Joe Job
Jan 22, 2004

All this week, I've been Joe-job'ed.
It's in "response" to my insulting comments about spammer's
intelligence here,
and here,
with regard to the article I wrote on Bayes

The efficacy of a Joe-Job has decreased significantly over the past couple of years. Ever since the Window viruses that starting forging return addresses willy-nilly, we've all been "joe jobbed" for the last few months. Going from 0 to 100 spam bounce messages a day would be much more annoying then going from 20 to 120 spam bounce messages.

Not only that, I have not received a single angry complaint about getting spammed from my address; it seems everybody has learned to ignore the "from" address. (As it turns out I'm effectively immune to the "escalate to the ISP level" attack as well, but nobody's tried that, either.)

I kinda thought it would be more annoying then it has been.

Interesting that those of us on the net now get so much spam that a Joe-job is just another drop in the flood. Mozilla's Bayesian filters are holding against the onslaught, and they aren't even a particularly sophisticated Bayesian filter from what I gather. Apparently for somebody, it's easier to try to (ineffectually) joe-job me then actually read what I wrote.

What Is an Outline?, part 1
Jan 19, 2004
Iron Lute

As I hinted at in my previous
, this is not as easy to answer as you'd think. To give you a
hint on how hard it is, I'm currently up to my fourth major version of
my fundamental data structure. The best way to answer "What is an
outline?" is probably to take you through the same development process
I used to get to where I am now.

Read the rest (1883 words)

Bowers' Law
Jan 18, 2004
Iron Lute

I've been writing ahead on my promised
developer travelogue posts
, because I am trying to make them high
quality posts useful for programmers both new and old, not just
off-the-cuff reportings of what I happened to be doing last night.

I was concerned about the time lost writing these posts, because as
I said, time spent writing is time not spent coding. (Though I'm
getting much of the writing done when coding is not possible.) An
entirely unexpected benefit has accrued, though: I was factoring out a
concept from the next two posts and it has prompted a nearly complete
re-conceptualization of how the dominant programming paradigms of our
day inter-relate.

First, read my post about my
immodestly-named Bowers' Law
if this sounds like an interesting
thing to read about. (If it doesn't, you can stop reading this post

Now, while it doesn't fit into that essay exactly, I've been
completely re-formulating the dominant methodologies of the day into a
new synthesis. Paradigm debates are generally framed as "Object
Orientation" vs. "Function" vs. "Imperative/Procedural"
vs. others. Graphically you can envision them as entirely seperate

I've been reforming my understanding to be based on the idea that
Encapsulation (with my particular definition) is the foundation upon
which all other good programming techniques are built. Those
programming paradigms that reject it, stereotypical procedural
programming ("spaghetti code"), are the useless programs of the past
that hit hard limits on their extensibility.

What you put on top of that is modular and can be mixed and matched
between programs, between modules, even between objects in the same
system. Whether you put Polymorphism, Inheritence, Multiple
Inheritence, Prototype-based Programming, or a variety of other
paradigms in various combinations on top is unimportent except in a
particular problem's context. There is no "One True OO", there's just
a collection of techniques that have their time and place. Many
now-marginal techniques can be fit into this understanding without
breaking anything or denying their usefulness.

I know this seems so simple, but the evidence that few people are
seeing it this way is abundent. Certainly this flash of comprehension
has significantly affected how I look at programming, so perhaps it
can help others as well.

I hope this can move forward a more productive debate with less
concerns about how "OO" something is, and with more concern for a
given paradigm's usefulness on various engineering scales. "Paradigm
purity" is not an intrinsically valuable thing; it is often valuable
but it must justify its existence with real benefits for the cost. I
think the real world already abundently demonstrates that a mixture of
them is always going to be with us.

Side note: The essay was not written in Iron Lute, but the
conversion from text to OPML for import into Radio Userland was.

Journalism idea
Jan 15, 2004

We know reporters are biased. They are human, all humans have bias, therefore the reporters are biased.

Suppose the large journalism institutions tried a new style of reporting. Instead of letting one reporter write a story, assign two reporters to the story. We want them to be clearly biased, one on each side of the issue.

Then, write a three-part news article:

Add a rule that each personal part may be no longer then the agreed core. Add a rule that the editors may edit as normal, but they may not decide what fact goes into which part; that's for the reporters only. To make this work, the reporters may need assurance that all three parts are always posted together, and the rules for cutting it down to size may need to be agreed upon. (You might be able to get away with publishing only the core but I think this will fail; it makes the core too contentious.)

This is a way in which an organization could add value to the news that one individual really could not. The news organizations will have an easier time doing this then us independent commentators, though nothing prevents independents from doing this informally.

One weakness is that this only really works in the written word; I can't think of a video format for this that I'd actually be willing to watch. Perhaps an advantage for written-word news?

I would be very interested in seeing this. I'd try it but I think it only really applies to reporting, though perhaps it'd be worth a try on opinion pieces as well. If you'd like to try and you strongly disagree with me on something, let me know and perhaps we can work something out.

Nation-Building 101
Jan 15, 2004

Some of the best-justified criticism of the Administration's Iraq plans I've seen to date. People who expected us to anticipate and have a plan for every possible contingency annoy me; such a thing is not possible. People who don't understand the value of flexible plans that involve intelligent agents in the field responding dynamically to local conditions annoy me; it may look like a lack of a plan but that "lack of a plan" is hundreds of times better then a bad, globally applied plan.

This article wisely avoids those errors. Instead, it has criticisms like "America's involvement in nation-building over the past fifteen years has yielded some significant knowledge about organizing for the task, as a recent study by the RAND Corporation demonstrates. But the Bush Administration failed to draw on this institutional knowledge." which are then well-backed up with evidence.

Kudos to a very even-handed and dispassionate critique; this is more valuable then thousands of screaming fits.

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