Archive for March, 2010

Music and memory


This Thursday afternoon, I created a Slashdot account for the first time. One of the signup steps prompted me for about ten different forms of contact—email, AIM, ICQ, and “Warcraft Main”. I take it that last is a way of asking for some form of identity in World of Warcraft.

An hour or two later, there was a bit of music running through my head. It took me a few minutes to place it: it was a line of background music from Warcraft II, which Wikipedia helpfully reminds me was released in 1995. (In other words, when Newt Gingrich was shutting down the federal government, encyclopedias came on CD-ROM, and dinosaurs walked the earth.) The last time I heard that music through my ears was probably about 2000. Somehow, apparently, after I saw that name my brain decided to make a field trip browsing through some of the dustier shelves of the library, and it put this music on without my noticing.

On the other hand, right now as I’m actually thinking about this, I can’t recall the music even in fragments. Maybe in half an hour I’ll catch it playing in my head again.

I’ve had similar experiences before where I notice that the music playing in my head is connected to some stimulus from minutes or an hour earlier. I don’t think it’s ever come from a shelf this dusty before.

Written by Greg Price

March 29th, 2010 at 2:23 am

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Ksplice and the intern army meet the Internet

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This week I wrote a post on the Ksplice blog, our first substantive post, following an intro post by Waseem. As I mentioned last month, we swelled from 8 to 20 people this January with interns, and were triumphant in making the whole scheme work productively. If you want to know how we did it, read the post. In fact, just go read it. I’ll wait.

The crackerjack Ksplice PR team (*) got my post to show prominently all day Wednesday on Reddit and Hacker News, and then it went up on Slashdot all Wednesday evening and Thursday during the day. Traffic numbers were much, much more than anything else I’ve ever written, except YouTomb.

Naturally, we learned some things about interacting with your average comment-leaving reader on the Internet. The first wave of comments, a few both on link aggregators and on the post itself, were vicious denunciations of us for the (apparently) illegal practice of employing unpaid interns to do real work. These commenters were of course wrong—you can’t get any intern in software for free, let alone the kind of people we wanted, and we paid as much or more than they could make with their skills in research jobs on campus. I clarified that, I and others replied, and the comments shifted to mostly positive. Then when we landed on Slashdot, the text was a classic opposite-of-the-article Slashdot item: we had claimed to “bust” Fred Brooks’ pioneering observations on software project management. Dozens of commenters poured in to grouch that we hadn’t disproved his law, only sidestepped it—which was of course our point.

Fortunately, not all commenters are just being wrong. We had several good comments, but this afternoon came one last comment from a source far beyond any response I imagined. I feel a twinge of regret now for comparing the OS/360 project to Windows Vista, apt though it was. Prof. Brooks, of couse, did far better than the Vista managers in the end, in that he learned lessons from the experience and put them in a book that the whole profession learned from.

How we’re going to top that comment in our next post, I don’t know—it might be tough, for example, to get a comment from a man who hasn’t used email since before blogging was invented.

(*) Namely, us and our friends on zephyr/twitter lending a few upvotes to our posts. Several others at Ksplice made substantial comments and edits before the post was published, too, which greatly improved it.

[Update, 2010-03-18: there is now a straight-up newspaper-style article about... the comment threads on my post. The Internet never ceases to amaze me.]

Written by Greg Price

March 15th, 2010 at 3:23 am