February 2, 2016

Coining a new word:

metacruiting: the process of recruiting recruiters

This actually word has a sound etymological basis.  The word “recurit” comes from the French recrute, based on Latin recrescere ‘grow again,’ from re- ‘again’ + crescere ‘grow.’1

So the “cruit” part of the English “recruit” traces back to the Latin “grow”.  Metacruiting, therefore, suggests “growth of growth”, or growing at an exponential rate.  You would need to recruit more recruiters to grow an organization that fast.


hipsters, trolls, and semantic dilution

March 2, 2014

I find it unfortunate when someone uses the term “trolling” to refer to bad etiquette or even “pranking”.  The word “trolling” emerged with a specific and useful meaning: to provoke a response, as if fishing for reactions.  Bad behavior doesn’t necessarily make you a troll, it makes you a jerk.  Some jerks may be trolling, but not all.

Likewise, not everyone who is trendy in a way that you dislike is a “hipster”.

There are a few types of semantic drift, and the one at play here is widening.  By abusing the word, people dilute its meaning.  If the improper usage spreads, the word becomes ambiguous.  People no longer know exactly what you mean when you say it alone; you’re forced to expend more words to clarify your usage.

However, it is possible to turn the tide against semantic dilution and preserve the utility of the word.  With a pithy comic or blog post, awareness of the improper usage can also spread like a meme.

word coining

February 17, 2014

Against policy, I tried coining a phrase on Wikipedia once.  It didn’t persist, of course.

I guess that Urban Dictionary is meant for this sort of thing, but probably doesn’t cut it as a source to cite on Wikipedia.  Maybe a blog is no better, but I’m going to dump a few of my ideas here, anyway.

  • plug cycling – like power cycling (example), but more specific.  Unplug it, and plug it back in again.  This is sometimes required for USB peripherals, which (after driver installation) trigger actions upon insertion.

Less useful words:

[will edit with more]

Which blogging engine?

February 17, 2014

There look to be several good suggestions of blogging platforms for programmers on the StackExchange network.  I was happy to see WordPress high on the list, which I’ve already invested some time to learn.

However, I like using Git to version documents, and I like Markdown, so Jekyll hosted for free on GitHub seems ideal.  I might do a few posts on both WordPress and Jekyll to evaluate.

Google+ is totally unsuitable as a programming blog (cannot format code snippets), but perhaps is a good way to aggregate content from both blogs?

Speaking of aggregation, I also set up an profile to keep track of the sites I produce content in.

fighting (for) entropy

February 17, 2014

I can’t claim “entropy warrior” as an original phrase (see here and here), but it seems fitting to describe my day job.

Entropy, when interpreted as “disorder”, is generally bad.  Entropy naturally tends to increase, by the second law of thermodynamics.  Over time, your room will get messy, and you must invest energy to clean it up.  Your refrigerator keeps cold air and warm air separate.  But without a power source, that “organization” is lost, and everything inside and out becomes uniformly room temperature.

However, I think there is an interesting duality to the word—whether entropy is good or bad depends on your frame of reference.

In maintaining a software codebase, it is desirable to eliminate redundancy, as captured by the DRY principle.  Duplicate data should be consolidated by database normalization.  And when code is considered as data, we may deduplicate it by refactoring.

In an information theoretic sense, this is actually maximizing entropy.  Normalizing data, stripping redundancy—these serve to maximize the amount of information gained per character for a developer browsing the code.  One may speak of improving code quality or hygiene in this way as “organizing” the codebase.  And now there seems to be a paradoxical relationship between the concepts of “organization” and “entropy”: organizing one’s room is desirable, but decreases entropy.  Organizing the code is good, but increases entropy.

I haven’t yet been able to articulate the underlying rule that unifies the thermodynamic and information-theoretic senses of the word.  Someone else probably has.  For now, “entropy warrior” is a sufficiently ambiguous term such that I can claim to fight for either side.

courtesy linking

February 17, 2014

Often on Reddit or other forums you’ll see an original poster reference something, immediately followed by another’s reply of:

link (for us lazy people)


link for the lazy

I propose that these be termed “courtesy links”.  And it’s often annoying that the OP did not have the courtesy to provide the link in the first place.  I prefer the wording of the second variant above, as “lazy” can be construed to refer to the OP.  The OP’s laziness multiplies the cost for the readers to come.

However, redditors the provide courtesy links are usually heaped in karma.  Maybe /r/theoryofreddit has something to say about it?

Informal social networks are one thing, but linking etiquette is even more important when a coworker is asking you to look at some web resource.  Don’t make me retrace the hoops you jumped through to access a page, which may involve several steps of clicking, typing, and searching.  Just link it!  There’s no karma points in it for you, but it will help me help you faster.

Monitoring and plotting internet connectivity

August 27, 2013

Comcast has been frustrating us with frequent gaps in internet connectivity. I wrote a collection of scripts to plot connectivity over time, available on GitHub.