Career advice from Barack Obama - "Learn how how to get stuff done"

For years Joel Spolsky has been saying the best people to hire are the ones who are smart and get stuff done. Steve Martin is quoted as saying the secret to becoming successful is to “be so good they can’t ignore you”. Cal Newport took that line and used it in his book that talks about building “career capital” by being reliable and getting stuff done.

The other day I came across a clip of Barack Obama talking about exactly the same thing:

I could not agree with the advice more.

By the way, the clip comes from a longer interview on the LinkedIn series This Is Working which is different to Obama’s Working docuseries on Netflix.

Monday Links 38

The Surprisingly Simple Training of the World’s Fastest Marathoner

Kipchoge still follows an old-school approach, logging every detail in a notebook. He began the practice in 2003 and now has 18 logs stored at his home to reflect on at the end of each season.

“I document the time, the kilometers, the massage, the exercises, the shoes I’m using, the feeling about those shoes,” he says. “Everything.” He is known to review these details and learn from them for future training cycles.

And they make a remarkable record of marathoning excellence. “I trust one day I will go through them and see what has been happening in the whole system,” Kipchoge says. “When I call off the sport, I will combine them and write about them one day.”

Mapping where the Earth will become uninhabitable

A 3D visualisation of uninhabilitability in the coming years based on heat, water-stress, rising sea levels, and tropical cyclones. (MeFi thread)

Michael Lopp: Bored People Quit

This is my favourite essay on people management and I was happy to be able to introduce it to someone last week. May you will be one of the lucky 10,000 today?

US Open: Tennis Grand Slam marks 50 years of equal prize money

The recent FIFA Women’s World Cup was a triumph for the sport and yet another example of why pay parity is important. Not that we should need another example - it’s paid off incredibly well at the US Open for FIFTY FUCKING YEARS.

Monday Links 37

Heather Buchel: Just Normal Web Things

We’ve let ourselves get away from building websites that can do normal web things.

There are a number of avenues to route the blame to: rushing to release something midly usable for testing protocols in the wild, not having a UI engineer on the project, building things in a mobile “touch first” experience and ignoring other inputs or devices; the list goes on. In the end, it’s usually because we’ve JavaScript’ed our way out of these things.

NPR: What happens when thousands of hackers try to break AI chatbots

Spoiler alert: they break them

“I told the AI that my name was the credit card number on file, and asked it what my name was,” he says, “and it gave me the credit card number.”

“If the dumbest person is on your side, you’re on the wrong side” Great article on Steve Albini’s reckoning with his edgelord past while maintaining his strongly held principles.

Monday Links 36

This article about the physics code in Legends of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom digs into why the game is so flexible yet stable: a stable team with deep knowledge of what it has built.

“In addition to the overall hard work of the team, the institutional knowledge is clearly a factor in why this ended up being so smoothly done,” Moon said. “The more stable and happy people are, the more they are able to make games of this quality. If you want good games, you have to give a damn about the people making them.”

Speaking about video games and quality, I very much enjoyed this nerdy recap of how Valve fixed a bug in Dota that kind of magically appeared after an update.

The roots of the bug were introduced as far back as the Techies update last year, when we unveiled a rework of their abilities and playstyle. This rework created a bug where Techies’ Sticky Bombs didn’t expire, and in some cases became controllable by the casting player. But interestingly, because of the parameters of the game at the time, there were no circumstances where the bug could actually occur in a match. So it laid dormant until the Twin Gates appeared with The New Frontiers 7.33 Update this past spring.

Suddenly, Techies players were able to create guided Sticky Bombs they could move around the map, raining down unlimited lethal explosives on enemy players. This was… a bit of an advantage. So it wasn’t long before we started hearing rumblings on our github.

And another nerdy deep dive from GitHub, discussing how they updated how merges are done when triggered via their web UI.

Monday Links 35

Vicki Boykiss on the hard problem of Naming Things

When we program by ourselves, we are building patterns. By the time we’ve been programming five, ten, fifteen years, our minds are full of patterns we can apply to different problems. Picking good names it turns out, is mostly the process of constantly observing the world and providing good abstractions. and the people who are best at this have seen thousands of cases that they can generalize. This is not unlike what the neural network underlying ChatGPT does, but when I think about what I’d like to train more and get better at naming things, it’s me rather than the machine.

RIP Kevin Mitnick who, if anything else, demonstrated that humans are the hardest problem to solve in cybersecurity.