendixes. The first part explains the findings, the second part, the science used, and the third part is a case study contributed by Steve Bell and Karen Whitley Bell. I will go through each part separately below.

The first part of the book is called “What we found”, and what they found is certainly noteworthy. They looked at some key indicators of software delivery performance, and found that a high performance organization had the following performance compared to low performance organizations:

  • 46 times more frequent deployments
  • 440 faster lead time from commit to deploy
  • 170 times faster mean time to recover from downtime
  • 5 times lower change failure rate

These numbers are from page 10 of the book, and show a much greater difference than most would expect, no matter how big a proponent of DevOps.

The rest of the first part of the book goes through their other findings, which identifies “24 key capabilities that drive improvement in software delivery performance, and, in turn, organizational performance”. According to the authors, “[t]hese capabilities are easy to define, measure, and improve”.

I won’t include the list here, but many of them relate to DevOps practices and lean management practices, though there are a couple related other things, such as architecture. One thing I will mention, is that the findings indicate that while culture has an influence on the use of DevOps techniques, the use of DevOps techniques also have an influence on culture, which changes as a result of that.

None of the mentioned capabilities are new, but here we have, for the first time, evidence that they actually work, and help improve performance.

The second part of the book, “The Research”, goes into how the research was conducted, and why survey data was suitable for the research. It doesn’t include the actual data, which would have been nice, but I can understand why that isn’t the case (breach of confidentiality etc).

I can’t recall seeing a similar chapter in any other book on programming/systems development, and I highly applaud it. I also think it was a smart move to put it in the second part, rather than the first part, as most people will be more interested in the findings, rather than the methods behind finding them.

The third part of the book, the case study contributed by Steve Bell and Karen Whitley Bell, is called “Transformation”. They takes us to Ing Netherlands, a world-wide bank, where they have been involved in a cultural change, started and lead by the IT manager, enabling the organization to become high-performance.

To be honest, I find this part to be the weakest part of the book, both in content and in presentation, but it does provide a nice overview of practices on the team, management, and leadership level (it can be found online here).

All in all, the findings of the book should not be shocking to people who has worked with agile, DevOps etc., but it is nice to have a list of proven capabilities to focus on. It is also a useful tool when debating with management about these subjects.

I highly recommend the book to people working in any aspect of software engineering – be it as a programmer, a project manager, in a leadership position, or in any other capacity.

RIP Joe Armstrong, the author of Erlang

Sad news from the world of programming, Joe Armstrong, one of the authors of the Erlang language has died

I never worked much with Erlang, and have never met Joe Armstrong, but from everything I hear, he was a genuinely nice man.

If you want to know more about Erlang, and how it was used, you can watch Erlang the Movie.

To be honest, I highly doubt anyone outside the world of programming will get much out of that clip, but it is interesting to watch, since it shows what type of problems Erlang was developed to solve. It gives a view into the early days of digitizing telephony, which wasn’t that long ago, considered how long telephones and other forms of telecommunication has been around.

Reporting on the Mueller Report

The redacted Mueller Report came out yesterday, and there is already some great reporting on it, Let’s just say, that unlike what the Trump administration tried to spin it as, the report is pretty bad for Trump.

You can find a searchable version of the report here.

Lawfare has been busy with writing their first thoughts in What Mueller Found on Russia and on Obstruction: A First Analysis

“Really the best day since he got elected,” said Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor, about a day on which 400 pages dropped into the public’s lap describing relentless presidential misconduct and serial engagements between his campaign and a foreign actor. The weeks-long lag between Attorney General William Barr’s announcement of Robert Mueller’s top-line findings and the release of the Mueller report itself created space for an alternate reality in which the document released today might give rise to such a statement. But the cries of vindication do not survive even the most cursory examination of the document itself.

No, Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, and no, he did not conclude that President Trump had obstructed justice. But Mueller emphatically did not find that there had been “no collusion” either. Indeed, he described in page after damning page a dramatic pattern of Russian outreach to figures close to the president, including to Trump’s campaign and his business; Mueller described receptivity to this outreach on the part of those figures; he described a positive eagerness on the part of the Trump campaign to benefit from illegal Russian activity and that of its cutouts; he described serial lies about it all. And he describes as well a pattern of behavior on the part of the president in his interactions with law enforcement that is simply incompatible with the president’s duty to “take care” that the laws are “faithfully executed”—a pattern Mueller explicitly declined to conclude did not obstruct justice.

The Mueller report is a document this country will be absorbing for months to come. Below is a first crack at analyzing the features that are most salient to us.

Politico has made a an annotated guide to the redacted Mueller report

The Justice Department on Thursday released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials and whether the president obstructed justice.

While the investigation did not find hard evidence of collusion, the report detailed numerous instances in which Trump tried to interfere with the probe.

We’re annotating the document in real time, pulling out the excerpts we find most interesting, and giving you the analysis you need to understand Mueller’s findings.

Andrew Torrez does a great job at looking at the Barr report summary, and how it holds up to the actual report over at Opening Arguments in the episode OA271: Dis-Barred (?) – The Mueller Report

Facebook takes a step in the right direction

It is no secret that social platforms have played a major part in the spread of right-wing ideology.

The social media companies are generally slow in doing anyting against this spreading, some times to such a degree that some people claim that they help spreaad right-wing stuff.
Now, Facebook have taken a step in the right direction.

Facebook said the decision was taken because it bans users who “proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence”.

“Individuals and organisations who spread hate, or attack or call for the exclusion of others on the basis of who they are, have no place on Facebook. Under our dangerous individuals and organisations policy, we ban those who proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence,” Facebook said in a statement.

“The individuals and organisations we have banned today violate this policy, and they will no longer be allowed a presence on Facebook or Instagram. Posts and other content which expresses praise or support for these figures and groups will also be banned. Our work against organised hate is ongoing and we will continue to review individuals, organisations, pages, groups and content against our community standards.”

It is a move that has been slow in comming, but it is good that Facebook has finally taken it. Now, we just need for them to react to all the other far right-winged individuals and groups, and for the other social media, like Twitter, to do it as well.

Edit: I had forgotten to write “far” in front of right-winged in the last paragraph, making it seem like I was calling for a more extreme stance than I did.

Ola Bini arrested in Ecuador

Gizmodo reports on the arrest of programmer superstar Ola Bini by the Ecuadorean government:

Police in Ecuador have arrested Swedish programmer and digital privacy activist Ola Bini for allegedly trying to destabilize the Ecuadorian government by “collaborating” with WikiLeaks. Bini was arrested at Quito Airport in Ecuador on his way to Japan.

Ola Bini is a Swedish programmer with a truly impressive resume, and a frequent speaker at conferences. According to his own website, he has choose to focus on “privacy enhanching technologies”.

So far, it doesn’t seem like Ola Bini has been charged with anything, but the claims made by the Ecuadorian government are very serious.

The EFF has come out in defense of Ola Bini: The Ecuadorean Authorities Have No Reason to Detain Free Software Developer Ola Bini

I am entirely on the side of the EFF on this. I have met Ola Bini, and find it very doubtful that he would do anything like the things claimed by the Ecuadorian government. And even if he had, he should still be allowed proper due process, unlike how he has been treated so far, according to his lawyers.

There is a petition to get Ola Bini released, which you can sign here

I hate April’s Fool Day

When I was younger, I didn’t mind April 1st, and the April 1st jokes it brought with it, but that has changed since then – now I hate April 1st for all the fake news stories, the fake social media posts, and other nonsense it brings with it.

When I was a kid, newspapers and news broadcasts would have a fake story somewhere, which could be fun to figure out. This was before the internet though, so it was fairly limited what sort of harm it could do.

Now, the internet exist, and fake news can spread wide and far before they are debunked. People will share screenshots, headlines etc., which won’t be updated when the fake story is, keeping the fake news alive for months if not years.

Given how much fake stuff that already exists in the form of “satire” websites and outright fraudulent websites, there is absolutely no need for a special day to promote fake stories.

I already have to be critical of every new site I come across, so why would I want to also have to be overly skeptical of news stories from otherwise reliable sources, even if it is only for a day.

Let’s retire April’s Fool Day.