Web dev at the end of the world, from Hveragerði, Iceland

I’m available as a consultant and for coaching. I also have a book out.

Madeline, Existential Terror and other links & notes

I am a web content magpie. I flit around, collecting bits and bobs, here and there. Most of them I post on social media. More Mastodon than anywhere else, these days.

What follows are some of the things that caught my eye over the past few days.


“Exploring the implications and existential terror of AI’s impact on creative industries - Revert to Saved: A blog about design, gaming and technology”

Craig Grannell captures the sentiment towards AI that’s growing in the creative industries. There’s a strong sense that the tech industry is outright coming for people’s livelihoods with destruction in their hearts and scorched earth as their goal. And, you know, I don’t think that’s wrong. It’s hard to mistake the purpose of Midjourney or Stable Diffusion being anything else.


“Producing HTML using string templates has always been the wrong solution”

People have been making this point for over twenty-five years but the industry keeps returning to string concatenation.


“I’m Shadow Banned by DuckDuckGo (and Bing)”


“State of the World 2023: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky”

‘Big Tech, in financial and technical decline across the board. “Detroit syndrome.” It’s hard to arouse raw enthusiasm for anything “digital,” because that high-concept is passe’

Bruce Sterling touches on something that’s been on my mind for a while now: tech was an outlier but is now reverting to the mean. Valuations are converging with other industries. Regulators are slowly getting their act together. People are realising that tech companies aren’t magic. They waste a lot of money. Quite a few of their products, like Alexa and voice assistants in general, are fashion ephemera who will only be missed as nostalgic callbacks—future iterations of the “cassette tape with pencil” meme. “You are X years' old if you know what this is.”

The problem for tech is that the industry really isn’t structured to work properly at lower valuations and funding levels. All sorts of things start to break.


“Agile vs. Waterfall (And Other Obfuscation) – Charles Lambdin”

Quotes Lacan in an effort to break down a false dichotomy. I’m practically required by law to link to this.


“A Writer Used AI To Plagiarize Me. Now What?”

The stochastic parrot strikes again. This is one issue with the current generation of Large-Language-Models that generate art and writing: you just don’t when the stochastic parrot has kicked in and the model has switched to regurgitating quotes or copies of other people’s art.


“Life, the UXverse and Everything. So Long UX, and Thanks for All the… - by Lisa Angela - Jan, 2023 - Medium”

A recurring theme in my book is that we’re really bad, as an industry, at making software, not just in terms of defect-free code but also in terms of design.

To put it plainly: our apps are hard to use and their UX sucks. The reason that keeps coming up is that everything in software seems to be stacked up against letting designers do their job properly:

And whenever I initiate public discussions about design work satisfaction, I find these feelings are pretty universal — the more you care, the more disappointed you are. Not disappointed with the actual functional duties of the job but with the neverending compromises and tenuous respect the role commands.


‘“Beyond Command and Control” (Book Review) – As I learn …’

A review of one of the best books on applying systems-thinking to management.


“JavaScript, Community—zachleat.com”

Zach talks about the persistent divide that seems to exist in web development. How hostile is the community when somebody as steeped in JavaScript as Zach doesn’t feel like he belongs in the JS side of that divide?


“Silicon Valley’s Loophole Arbitrage on Display Yet Again with OpenAI – The Trichordist”

Another blog post, this time collecting a Twitter thread, that pulls together an overview of just how aggressively tech seems to be coming for creative industries.


Rebecca Wirfs-Brock (@rebeccawb@discuss.systems)

Interesting blog post (an oldy but goody) by Robert Smallshire about the half life of programmers and long-lived code bases. How big is your code base? Who knows its dark corners?

“Predictive Models of Development Teams and the Systems They Build”

Relevant to the churn parts of my book. Posting it here largely because I’m planning on reading it again later, with a clearer mind.


There’s a kind of post I encounter quite a bit on Twitter that falls squarely under Poe’s law (is it serious or is it a parody?):

Somebody talks about how much time they saved using ChatGPT for research and then posting answers full of factual errors. 🤨

(Thread.)


The hype around AI is going to become even more deafening in a few months. It’s the only thing on the horizon that can plausibly keep tech’s valuations up in the stratosphere.

VR is a tougher problem to crack than expected with a smaller upside since we didn’t transition to a remote work default as many expected.

The AR upside is likely to be owned primarily by the companies that crack the problem

Blockchain is great for fraud, less great for keeping an industry bubble going.

So, AI is it.

​(Link.)


Unlike many other coders, I seem to suffer from novelty-seeking outside of tech as well. I don’t just dig up and try out a variety of novel ideas, runtimes, and approaches in tech. I seem out the new and weird in music and film too.

I came across this music video recently and it’s fascinated me. I like the music but the video itself is, I think, an interesting attempt and bringing to bear the randomness and creepy aesthetic mis-structures of AI-generated art to a creative effect. I don’t know how it was made but I’m guessing that they began with a couple of video clips and then used each frame as input into something like Stable Diffusion? I’d love to get more detail on how this was done.

See? I’m not all anti-AI, all the time. 🙂

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