Bill Gates on Paul Allen

Paul G. Allen studies a brain sample with Allen Institute for Brain Science CEO Allan Jones.

I enjoyed this post that Bill Gates wrote about Paul Allen. It’s a touching post about a friendship that precipitated a tremendous success story.

Paul Allen, one of my oldest friends and the first business partner I ever had, died yesterday. I want to extend my condolences to his sister, Jody, his extended family, and his many friends and colleagues around the world.

I met Paul when I was in 7th grade, and it changed my life.

Bill Gates

A terrific way to spend a weekend

Liked The weekend Starts Here (Photos by Om)
007717-R3-002 Made with Leica M-A using the Leica f2/50mm Summicron (version V) and Kodak Portra 400. Shot wide open at f2. Shutter speed 1/250th of a second. Related Posts Life is a Beach A Bird’s eye view A Morning on Ocean Beach Flying Home

This looks like an awesome way to spend a relaxing weekend, actually.

Rethinking Mastodon

Read Im Seriously Rethinking by Brent Simmons (micro.inessential.com)
I’m seriously rethinking being on Mastodon over this. Life’s too short to be affiliated with this kind of mob rule. wilwheaton.net/2018/08/t…

I’ve been pretty interested in Mastodon as a Twitter alternative, at least until I noticed Brent Simmons’ post.

He linked to Wil Wheaton’s post titled “The world is a terrible place right now, and that’s largely because it is what we make it” in which Wheaton described a particularly unpleasant, and unexpected experience on Mastodon:

I thought that if I left Twitter, I could find a new social network that would give it some competition (Twitter’s monopoly on the social space is a big reason it can ignore people who are abused and harassed, while punishing people for reporting their attackers), so I fired up this account I made at Mastodon a long time ago.

I thought I’d find something different. I thought I’d find a smaller community that was more like Twitter was way back in 2008 or 2009. Cat pictures! Jokes! Links to interesting things that we found in the backwaters of the internet! Interaction with friends we just haven’t met, yet! What I found was … not that.

I’m sure that Wheaton’s experience of Mastodon doesn’t describe all Mastodon interactions. The same could be said of Twitter. In both cases, the trollish elements spoil the experience for everyone else.

His experience doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in Mastodon as a more civil alternative to Twitter. This isn’t because Mastodon is fundamentally bad, it’s just being used by people who are behaving much the same as other people on Twitter who I’d prefer to avoid having to deal with.

I’ll just stick with my blog, and some sort of Micro.blog hook for now.

Learning Flask with Corey Schafer

My Summer project is to finish an initial version of my Practice Math site for our kids. I’ve hit a bit of a snag with fractions, but the functionality for whole numbers is almost ready.

The next step is to create a web site for the project so our kids can use the app through their browsers, rather than using the command line (somehow, I don’t think a CLI interface will grab our kids).

My plan was to learn Django, and use that to create a front-end for my Python back-end. I decided to follow along with Brad Traversy to help me learn how to create a basic Django app. It was a little trickier than I expected, and I hit a snag with my database configuration.

I then thought I’d take a look at Flask, and see if that would be a little easier for me to grok. I noticed that Corey Schafer has a Flask tutorial series where you build a basic blog with Python and Flask, so I decided to work through Schafer’s tutorial videos.

This has proven to be a terrific idea. Schafer’s tutorials are detailed, and really clear. There are times when he speeds up a little but, for the most part, I can follow along pretty comfortably, and understand what he’s doing.

Even though the goal of Schafer’s series is to build a blog, it covers a range of topics that I can incorporate into Practice Math down the line. It’s really an awesome introduction to building web sites with Flask, and well worth the time.

Not only does Schafer take you through the process, step-by-step, but he also provides links to snapshots of his code at each step of the process, along with useful code snippets in his GitHub repos.

You probably need about an hour for each episode. I binged for most of today (I’m on vacation this week), and worked through about four or five videos.

If you’re interested in Corey Schafer, listen to this TalkPython interview with him:

On a related, side note, working through this tutorial series just reinforces how glad I am that I returned to Python to start learning it (again). I still have a long way to go, but it feels like I’m picking up bits of it easier than I did with JavaScript.

I’ll return to JavaScript, for sure (you can’t really ignore JavaScript these days). For now, though, I love all the things I’m learning to do with Python.

Featured image by Sharon McCutcheon

Moving from Twitter to WordPress

I really like this post about how Matthew Haughey has switched to a WordPress blog from Twitter. Yes, this is partly because he chose WordPress.com. Mostly, though, it’s because of reasons like these:

On the second point, it killed my desire to ever blog about things or write more than a few sentences about complex subjects. I would go six months between writing something 1,000 words long to put online when that was something I’d do every few days pre-Twitter. When Twitter moved to 280 characters, all hope was lost, since there really was no reason to have a blog for anyone anymore. I didn’t like that everything I wrote ended up being hard to find or reference, and even hard for me to pull up myself when I wanted, where a blog makes it pretty dang easy to see everything you wrote about in the past.

Read Haughey’s full post “My own reasons for leaving Twitter” (and follow him, too!). Also read his thoughts about WordPress in 2018 (there’s room for improvement, for sure).

Featured image by Braden Hopkins on Unsplash

Just Because It’s Your Hypothesis, Doesn’t Mean It’s The Correct One

I love these thoughts from Carl Sagan:

Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.

It comes from a longer piece about challenging “facts” and “authorities” in the search for something closer to truth. You can read more here: Carl Sagan’s tools for critical thinking and detecting bullshit.

When Even Planetary Scientists Are Driven From Twitter

Not too long ago, I wrote about how I was seeing so much value in Twitter because of the people I choose to follow. One of the highlights of my Twitter feed has been Dr Sarah Hörst, a Planetary Scientist at Johns Hopkins University.

Sarah is an inspiration, and I enjoy her tweets tremendously. She tweeted recently that she briefly left Twitter, only to return to be faced with renewed abuse from repulsive examples of our species.

Dr Hörst tweeting about abuse

Reading tweets like this leaves me feeling a little more disgusted with Twitter (the company). Despite all of Jack Dorsey’s assurances, regret, and promises, incredible people like Sarah feel like they should leave the service because remaining on Twitter means exposing yourself to relentless attacks and abuse.

It's not like Twitter doesn't see this stuff

I keep hoping for alternatives. I still believe that something like Mastodon is an answer but, for that to work, it needs to have the sort of community that Twitter still delivers.

I have this sense that I still need to use Twitter because the people I admire and want to follow are there, even though using Twitter increasingly leaves me feeling like I’m giving up part of my humanity in the process.

Inspiring developers make Twitter worthwhile

Twitter has become a complicated digital space, to say the least. My “Inspiring developers” Twitter list is one of the highlights of my Twitter experience, and the developers on that list make Twitter worthwhile for me, despite all the cruft we see there.

One of the themes that Twitter has helped highlight is how women developers are routinely marginalised, dismissed, devalued. I decided to seek out inspiring women developers and follow them because I was interested in their perspectives on development, life, and other issues.

I’m glad I did. Sure, there are some men on that list (there are plenty of male developers who I admire too) but I wanted to be exposed to different voices.

I am continually inspired by the developers I add to my list, and there are times when I’m tempted to unfollow virtually everyone else and just focus on this growing group of smart, thoughtful, and innovative professionals. See for yourself:

I have learned so much from virtually every person on this list. The fact that this list began as an effort to focus on women developers has become secondary to how much I appreciate being able to subscribe to their shared thoughts.

By the way, if there are developers who aren’t on my list and who inspire you, let me know in the comments or on Twitter?

Photo credit: WOCinTech Chat, licensed CC BY SA 2.0