Shared posts

10 Aug 19:10

Non-intrusive termination of noisy optimization

by Larson, Jeffrey
06 Jul 16:17

This Week in RSS Apocalypse

by jwz
Marco Arment:

Officially, Google killed Reader because "over the years usage has declined". I believe that statement, especially if API clients weren't considered "usage", but I don't believe that's the entire reason.

The most common assumption I've seen others cite is that "Google couldn't figure out how to monetize Reader," or other variants about direct profitability. I don't believe this, either. Google Reader's operational costs likely paled in comparison to many of their other projects that don't bring in major revenue, and I've heard from multiple sources that it effectively had a staff of zero for years. It was just running, quietly serving a vital role for a lot of people.


Google Reader is just the latest casualty of the war that Facebook started, seemingly accidentally: the battle to own everything. While Google did technically "own" Reader and could make some use of the huge amount of news and attention data flowing through it, it conflicted with their far more important Google+ strategy: they need everyone reading and sharing everything through Google+ so they can compete with Facebook for ad-targeting data, ad dollars, growth, and relevance.

RSS represents the antithesis of this new world: it's completely open, decentralized, and owned by nobody, just like the web itself. It allows anyone, large or small, to build something new and disrupt anyone else they'd like because nobody has to fly six salespeople out first to work out a partnership with anyone else's salespeople.

That world formed the web's foundations -- without that world to build on, Google, Facebook, and Twitter couldn't exist. But they've now grown so large that everything from that web-native world is now a threat to them, and they want to shut it down. "Sunset" it. "Clean it up." "Retire" it. Get it out of the way so they can get even bigger and build even bigger proprietary barriers to anyone trying to claim their territory.

Well, fuck them, and fuck that.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

26 May 21:14

He’s dead, Jim.

by Yonatan Zunger

So I know that everyone is expecting me to write a long post about bin Laden’s death, and I was planning it, but then I saw this LOLbama (thanks to David Nachum) and it just said it better than anything else could:

Sorry it took so long to get you a copy of my birth certificate. I was too busy killing Osama bin Laden.

Serious kudos (and areté, and timé, though those are not in my power to grant; but they have been earned, indeed) to everyone who was involved in this, from the initial intelligence gathering and assessment all the way out to the strike team that actually did the deed. It really couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy. A few interesting points to mention:

  • Looks like a notably flawless execution. Zero US casualties, and on the other side bin Laden plus three other henchmen dead, two women wounded. For an operation like this, that’s absolutely amazing.
  • Pretty importantly, we recovered the body and buried it at sea. This is actually very important, and tells me that Obama really gets how to play this game; in the Islamic world, funerals are often the initiating points for mass movements, and tombs of martyrs become pilgrimage sites. I had been hoping they would at least do unmarked-grave-in-the-desert; the sea is even better. Top marks for strategy.
  • Obama’s remarks indicated thanks to the Pakistani government and so on, but were notably vague about whether they were notified before or after the operation. Not that I really give much of a damn, but it’s an interesting bellwether of our relationship with Pakistan.

On a slightly more general note, I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff which could be written about America’s changing attitudes towards assassination over the past few decades, going from loud protestations of “oh, we would never do that” to the President coming out to give a press conference about it. But that’s an article for another day.

In other Middle East news, Syria has been continuing to heat up, with protests continuing unabated despite a serious attempt to shut them down (very violently) by the government. al-Assad has signaled that he’s willing to play this one Hama-style, with a siege in progress at Dara’a that could easily turn into a massacre of the entire city. But I heard an interesting report this morning that Hezbollah has decided that the risk is too high, and is voting with their feet — they’ve started to move their heavy weapons stores out of Syria and into Lebanon. This could be a very tempting target, so if you hear that Israel decides to bomb the crap out of some targets in Lebanon in the next few weeks, don’t be surprised.