Cloud Computing, Replit, Writing, OODA, 50 Year Newspaper, and more — things I learned about this week

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing turns 15 today — 15 years ago AWS S3 was launched.  I certainly didn’t realize the full impact of this launch at the time. In my last few years at Microsoft (1998, 1999), we were talking about related ideas internally (often under the name “megaserver”), and I admit I wasn’t the most enthusiastic about.  A learning for me.

Development Tools, IoT

I’ve been messing around with development tools and toolchains, partly for IoT experiments.  Adam pushed me to look at repl.it, which is a very compelling proposition.  It is such a PITA to install and maintain dev environments for the various toolchains and target environments, and if you are working in multiple problem domains, you risk creating a real hash on your dev machine.  In the past, teams I’ve been part of have mostly used VMs or containers to manage this complexity and to make it easy for new team members to spin up a standard environment.  repl.it is a very interesting alternative, just spin up the environment instances in the cloud.  I don’t really understand yet how you create fully customized environments.  

The IoT world needs a revolution in development tools and toolchains.  I’ve been breaking my pick (again) working with RPIs and Arduinos, the tools are so flakey, libraries are bad, getting the entire chain of hardware and software working to debug a SFF device is just awful.  I have wasted a week doing stupid shit.  I am rethinking whether I want to screw around with IoT devices.  There is so much of the world that is not digital yet, I keep getting drawn back to IoT, but then the tools wear me out.  Contrast with mobile development — XCode is excellent, well maintained, has a great emulator available, development just goes so much faster.  Not suprisingly, there are billions of mobile apps and very few IoT apps.

Writing

I write for myself — to clarify my thinking and cement my learning.  David Perell offers some excellent guidance on writing, a couple of these points really stick with me:

1. Improving your writing is as simple as packing more useful information into fewer words.

2. Writing is the best way to realize that half the ideas you’re 100% certain about actually make no sense once you put them on paper.

This second point is much the same as rubber duck debugging — if you can’t explain clearly your thinking in verbal or written form, you probably aren’t thinking clearly about.  

Strategic Thinking

I am drawn to thinking about what is important and valuable to work on, and how should one apply oneself to these tasks.

I saw this note early in the week about building an audience — the guidance that it takes years of development and creation for something to take off.  This goes beyond just building an audience — anything I have worked on of note took years to come to fruition (and usually took many people pitching in).  Strategies are built one brick at a time.

This interview with Patrick Collison of Stripe is all over the web and for good reason.  A broad and foundational thinker.  A very inspiring read, there is a ton to follow up on here. 

One of these starting points led me to OODA loops, which I had never been formally introduced to, but which have certainly been crucial tools throughout my career.  And resonates well with my electrical engineering background, where I had years of control theory and feedback loops hammered into me.

An unrelated investigation took me to the idea of a 50 year newspaper.  So much of what counts as “news” is just noise.  I am trying to disconnect from the noise and focus back on the long term trends.

Finally, I appreciate Rand’s point of view on venture capital.  I am a reformed venture capitalist and a former investment in Rand’s companies.  Much of what he observes is true — VC money is expensive, sometimes too expensive, and founders would do well to decide if it is really needed.

Random

I took a course in comparative religion a million years ago, but largely i remain ignorant of the structure of the world religions.  I didn’t realize/remember there are 3+ schools of Buddhism.

The Cochrane Library seems like a valuable resource for sifting thru all the myriad of medical info out there.