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Alec Perkins
Designer with a coding problem.
Designer with a coding problem.

Alec's posts

Oh, hi, Google+. Won’t lie I kind of forgot about you over here.

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C 299,792 km/s. Great story about humanity needing to reach for the stars to ensure our own survival. Also, it was filmed entirely with in-camera effects (and looks terrific). 14 min of sci-fi at its best.

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I used +Brian Olson's bdistricting districts and recalculated the PA House election (got 9–9 instead of the 13–5). Compelling results, but the source voting data isn't perfect. (It calculates 11–7 using the actual districts, two of them were pretty close.) I'm working on getting more precise data, and exploring how to test other districting schemes.

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yeah it's kinda tough when you have 250+ OSS projects, inevitably some get messed up over time and I merge broken shit haha

—the maintainer of n, a node package manager, in reaction to merging a pull request that caused people to have their bin, lib, share and include directories rm -rfed from /usr/local (

I see a lot of people, particularly from the node community, sing the praises of throwing open source software at the wall to see what sticks. Their argument is that, hey, I'm providing this for free, so the world is better off because there is now more software in it.

No. This is wrong. The world is worse off. There is a limited amount of oxygen in the room for a given solution. Every time you release a new project, you are taking time and attention away from another project that might serve people's needs better. Especially if you're someone like TJ, whose star power will tend to attract people over other projects that, while perhaps better maintained, do not have a famous developer behind them.

If you decide to publicly release a new tool, do it because you truly believe that your approach is sufficiently better than everything else, because otherwise you're causing fragmentation for no reason. And if you release, don't release more than you can realistically maintain. Remember, real people are using this software. Human beings. And they will come to depend on it.

And if you don't have the time or inclination to maintain a project, don't just blindly merge pull requests. It is far better to let potentially bad PRs pile up than to merge to get it over with; especially because it means that it might be YOU that is now responsible for data loss or security vulnerabilities.

Maybe some people don't care, because fuck it, I'm giving it away for free. But I don't think this strategy is tenable long-term, and I think it's poisonous, and I don't want to be part of a community where it's true.

Of course we are all human and we all make mistakes. But I want people who use open source software to be able to trust that, as the maintainer, I will put every ounce of effort I can into delivering a quality product.

Releasing open source software is a responsibility, but I think it takes maturity to realize that. When it comes to whether to release an open source project, I like to ask myself: What would +Chris Eppstein  do?

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Around Hoboken (15 photos)
15 Photos - View album

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January Aurora Over Norway

What's that in the sky? An aurora. A large coronal mass ejection occurred on our Sun five days ago, throwing a cloud of fast moving electrons, protons, and ions toward the Earth. Although most of this cloud passed above the Earth, some of it impacted our Earth's magnetosphere and resulted in spectacular auroras being seen at high northern latitudes. Pictured above is a particularly photogenic auroral corona captured last night above Grotfjord, Norway. To some, this shimmering green glow of recombining atmospheric oxygen might appear as a large eagle, but feel free to share what it looks like to you. This round of solar activity is not yet over -- a new and even more powerful solar flare occurred yesterday that might provide more amazing aurora as soon as tonight.

Image Credit & Copyright: Bjørn Jørgensen

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Two things about SOPA/PIPA and then I'll shut up :)


The internet seems to ignore legislation until somebody tries to take something away from us... then we carefully defend that one thing and never counter-attack. Then the other side says, "OK, compromise," and gets half of what they want. That's not the way to win... that's the way to see a steady and continuous erosion of rights online.

The solution is to start lobbying for our own laws. It's time to go on the offensive if we want to preserve what we've got. Let's force the RIAA and MPAA to use up all their political clout just protecting what they have. Here are some ideas we should be pushing for:

* Elimination of software patents
* Legal fees paid by the loser in patent cases; non-practicing entities must post bond before they can file fishing expedition lawsuits
* Roll back length of copyright protection to the minimum necessary "to promote the useful arts." Maybe 10 years?
* Create a legal doctrine that merely linking is protected free speech
* And ponies. We want ponies. We don't have to get all this stuff. We merely have to tie them up fighting it, and re-center the "compromise" position.


The dismal corruption of congress has gotten it to the point where lobbying for legislation is out of control. As Larry Lessig has taught us, the core rottenness originates from the high cost of running political campaigns, which mostly just goes to TV stations.

A solution is for the Internet industry to start giving free advertising to political campaigns on our own new media assets... assets like YouTube that are rapidly displacing television. Imagine if every political candidate had free access (under some kind of "equal time" rule) to enough advertising inventory on the Internet to run a respectable campaign. Sure, candidates can still pay to advertise on television, but the cost of campaigning would be a lot lower if every candidate could run geo-targeted pre-roll ads on YouTube, geo-targeted links at the top of, even targeted campaigns on Facebook. If the Internet can donate enough inventory (and I suspect we can), we can make it possible for a candidate to get elected without raising huge war chests from donors who are going to want something in return, and we may finally get to a point where every member of congress isn't in permanent outstretched-hand mode.

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The whole big vs small government is a useless argument, since what matters is if it's effective or not.
While there are things to quibble about in David Brooks' latest column (particularly the partisanship that frames the issue as a problem with liberals), there is also a fabulous analysis of the real problem with government today:

"There is no Steve Jobs figure in American liberalism insisting that the designers keep government simple, elegant and user-friendly."

I would be happier if it said that there were no figure in American government, since there's no one on the conservative side doing that either, but the message is a really important one.

Brooks frames his column as advice to Democrats (and it's good advice, including the concluding paragraphs aimed directly at President Obama), but it should be advice to anyone working with government. (Interestingly, it echoes the words of Code for America fellow +Scott Silverman who said when he joined as a 2011 fellow, that his goal was to "build interfaces to government that are simple, beautiful, and easy to use.")

Read the article, and every time you see the word "liberal" or "democrat," substitute in your mind "everyone we send to Washington." David has hit the nail on the head.

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A fan of +The Sword and Laser tipped me off to this! Cute, Google!
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