Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood are starting a new website called Stack Overflow, it’s going to be a free programming Q&A website.
I’m a fan of both of those guys (I even have an autographed copy of Joel’s book!), so I signed up to be a beta user to see how it develops. I was trying to come up with a good way to give Stack Overflow a test drive, and I think I’ve hit on something: use it to build a web 2.0-ish site. I’ve been wanting to build a site for myself for at least the last year – I can picture it in my head (and on paper), what it should do and what the user interaction should look like, but I haven’t spent any time actually figuring out how to build the darn thing.
You see, I’m comfortable in C/C++/Perl/Python/x86 assembly (really), but I’ve never done any database or web-y development. Enter Stack Overflow – hopefully it will be a good place to learn about web programming.
I’ll update this blog with my progress once Stack Overflow goes live, wish me luck.
And Jeff: Give me a call when you decide to learn C, I taught it at Purdue for a few years back in grad school and really enjoyed teaching it – maybe you could trade me some .NET lessons for some C lessons. You check my post on pointers to get started. 🙂
And no, this “death of the desktop” post is not about how mobile devices or the browser is taking over the world – it’s about taking a step back and rethinking how we actually use computers (desktop, mobile or otherwise), and then trying to take a more usable step forward.
Thanks to Chris Jones for writing about a very interesting talk by Aza Raskin:
Video: Away with Applications: The Death of the Desktop
You should check out Chris’s summary, and the video as well.
This is one of the few videos I’m glad I watched instead of just ripped to mp3 and listened to – a lot of visual stuff, well worth the time.
Peter Norvig talks about the need for a startup company to go fast – and also in the right direction – at his Startup School 2008 talk.
“Sure you gotta go fast, but if you’re not getting feedback to figure out if you’re going in the right direction it doesn’t matter how fast you go.” (2:47 in the video.)
That advice can apply to both technology and the business sides of a company, but here Norvig focuses on the feedback necessary to make sure the technology you’re developing succeeds.
He suggests you can get this vital feedback by:
“Acquiring lots of data [and] running machine learning over it… The key here is that no matter how agile you are as coders, and I understand that you’re all great, data is going to be more agile than code. Because you’ve got to right the code yourself, but the data you can leverage… there’s an immense multiplying factor that way.”
I guess this Lisp/AI guru from Google knows a thing or two about using lots of data, eh?
He goes on to describe how Google has used machine learning over large data sets for their image search, text segmentation and Google Sets. It’s a great talk, I highly recommend it.
I like the idea of letting the data and algorithms do as much of the heavy lifting as possible – the knowledge I want to share with my users may already be in the data, I’ve just got to dig it out!