20 Jan 2020


Do Engineering Managers Need To Be 'Technical'?

Will Larson has been an engineering leader at Digg, Uber, and Stripe, and last May published the book An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management. Recently he wrote a thoughtful essay asking, "Do engineering managers need to be technical?" exploring the industry's current thinking and arriving at a surprisingly thoughtful conclusion: Around 2010, with Google ascendant, product managers were finding more and more doors closed to them if they didn't have a computer science degree. If this policy worked for Google, it would work at least as well for your virality-driven, mobile-first social network for cats... [N]ow the vast majority of engineering managers come from software-engineering backgrounds. This is true both at the market-elected collection of technology companies known as FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) and at the latest crop of technology IPOs, like Fastly, Lyft, and Slack. While engineering management has not prioritized its own measurement, there is evidence that expert leadership works in some fields... If this is the case, modern technology companies are already well along the right path. This is where the story gets a bit odd. If we know that managers with technical skills outperform others, and we're already hiring managers with backgrounds as software engineers, why are we still worrying whether they're technical? If these folks have proven themselves as practitioners within their fields, what is there left to debate? This is an awkward inconsistency. The most likely explanation is that "being technical" has lost whatever definition it once had... It's uncomfortable to recognize that a distinction I relied upon so heavily for so long no longer means anything to me, but comfort has never been a good reason to get into management. With the term "not technical" unusable, I instead focus on the details. Is there a kind of technology that a given person is not familiar with? Were they uncomfortable, or did they lack confidence when describing a solution? Would I care about them knowing this detail if I didn't personally know it? Given their role in and relation to the project, was the project's success dependent on them knowing these details...? Looking forward to the next 30 years of management trends, only a few things seem certain: Managers should be technical, and the definition of technical will continue to change.

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20 Jan 2020 1:04am GMT

19 Jan 2020


71-Year-Old William Gibson Explores 'Existing Level of Weirdness' For New Dystopian SciFi Novel

71-year-old science fiction author William Gibson coined the word "cyberspace" in his 1984 novel Neuromancer. 36 years later he's back with an even more dystopian future in his new novel Agency. But in a surprisingly candid interview in the Daily Beast, Gibson says he prefers watching emerging new technologies first because "To use it is to be changed by it; you're not the same person." "I'm not someone who works from assumptions about where technology might be going. My method of writing is exploratory about that." That's certainly the case with Agency, Gibson's latest, a densely structured, complexly plotted novel that takes place in two separate time frames, which he refers to as "stubs," and has as one of its central characters an AI named Eunice, who is one part uploaded human consciousness and another part specialized military machine intelligence. In one stub it's 2017, a woman is in the White House, and Brexit never happened. But the threat of nuclear war nonetheless hovers over a conflict in the Middle East. In the other stub, it's 22nd century London after "the jackpot," a grim timeline of disasters that has reduced the Earth's population by 80 percent and left Britain to be ruled by "the klept," which Gibson describes as a "hereditary authoritarian government, [with its] roots in organized crime." Given these scenarios, it's no surprise to discover that the 71-year-old Gibson's latest work was heavily influenced by the 2016 election and the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the presidency. "The book I had been imagining had been a kind of a romp," says the U.S.-born Gibson down the phone line from his long-time home in Vancouver, B.C. "But then the election happened, and I thought, 'Uh-oh, my whole sense of the present is 24 hours out of date, and that's enough to make the book I've been working on kind of meaningless.' It took me a long time [to re-think and re-write the book], and I thought the weirdness factor of reality, finding some balance -- what can I do with the existing level of weirdness, and that level kept going up. I wanted to write a book that current events wouldn't have left by the time it got out, and I think Agency works...." "It's an interesting time for science fiction now," says Gibson, "because there are people writing contemporary fiction who are effectively writing science fiction, because the world they live in has become science fiction. Writing a contemporary novel today that doesn't involve concepts that wouldn't have been seen in science fiction 20 years ago is impossible. Unless it's an Amish novel." The Washington Post calls Gibson's new novel "engaging, thought-provoking and delightful," while the senior editor at Medium's tech site One Zero says it's the first time Gibson "has taken direct aim at Silicon Valley, at the industry and culture that has reorganized the world -- with some of his ideas propelling it." "The result is a blend of speculation and satire that any self-respecting denizen of the digital world should spend some time with." And they're also publishing an exclusive excerpt from the novel.

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19 Jan 2020 11:42pm GMT

127 Tesla Owners Complain The Cars Accelerate On Their Own

An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press: The U.S. government's auto safety agency is looking into allegations that all three of Tesla's electric vehicle models can suddenly accelerate on their own. Brian Sparks of Berkeley, California, petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking for an investigation. An agency document shows 127 owner complaints to the government that include 110 crashes and 52 injuries. The agency said it will look into allegations that cover about 500,000 Tesla vehicles including Model 3, Model S and Model X vehicles from the 2013 through 2019 model years. The agency's investigations office will evaluate the petition and decide if it should open a formal probe... Frank Borris, a former head of safety defect investigations for NHTSA, said the number of complaints cited in the petition is unusual and warrants further investigation. "The sheer number of complaints would certainly catch my eye," said Borris, who now runs an auto safety consulting business. Tesla owners communicate with other owners on Internet forums and social media, and that could influence the number of complaints, he said. He said the timing of the petition is good, because the agency needs to do a "deeper dive" into Tesla safety. Some of the unintended acceleration complaints, which have yet to be verified by NHTSA, allege that the cars' electronics malfunctioned. CNBC points out that Brian Sparks, the man asking for the investigation, "is currently shorting Tesla stock, but has hedged his bets and been long shares of Tesla in the past."

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19 Jan 2020 10:34pm GMT

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Tremors turns 30, the most perfect B movie creature feature ever made

The film faltered at the box office but amassed a huge cult following over the years.

19 Jan 2020 6:08pm GMT

SpaceX successfully completes its Dragon abort test [Updated]

The capsule successfully separated and splashed down gently into the Atlantic.

19 Jan 2020 4:07pm GMT

Apple TV+: Can it be saved before everyone’s free trials run out?

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01 Jan 2009

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A new year, a new Linux.com

Many of you have commented that our NewsVac section hasn't been refreshed since the middle of last month. Others have noticed that our story volume has dropped off. Changes are coming to Linux.com, and until they arrive, you won't see any new stories on the site.

01 Jan 2009 2:00pm GMT

31 Dec 2008

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Android-powered G1 phone is an enticing platform for app developers

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31 Dec 2008 2:00pm GMT

30 Dec 2008

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Municipalities open their GIS systems to citizens

Many public administrations already use open source Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to let citizens look at public geographic data trough dedicated Web sites. Others use the same software to partially open the data gathering process: they let citizens directly add geographic information to the official, high-quality GIS databases by drawing or clicking on digital maps.

30 Dec 2008 2:00pm GMT