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Newsfeeds from around the industry
Geeking with Greg


  • Interview on early Amazon personalization and recommendations
    Amazon.com in late 1996
    Amazon.com in mid-1997
    I have a long interview with the Internet History Podcast mostly about Amazon around 1997, especially the personalization, recommendation engine, and data-driven innovations at Amazon, and the motivation behind them.

    I think the interview a lot of fun. It gives a view of what Amazon was like way back when it was just a bookstore only in the US, had just one webserver, and we barely could keep the website up with all the growth.

    Lots of history of the early days of the web, well before CSS and Javascript, before cookies were even widely supported, and before scale out, experimentation and A/B testing, and large scale log analysis were commonplace.

    Give the podcast a listen if you are interested in what the Web looked like back in 1997 and the motivation behind Amazon's personalization and recommendations.

  • Quick links
    What I've been thinking about lately:
    • "The chip is so low power that it can be powered off energy capture from the body ... 35 microamps of power per megahertz of processing ... and less than 200 nanoamps ... in deep sleep mode" ([1])

    • "Forgetting may be nearly as important as remembering in humans" ([1])

    • Only 40% of people use maps on their smartphone ([1] [2])

    • OkCupid and Dataclysm: "In the age of Big Data, the empirical has deciphered the intimate" ([1])

    • Cross functional teams might seem slower when you're in them, but, long-term, are more productive ([1])

    • Very good article on mostly evil uses of personalization ([1] [2])

    • "Fake accounts are given a veneer of humanity by copying profile information and photos from elsewhere ... [and] a picture of a beautiful woman" ([1])

    • "Because almost no one patches their BIOSes, almost every BIOS in the wild is affected by at least one vulnerability" ([1])

    • Cracking by forcing non-random memory errors, just about all RAM chips currently used are vulnerable ([1] [2] [3])

    • Computer security "backdoors will always turn around and bite you in the ass. They are never worth it." ([1] [2])

    • "Facts can only do so much. To avoid coming to undesirable conclusions, people can fly from the facts and use other tools in their deep belief protecting toolbox" ([1])

    • Why TV is losing viewers, the ads are annoying: "Decline caused by a migration of viewers from ad-supported platforms to non-ad-supported, or less-ad-supported platforms" ([1])

    • "The same dysfunctional folie a deux playing out between credulous tech media and even more credulous VC investors" ([1])

    • Does the difficulty of building intelligent systems grow exponentially as we make progress? That question has big implications for whether we should expect (or fear) an AI singularity. ([1])

    • Very fun version of Family Feud using Google search suggestions ([1] [2])

    • Do you know what you don't know? Try this confidence calibration quiz. ([1])

    • Love this quote: "I have thrown away a number of successful careers out of boredom" ([1])

    • Humor related to recommendation systems: "An exciting new system that takes all the bother, all the deciding, all the paying—all the shopping—out of shopping." ([1])

    • Two SMBC comics related to AI ([1] [2])


  • Data Maven from Crunchzilla: A light introduction to statistics
    Crunchzilla just launched Data Maven!

    Data Maven from Crunchzilla is a light introduction to statistics and data analysis.

    For too many teens and adults, if they think about statistics at all, they think it's boring, tedious, or too hard. Too many people have had the experience of trying to learn statistics, only to get bogged down in probability, theory, and math, without feeling that they were able to do anything with it.

    Instead, your first exposure to statistics should be fun, interesting, and mostly easy. Data Maven from Crunchzilla is more of a game than a tutorial. To play, you answer questions and solve problems using real data. Statistics is your tool, and data provides your answers. At the end of Data Maven, you'll not only know a bit about statistics, but also maybe even start to think of statistics as fun!

    Like programming, statistics and data analysis are tools that make you more powerful. If you know how to use these tools, you can do things and solve problems others cannot. Increasingly, across many fields, people who understand statistics and data analysis can know more, learn more, and discover more.

    Data Maven is not a statistics textbook. It is not a statistics class. It is an introduction. Data Maven demystifies statistics. Teens and adults who try Data Maven build their intuition and spark their curiosity for statistics and data.

    Please try Data Maven yourself! And please tell others you know who might enjoy it too!

  • More quick links
    Some of the best of what I've been thinking about lately:
    • Great TED talk titled "The mathematics of love", but probably should be titled "A data analysis of love" ([1])

    • Manned submarines are about to become obsolete and be replaced by underwater drones ([1] [2] [3])

    • "No other algorithm scaled up like these nets ... It was a just a question of the amount of data and the amount of computations." ([1] [2])

    • What Google has done is a little like taking a person who's never heard a sound before, not to mention ever hearing language before, and trying to have them learn how to transcribe English speech ([1] [2])

    • Teaching a computer to achieve expert level play of old video games by mimicking some of the purpose of sleep ([1] [2])

    • "Computers are actually better at object recognition than humans now" ([1] [2] [3] [4])

    • The goal of Google Glass was a "remembrance agent" that acts as a second memory and gives helpful information recommendations in real time ([1] [2] [3])

    • A new trend, large VC investments in artificial intelligence ([1])

    • "Possibly the largest bank theft the world has seen" done using malware ([1])

    • "Users will prioritise immediate gain, and tend to dismiss consequences with no immediate visible effect" ([1] [2])

    • "Crowds can't be trusted". It's "really a game of spamfighting". ([1] [2])

    • SMBC comic: "All we have to do is build a trustworthiness rating system for all humans" ([1])

    • Dilbert describes most business books: "He has no idea why he succeeded" ([1])

    • Architect Clippy: "I see you have a poorly structured monolith. Would you like me to convert it into a poorly structured set of microservices?" ([1])

    • Man kicks robot dog. Watching the video, doesn't it make you feel like the man is being cruel? The motion of the robot struggling to regain its balance is so lifelike that it triggers an emotional response. ([1] [2] [3])

    • SMBC comic: "Are we ever going to use math in real life?" ([1])


  • Quick links
    What has caught my attention lately:
    • "Ads are often annoying ... [and] the practice of running annoying ads can cost more money than it earns" ([1] [2] [3])

    • Robot plays beer pong, but the real story is the clever bean bag robotic gripper using the "jamming phase transition of granular materials" ([1] [2] [3])

    • Good list of features a modern phone should have but does not ([1])

    • "At this point, Apple is basically an iPhone company with a few other side businesses ... The iPhone accounted for ... a staggering 69 percent ... of Apple's revenue." ([1])

    • "We were not building the phone for the customer — we were building it for Jeff [Bezos]" ([1] [2])

    • "One of the biggest problems in organizations is that the meeting is a tool that is used to diffuse responsibility" ([1] [2])

    • Pew poll on how opinions of US scientists differ from the US population, and public's perceptions of scientists ([1])

    • Pair a "brash, young scientist" with a "wiser, older scientist" to maximize innovation ([1] [2] [3])

    • Google Earth Pro is now free, lets you get high res stills and movies of anywhere on the planet ([1] [2])

    • People told a placebo was "expensive" had twice the improvement as measured by physical tests and brain scans ([1])

    • Blind men successfully train themselves to "see" using echolocation, and brain scans determine that they are using the otherwise unused visual centers of their brains to do so ([1] [2] [3] [4] [5])

    • Rather than modeling crowds with attraction and repulsion between agents, only avoiding anticipated collisions behaves closer to real humans ([1])

    • Xkcd comic: "I can't wait for the day when all my stupid computer knowledge is obsolete" ([1])

    • Xkcd What If: "Getting to space is easy. The problem is staying there." ([1])


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