Archive of posts with tag 'technology'

The Challenge of High-Capital Startups

August 17, 2022 • #

Geospatial analytics company Descartes Labs recently sold to private equity, in what former CEO Mark Johnson calls a “fire sale.” This post is his perspective on the nature of the business over time, their missteps along the way in both company identity and fundraising, and some of the shenanigans that can happen as stakeholders start to head for the exits.

Not knowing much about Descartes’ actual business, either the original vision of the product or its actual delivery over the years, I don’t have...

Exapting Technologies

September 9, 2021 • #

New forms of technology tend not to materialize from thin air. The nature of innovation takes existing known technologies and remixes, extends, and co-opts them to create novelty.

Gordon Brander refers to it in this piece as “exapting infrastructure.” As in the case of the internet, it wasn’t nonexistent one day then suddenly connecting all of our computers the next. It wasn’t purposely designed from the beginning as a way for us to connect our millions of computers, phones, and smart TVs. In fact, many types of...

Image credits: Florida ECRRT

Taking Back Our User Accounts

July 28, 2021 • #

Identity management on the internet has been broken for years. We all have 800 distinct logins to different services, registered to different emails with different passwords. Plus your personal data exists in a morass of data silos, each housing a different slice of your personal information, each under a different ToS, subject to differing privacy regulations, and ultimately not owned by you. You sign up for a user account on a service in order for it to identify you uniquely, providing functionality tailored to you. Service providers getting custody of your personal data is a side-effect that’s become an accepted...

Weekend Reading: Bubbles, the Magic of Hobbies, and Legitimacy

June 18, 2021 • #

🗯 Well-Behaved Bubbles Often Make History

Byrne Hobart wrote this piece in the inaugural edition of a16z’s new publication, Future. On bubbles and their downstream effects:

Bubbles can be directly beneficial, or at least lead to positive spillover effects: The telecom bubble in the ’90s created cheap fiber, and when the world was ready for YouTube, that fiber made it more viable. Even the housing bubble had some upside: It created more housing inventory, and since the new houses were quite standardized, that made...

M1 Mac Mini

June 15, 2021 • #

I just got a new Mac Mini with the M1 Apple silicon.

The experience so far is stunning performance compared to my previous 16” MacBook Pro. I was using an i9 with 16GB RAM, and this Mini blows it out of the water on responsiveness (and every other category).

M1 Mac Mini

A little reading on user experiences with the M1 had me interested in upgrading to any machine with the latest SoC. One of my main drivers was the noise and heat generated by the MBP, which is just in constant turbo mode with...

Stripe's Content Strategy

November 17, 2020 • #

Morgan Mahlock wrote recently about the promise of Stripe Press, Stripe’s book publishing outfit:

Within the legacy publishing industry, Stripe’s young publishing press is refreshing - it is Sutherland’s electric cover art on a dusty, tired bookshelf. An Authoritative Look at Book Publishing Startups in the United States by Thad McIlroy states, “Book publishing has never been a technology-adept industry; indeed it is historically technology-averse. This is a challenge for the (minority of) startups targeting existing publishing companies.” Stripe Press is different because it was born from a technology...

Weekend Reading: Disintermediating Media, Boring Tech, and DIY Lights

July 25, 2020 • #

📨 Disintermediating the media with… Substack?

Jerry Brito writes about the growth of independent writing on Substack, prompted by a Mike Solana tweet:

From a technical perspective, Substack does not belong on Solana’s list next to Bitcoin and Signal. Signal is a company, but they have almost no information about their users—no names, no messages. Bitcoin is not a company, but instead a permissionless decentralized network, and “it” can’t decide who can use it or for what. Substack, on the other hand, is a centralized service that permissions who’s allowed on and...

The Torch of Progress with Tyler Cowen

June 11, 2020 • #

This is the second episode of the “Torch of Progress” series that the Progress Studies for Young Scholars program is putting on, hosted by Jason Crawford. Tyler Cowen is unbelievably prolific in projects he’s got going on, so it’s great to see him making the time for things like this.

Read more here from last year on the progress studies movement.

The UNIX System

March 5, 2020 • #

Today on the nerdy computer history feed, we’ve got a 1982 video from Bell Labs: The UNIX System: Making Computers More Productive.

Most of the video has Brian Kernighan explaining the structure of UNIX and why it’s different from its contemporary operating systems. I should do more work with the keyboard in my lap and my feet on the desk.

Navigating a Linux shell looks almost identical to this today, 50 years later.

I liked this quote John Mashey, a computer scientist who...

Readwise and Instapaper

February 27, 2020 • #

Discovering Readwise a few months ago caused me to resurrect my long-dormant Instapaper account. Instapaper was my go-to “read later” service, but I also used it as a general bookmark archive. After a while I’d fallen into only using it for the latter, which then made me go back to Pinboard since the single function of bookmark tagging is its specialty. I’m still using Pinboard heavily to archive interesting things, but I’ve found a new use for Instapaper with Readwise’s integration.

Readwise’s main feature is to sync all of the highlighted passages from your...

Enter Ethernet

February 25, 2020 • #

The specification for Ethernet was proposed in 1973 by Bob Metcalfe as a medium to connect the expanding network of computers at Xerox PARC. This was a schematic he drew as part of the memo proposing the technology to connect the machines together:

Ethernet schematic

From this Wired article:

PARC was installing its own Xerox Alto, the first personal computer, and EARS, the first laser printer. It needed a system that would allow additional PCs and printers to be added without having to reconfigure or shut down the network. It was...

Kindle Features and Areas for Improvement

February 12, 2020 • #

The Kindle launched in 2007, making ebooks accessible as a format not only because of a compelling device, but also a marketplace for content. Suddenly most books were available instantly for $10 a piece. No more trips to the store, expensive hardcovers and paperbacks, and importantly, no more paper taking up shelf space. As much as I love the Kindle, I have a growing list of gripes about the experience. Like with John Gruber’s recent post on the iPad, criticism comes from a place of love for the platform, and a disappointment with how...

The Tech History Playlist

February 5, 2020 • #

As I’ve been reading more into the history of technology1, specifically computers and the Internet, I’ll go on side trails through Wikipedia or the wider ‘net back to many of the source papers that were the seeds of certain innovations.

I’ve read about the IBM 700 series of mainframes, Vannevar Bush’s seminal piece on a “memex” device (precursor idea to hypertext), and Claude Shannon’s original work on information theory.

The latest gold mine I’ve found is on YouTube. I created...

Weekend Reading: Internet of Beefs, Company Culture, and Secular Cycles

January 18, 2020 • #

🥩 The Internet of Beefs

Venkatesh Rao has assembled a most compelling explanation for how the internet polarization machine works:

The semantic structure of the Internet of Beefs is shaped by high-profile beefs between charismatic celebrity knights loosely affiliated with various citadel-like strongholds peopled by opt-in armies of mooks. The vast majority of the energy of the conflict lies in interchangeable mooks facing off against each other, loosely along lines indicated by the knights they follow, in innumerable battles that play out every minute across the IoB.

Almost none of these battles matter...

Some Reflections on Early History by J.C.R. Licklider

January 17, 2020 • #

I’m currently reading the fantastic book The Dream Machine, a history of the creation of personal computers, and a biography of this man, JCR Licklider. This is a talk from an ACM conference in 1986 where he discusses his work on interactive computing. A wonderful little bit of history here.

AWS re:Invent 2019

December 9, 2019 • #

AWS’s re:Invent conference just wrapped last week. Since we’re so deep into AWS technologies, I keep an eye out each year on the trends visible in Amazon’s product launches. They move at breathtaking speed to fill out their offering suite and keep their current momentum as the leader in the cloud space. They’re really nailing the bundling & scale economics that the likes of Microsoft and Oracle were so successful at in years past. When going upmarket, having a product for every problem outweighs the need for having the highest quality in any individual product line. Enterprises...

Weekend Reading: Strasburg Tipping, RapiD, and TikTok Investigation

November 2, 2019 • #

⚾️ How the Nationals Fixed Stephen Strasburg and Saved Their Season

Strasburg tipping his pitches almost ended the Nats’ run:

He remembered the game Strasburg pitched in Arizona on August 3. The Diamondbacks pounded Strasburg for nine runs in less than five innings. The D-Backs knew what was coming. The Nationals broke down the tape and discovered Strasburg was tipping his pitches by the way he reached into his glove to grip the baseball near his waist, just before he raised his hands to the set position.


iPad Pro 11" Impressions

October 20, 2019 • #

I just got the latest version of the iPad Pro, opting for the 11” model instead of the previous generation 12.9” one that I’ve been using for 2 years. Some brief thoughts so far on a week’s worth of usage:

The iPad

So far the smaller form factor takes a little bit of getting used to, but the weight and size is a huge improvement in portability. When this iPad is the only thing in my bag, it almost feels empty it’s so light. I also love the ability to one-hand the device without feeling like I’m about to...

The History of Steel

October 10, 2019 • #

Since I’ve been following the progress studies movement and Jason Crawford’s Roots of Progress blog, it was cool to see video of his talk on the history of steel from a San Francisco meetup a few weeks ago.

Dictating Notes with Siri

October 9, 2019 • #

I’ve been looking for a smooth way to dictate notes and thoughts while hands-free from my phone, particularly while running or driving.

When I run I typically wear one AirPod and have my phone inaccessible in a waistband pouch on my back. Since I’m usually listening to audiobooks while running, I don’t have an easy way to log thoughts or perform the audio equivalent of highlighting things.

I never use Siri at all but for a couple of easy, reliable Shortcuts for dictation. I thought this was a perfect candidate to explore the “Hey Siri” activation support with custom commands...

Netlify for Content Management and Hosting

September 10, 2019 • #

We’ve been exploring options for adding a CMS to our Jekyll-powered website for Fulcrum over the last couple of weeks, looking for ways to add more content editor-friendly capabilities without having to overhaul everything under the hood, or move to a full hosted CMS like Wordpress. The product and design teams responsible for the technical development of the website all prefer the simplicity and flexibility of static site generators, but understand the relative opacity of learning git, command lines, and the vagaries of something like Jekyll for team members just writing content.

One of the options we’ve...

AirPods with Apple TV

September 9, 2019 • #

I recently learned that you can pair your AirPods with the Apple TV, which I’ve been using for the last couple of weeks. With two kids sleeping nearby plus noise from the nearby kitchen, it’s impossible to get the volume loud enough to make out dialog in most shows. Because of this we always have the captions on for everything. But this new discovery solves this problem, plus it makes it easy to get up and walk away for a minute without having to pause anything.

This guide shows how to connect to them....

Adobe Wall Hut

September 8, 2019 • #

Another fun one from the Primitive Technology channel. I previously linked to his videos a few months back. This time he builds a stacked brick wall around a new thatched hut out of clay bricks. The patience and craftsmanship required to build the things he does is truly admirable.

I think we’d all be mentally healthier if we spent more time disconnecting and creating things. If only I had the Queensland jungle in my backyard!

1Password X

September 6, 2019 • #

For a long time I’ve used the full 1Password desktop app and its browser plugin that installs alongside for support inside of Chrome. But recently I set up the 1Password X browser extension they first released a couple of years ago, and I’m converted. Since access to accounts is most useful in a web browser context, implementing it as an extension makes sense. I don’t know much about the tech backend or advantages of building a Chrome extension versus a “thick-client” browser plugin, but it seems like it’s certainly a benefit to conform...

Suncoast Developers Guild

August 30, 2019 • #

A few months ago I joined the advisory board of the Suncoast Developers Guild, a code school and developer community here in St. Pete. Our company has been involved with this group since back when they first launched the Iron Yard campus back in 2014.

Suncoast Developers Guild

We’ve had a successful experience connecting with the local community through this channel, supporting students looking to shift careers into work on software and recruiting them into our team. Currently 5 people from our dev and product teams came out of those cohorts of front-end...

Steve Jobs in 1981

August 23, 2019 • #

I saw this Nightline interview clip with Steve Jobs from a recent Steven Sinofsky post.

In this clip is his famous “bicycle for the mind” quote about the personal computer.

This is a 21st century bicycle that amplifies a certain intellectual ability that man has. And I think that after this process has come to maturity, the effects that it’s going to have on society are going to far outstrip even those of the petrochemical revolution has had.

Hard to believe...

On the Tumblr Sale

August 19, 2019 • #

One of the big events in tech last week was that Verizon offloaded Tumblr to Automattic, Matt Mullenweg’s company most known for Wordpress.

I had my main blog/website on Tumblr back when it first launched in 2007, which I used for a number of years before migrating it over to this current self-managed iteration on GitHub back around 20111. At the time I loved Tumblr’s middleground between the long-form-friendly full Wordpress blog and the short-form nature of Twitter. Tumblr’s “tumblelog” concept easily supported either mode depending on what you...

Garmin fenix 5

July 23, 2019 • #

Wearables have become such a big market these days that there’s a wide variety of options to pick from if you want to monitor activity metrics. From the basic Fitbit step counters to more ruggedized outdoor watches to full-blown smartwatches, there’s a device for everyone.

I’ve been a devoted user of Garmin’s activity tracking watches for years now, starting out with the Forerunner 220. A couple of years ago I upgraded to the fēnix 5 model, one of their highest-end watches.

Garmin fēnix 5

I used the 220 model...


July 17, 2019 • #

Yesterday was Neuralink’s unveiling of what they’ve been working on. Their team of engineers, neurosurgeons, and computer science experts are working on a “neural lace” brain-computer interface.

Elon Musk announced the launch of a company to work on this problem back in 2016. Seeing this amount of progress, it’s clear now that the science fiction story of a cybernetic implant looks like a possible near future reality. The idea itself conjures images of Neuromancer’s console cowboys and Effinger’s “moddies”, neural augmentations that...

Reaching the Early Majority

June 18, 2019 • #

Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm is part of the tech company canon. It’s been sitting on my shelf for years unread, but I’ve known the general nature of the problem it illuminates for years. We’ve even experienced some of its highlighted phenomena first hand in our own product development efforts in bringing Geodexy, allinspections, and Fulcrum to market.

Moore’s “Technology Adoption Life Cycle” is the axis of the book:

The chasm

In principle, the advice laid out rings very logical,...

Weekend Reading: Tissot's Indicatrix, National Park Fonts, and Starlink

June 8, 2019 • #

🌐 Tissot’s Indicatrix

This is a neat interactive tool to visualize distortion due to map projection using Tissot’s indicatrix, a mathematical model for calculating the amount of warp at different points:

Nicolas Auguste Tissot published his classic analysis on the distortion on maps in 1859 and 1881. The basic idea is that the intersection of any two lines on the Earth is represented on the flat map with an intersection at the same or a different angle. He proved that at almost every point on the Earth, there’s a right angle intersection...

Primitive Technology

June 6, 2019 • #

I just ran across this YouTube channel called Primitive Technology, created by an Australian from the North Queensland bush country who attempts to recreate building things with Stone Age technology. He makes his own charcoal, fires clay hardware, makes tools, and supplies himself with mud, clay, wood, and everything else right out of the local environment.

Each one is silent with the work speaking for itself. Turn on captions to see embedded explainers talking about what he’s doing. An easy YouTube rabbit hole.

Twitter Lists

May 7, 2019 • #

Like many in the Twitterverse, I love the platform. It provides my main interface to following what’s happening, along with staying connected to interests both personal and professional.

Jumping off something James wrote yesterday, I’ve felt similar about Twitter’s utility the last year or so. It feels like I’m experiencing some sort of content creep — probably a function of an increasing number of accounts I follow and the neighboring universe of likes and retweets from that expanding footprint, which generates a massive amount of noise in the algorithmic feed.

I don’t spend a ton of...

Foxelli Headlamp

May 5, 2019 • #

Since I do so many of my runs at night (even as late as 10-10:30pm), I’ve always been mindful of being visible for safety. Until we moved last month, I used to drive down to the Coffee Pot Bayou area and run on what’s called the North Bay Trail, since runs in my old neighborhood were boring. That whole route was on a dedicated trail set back from the street, so visibility was less of an issue. Now that I’m doing most runs in the neighborhood, even though the sidewalks are good, there are plenty of...

Clippy: The Unauthorized Biography

April 28, 2019 • #

One of my favorite tech figures, a16z’s Steven Sinofsky, gives a history of “Clippy”, the helpful anthropomorphic office supply from Microsoft Office. As the product leader of the Office group in the 90s, he gives some interesting background to how Clippy came to be. I found most fascinating the time machine look back at what personal computing was like back then — how different it was to develop a software product in a world of boxed software.

Everyone makes fun...

Weekend Reading: Gene Wolfe, Zoom, and Inside Spatial Networks

April 27, 2019 • #

📖 Gene Wolfe Turned Science Fiction Into High Art

Wolfe’s work, particularly his Book of the New Sun “tetralogy”, is some of my favorite fiction. He just passed away a couple weeks ago, and this is a great piece on his life leading up to becoming one of the most influential American writers. I recommend it to everyone I know interested in sci-fi. Even reading this made me want to dig up The Shadow of the Torturer and start reading it for a...

Weekend Reading: Remote Work, Autonomous Behaviors, and AirPods 2

March 23, 2019 • #

👨🏽‍💻 Why Naval Ravikant Thinks Remote Work is the Future

Anyone that works in a successful company with a large distributed staff can attest to remote-first being the future for knowledge work organizations. The more we expand our remote team at our company, the better we all get at realizing all of its benefits. It seems like an inevitability to me that there’ll be a tipping point where all new tech companies begin as remote-centric groups. Naval, the founder of AngelList (which is a key...

A Resurgence of Email

February 27, 2019 • #

Email is seeing a resurgence in an age when everyone’s been crying that email is dead. The comeback is not so much as a tool for intra-office communication (though it’s still alive and well in most organizations, Slack has overtaken email in ours), but as a publishing medium.

Newsletters have become a popular means for connecting with readers, helping publishers (and especially independent writers) cut through the noise that pervades social media channels. The constant feed of non-stop, clickbait-ish content makes it hard to cut through that waterfall with deep analysis or thoughtful writing.


Weekend Reading: Private DNS, Opportunity, and Millennial Socialism

February 23, 2019 • #

🔌 Announcing Privacy-First DNS

This is an old announcement, but new to me. CloudFlare now hosts privacy-centric DNS at, available to all:

We talked to the APNIC team about how we wanted to create a privacy-first, extremely fast DNS system. They thought it was a laudable goal. We offered Cloudflare’s network to receive and study the garbage traffic in exchange for being able to offer a DNS resolver on the memorable IPs. And, with that, was born.

🛰 Opportunity is No...

The End of the Beginning

November 25, 2018 • #

An excellent talk from a16z’s Benedict Evans on what’s next for tech and the internet.

A Week with the iPad

October 11, 2018 • #

For the last 7 days I’ve only been using the iPad. I’ve had a 12.9” iPad Pro for about a year, but have only used it in “work mode” occasionally so I don’t have to lug the laptop home all the time. Most of what I do these days doesn’t require full macOS capability, so I’m experimenting in developing the workflow to go tablet-only.

Slack, G Suite apps, mail, calendar, Zoom, Asana, and 1Password covers about 85% of the needs. There are a few things like testing Fulcrum, Salesforce, any code editing, that can still be challenging, but they partially...

High Security, High Usability

October 4, 2018 • #

As computing platforms get more complex and critical to daily life, maintaining secure usage gets more challenging.

I’ve written about this before, but it’s a known mantra in the product and IT space that security and usability are inversely proportional. That is, a gain in one is a loss in the other. This has long been visible in enterprise software that is perceived as annoying or frictional in the pursuit of security (password rotation every n days, can’t reuse, complexity requirements). It’s what gives employees a bad taste in their mouth about enterprise systems,...

A Product Origin Story

September 11, 2018 • #

Fulcrum, our SaaS product for field data collection, is coming up on its 7th birthday this year. We’ve come a long way: from a bootstrapped, barely-functional system at launch in 2011 to a platform with over 1,800 customers, healthy revenue, and a growing team expanding it to ever larger clients around the world. I thought I’d step back and recall its origins from a product management perspective.

We created Fulcrum to address a need we had in our business, and quickly realized its application to dozens of other markets with a slightly different color of the...

Weekly Links: Ambient Computers, Drones, and Focus

June 1, 2017 • #

💻 The Disappearing Computer

For his final weekly column of his long career, Walt Mossberg talks about what he calls “ambient computing”, the penetration of IoT, AR, VR, and computers throughout our lives:

I expect that one end result of all this work will be that the technology, the computer inside all these things, will fade into the background. In some cases, it may entirely disappear, waiting to be activated by a voice command, a person entering the room, a change in blood chemistry, a shift in temperature, a motion. Maybe even just a thought. Your whole...


April 4, 2017 • #

A couple years ago I bought a Kindle Paperwhite, after moving almost exclusively to ebooks when the Kindle iPhone app launched with the App Store. I read constantly, and always digital books, so I thought I’d write up some thoughts on the Kindle versus its app-based counterparts like the Kindle apps, iBooks, and Google Books, all of which I’ve read a significant amount with. For I long time I resisted the Kindle hardware because I wasn’t interested in a reflective-only reading surface. The Paperwhite’s backlit screen and low cost made it easy for me to justify buying....