Monday Links 1

Every Monday I’ll try and post links to articles or videos I’ve found interesting and useful. Today’s post is mostly about explaining things.

Dave Farley reviews Team Topologies.

Team Topologies is important, and adds a significant piece to the jigsaw puzzle of how to build great software.

Simon Willison asks GTP-3 to explain code and finds it to be “shockingly effective”. Willison’s examples include Python, Javascript, creating tables and querying them with SQL, a config file, and mathematical equations. If you’ve ever looked at your own code and wondered “what was I thinking?”, AI might be able to tell you.

That said, Willison notes that GPT-3 doesn’t actually “know” anything, it’s just really good at looking like it does, and we should keep that in mind before asking GPT-3 something like “which is better?”

Once again, I’m reminded that tools like GPT-3 should be classified in the “bicycles for the mind” category. You still have to know how to pedal!

They’re fantastic tools for thinking, but to actually use their output effectively requires VERY deep knowledge—both of the subject matter in question, and of the way that the AI tools themselves work.

Also Simon Willison in the b3ta newsletter:

Using these AIs feels more like spellcasting than programming: no-one, not even the creators, fully understands how they work or what they can do and you get better at them by accumulating weird new incantations that might lead to better results. Or unleash demons if you type something wrong.

And speaking of explaining things, Julia Evans has some excellent advice on how to avoid confusing folks when you’re trying to explain technical things.

[…]knowing that I’m likely to accidentally do these things makes it easier for me to avoid them, and it makes me more receptive to critique when people point out issues with my writing (“Julia, this is assuming a lot of knowledge that I don’t have!“).

Being aware of these patterns also helps me when reading a confusing explanation: “oh, I’m not confused by this explanation because I’m stupid, I’m confused because it’s introduced 6 new-to-me concepts and it hasn’t explained what any of them is yet!“.

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About Joe Mahoney

Joe is a software engineering leader, programmer, surf life guard, and runner who writes about and curates links covering links covering software engineering and management, career growth, continuous improvement, creativity, and productivity.

Wellington, New Zealand