The New Yorker is the first publication to create an anonymous drop box for sources based on Strongbox, an anonymized document sharing tool by Kevin Poulsen and Aaron Swartz. What the architecture really shows is how difficult it is to achieve anonymity and security on the Internet, given the amount of data exhaust created by just about any action online. If nothing else, this underscores what an amazing technical achievement Bitcoin is.
Graciousness looks easy, but of course it is not.
Nice little essay on graciousness from Esquire magazine. People who don’t aspire to be more gracious scare me.
A stark but recurring reality in the business world is this: when it comes to working with data, statistics and mathematics are rarely the rate-limiting elements in moving the needle of value. Most firms’ unwashed masses of data sit far lower on Maslow’s heirarchy, at the level of basic nurture and shelter. What is needed for this data isn’t philosophy, religion, or science — what’s needed is basic, scalable infrastructure.
M. E. Driscoll defines data engineering. This is my job. (By the way, if it sounds like something you’re good at, we are hiring at Etsy. Email me.)
A lot goes into deciding whether to fire the thrusters for one second.
After years of complaints about Cascading Style Sheets, many stemming from their deliberately declarative nature, it’s time to recognize their power. For developers coming from imperative programming styles, it might seem hard to lose the ability to specify more complex logical flow. That loss, though, is discipline leading toward the ability to create vastly more flexible systems, a first step toward the pattern matching model common to functional programming.
O’Reilly editor Simon St. Laurent talks about the power of CSS. CSS selectors have won in the marketplace of ideas for good reasons.
Like everyone, I don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day. At any given moment, there are ten things I could be working on, and even more things I could be thinking about. Like most everyone, I’ve tried any number of techniques to be a more effective manager of my time. I usually don’t make it a week with any of these tools — I’m not even good at making lists.
As a software engineer, I have consistently found that making good use of whatever bug tracking tool my employer uses is helpful. I enjoy the satisfaction you get from closing tickets, and I like knowing that the undone work is still recorded somewhere, waiting to be worked on when it becomes a priority. Having things on the list that don’t get done right away is not a problem for me. Right now, I’m reading a book that I had on my Amazon wish list for 13 years. (That book is Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes, which I’ll write more about later.) But beyond that, I have found productivity tools to be of limited utility.
We had a couple of two hour seminars on time management at work, and there were a number of interesting takeaways. The end result was that I’m trying two new things. The first is Personal Kanban, or at least the version of it that I retained from the 15 minute introduction in the seminar.
The goal of kanban is to lower the cognitive load of juggling tasks. You have a list of tasks in your backlog, so that you don’t have to remember them. You have a constrained set of tasks that are “in progress.” The goal here is to lower the number of things you’re working on simultaneously to increase your productivity. Finally, there’s supposed to be some value in physically moving tasks from one state to the next. I’m using my own Trello board for my kanban, and I’m limiting myself to three items in the “in progress” state. So far I’ve had good luck focusing on those three items to the exclusion of other tasks I could be working on, and trying to get through those items so I can work on other things. We’ll see if it holds up.
The other technique I’ve decided to look at (again, in this case) is Pomodoro. I find it challenging to concentrate on tasks without getting distracted by email, or Twitter, or IRC, or all of the other incoming signals that we’re barraged by during the day. I’m hoping taking Pomodoro as a framework will help me train my brain to focus on specific tasks rather than losing productivity by constantly context switching. I’m using Focus Time as my Pomodoro timer, and it seems to work pretty well.
It’ll be interesting to see whether either of these techniques holds up for me. I’d be interested in seeing which time management approaches other people use. In the meantime, I’m going to try to crank out a Pomodoro on one of the tasks in my personal kanban.
Andy Baio on Archive Team, a distributed effort to scrape sites like Upcoming and Posterous before they are shut down. Don’t you want to participate in a guerrilla effort to preserve the Web?
There’s been a lot of talk about the Miranda warning now that accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been taken into custody. The government has said that they will not be “reading him his rights,” and will not, I assume, be giving him access to a lawyer even if he asks for one, until they question him. I see a lot of people who are generally on the same side of issues as me arguing that this is a violation of his constitutional rights. That is not necessarily the case.
First, let me say that it is clear and inarguable that the authorities are not putting the defendant’s rights first here. They are, at best, interpreting the statutes as broadly as possible in order to gather information unimpeded by a defense attorney. Given that it is a terrorism case, I find that completely unsurprising. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are arguing that Tsarnaev should be held as an enemy combatant.
It’s worth digging into what one’s Miranda rights actually are. The constitutional right in question is the Fifth Amendment, the right against self-incrimination. The Miranda warning just insures that people do not surrender this right because they are ignorant or because they were misled by law enforcement. (It’s worth reading about Miranda v Arizona for the details.)
Law enforcement is not required by law to read your rights, however, any evidence obtained through questioning without a Miranda warning will probably be excluded by the judge at trial. If the accused confessed without being read his rights, that confession would be excluded. More importantly, any evidence obtained from information in the illegal confession could also be excluded. So if the accused person revealed where another bomb was hidden, the bomb could not be used as evidence either (see fruit of the poisonous tree). Questioning a suspect without reading their rights is risky for this reason, they may taint evidence needed to convict them.
This is where the “public safety exclusion” to the Miranda rule comes into play. In some cases, law enforcement may need to ask questions immediately for reasons of public safety. It originated from a case where the police asked someone they apprehended about the location of a gun without reading their rights first. The police had a strong incentive to find the weapon, which was unaccounted for, but revealing the gun’s location was self-incriminating. The courts ruled that because the police needed the information immediately for reasons of public safety, the evidence was not tainted.
So the argument the federal government is making in this case is that they need to question Tsarnaev immediately to find out about any other immediate threats before granting him access to a lawyer. If they obtain any evidence that they want to use at trial in the process, they’ll try to keep it from being thrown out based on the public safety exception.
My main point is that not reading a suspect their Miranda rights is not in and of itself a violation of their constitutional rights. However, there are two things we should look out for. The first is whether the accused is arraigned in criminal court within 72 hours of being arrested. If not, he should be able to file a writ of habeas corpus and be released. The second is how this initial questioning affects the ongoing criminal proceedings.
One reason why we have military tribunals now is that the government failed to follow the rules of evidence after 9/11 and they didn’t have enough legally obtained evidence to convict people. Failing to follow proper procedure early on permanently perverted the legal process. Postponing the Miranda warning now is not a violation of Tsarnaev’s rights in and of itself, but it makes it more likely that the process will part ways with constitutionality down the road.
Update: The New York Times has a much better story on the same subject. Here’s former federal prosecutor David Raskin making the point I was trying to make about skipping the Miranda warning:
“I see a fairly strong case against this young man based on a great deal of evidence so, as a prosecutor, the top of my list would not be necessarily to Mirandize him and get a usable confession,” said David Raskin, a former federal prosecutor in terrorism cases in New York.
Back on April 12, my Web host, Linode, sent me an email letting me know that I needed to reset my password without any further details. Today they announced that their user management application was hacked and that the hackers were able to download their full database, including hashed passwords and encrypted credit card information. The hackers also have the public and private keys to the credit card database. They can obtain the credit cards if they can brute force the passphrase for the private key. When it comes to security, taking shortcuts is death.
Laws like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act make criminals of us all. Ludlow describes the inevitable consequences:
In a world in which nearly everyone is technically a felon, we rely on the good judgment of prosecutors to decide who should be targets and how hard the law should come down on them. We have thus entered a legal reality not so different from that faced by Socrates when the Thirty Tyrants ruled Athens, and it is a dangerous one. When everyone is guilty of something, those most harshly prosecuted tend to be the ones that are challenging the established order, poking fun at the authorities, speaking truth to power — in other words, the gadflies of our society.
Check out the whole post at NYTimes.com.