Five Short Links: 20 April 2018

  1. RightsCon Toronto, the conference about digital privacy and human rights, is one month away. I’ll be attending a few panels and reporting on it.
  2. Apple released FoundationDB as a free/open source project. Good on Apple for creating more free/open source code!

    Apple has outlined a design document focused on transparency and a governance structure to help participants feel they have a voice in project decisions. There’s even a code of conduct as a check against the boorish bro behavior for which Silicon Valley has become infamous.

    FoundationDB has been released under the Apache 2.0 license. It takes a place among the more significant open source projects released by Apple, a group that also includes the Darwin Kernel, WebKit, and Swift.

  3. StackOverflow community moderators have been elected! Hopefully that means more cleanup and a better experience for question askers.
  4. Grayscale for your phone screen makes it less distracting. At least that was the hope of two Mozilla employees who spent 1 week living in grayscale mode on their phones:

    After going to grayscale my experience changed. On Instagram specifically, I found myself using the service less, and when I did use it, I noticed that I was more focused on the composition of images than I had been.

  5. Want more great software/web engineering blogs to read? Check out the engineering-blogs list from Kilim Choi.
  6. BONUS: a list of awesome science fiction to read over the weekend!



Five Short Links: 19 April 2018

  1. Python as a Philosophy: my talk at PyCon Canada 2017 was reposted by the Coding Tech channel on YouTube, 4600+ views and counting!
  2. Gamers are apparently very strong candidates for cybersecurity careers:

    Gamification, or the concept of applying elements of game-playing to non-game activities, is growing in importance as a tool to help drive a higher performing cybersecurity organization. Within organizations that hold gamification exercises, hackathons, capture-the-flag, red team-blue team or bug bounty programs are the most common, and almost all (96 percent) of those that use gamification in the workplace report seeing benefits.

  3. Don’t sabotage your career! is the message from the book The Right And Wrong Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made And Unmade by Carter Cast:

    Cast: The most striking piece of research I found is that people who have an inaccurate self-assessment, who don’t have high self-awareness, derail. They get fired or demoted six times more frequently than people that have an accurate self-conception. It’s not about thinking that you’re great at everything. People who understand what they are good at can move around their weaknesses or the fact that they have a vulnerability. People who think they’re good at too many things or have a difficult time facing the music end up failing six times more frequently than those with accurate self-conception.

  4. How can you come up with great ideas? Think like an entrepreneur:

    Paying attention to how you compensate for missing functionality, or where you get frustrated using an item, will teach you to start focusing on problems that can be solved. As you hone in on these problems over time, you will start to see opportunities that could be turned into new products or even companies.

  5. 13 Life-Changing Habits To Try And Do Every Single Day (this is a bit of an outlier but developers, especially free/open source developers, need to get into the habit of thinking about more than just coding):

    Find True Quiet— Every single day you should find a way to disconnect and unplug, even for a few minutes. I try to swim as often as I can, not only for the exercise but because nothing can get to me there. I don’t have my phone. There’s no noise. Just calmness and peace. Ask yourself: How often am I unreachable? The answer is: Not often enough. Build some of this time into your daily practice. You’ll be better for it. And the world will not notice, I promise.

Zulip 1.8 is released, alternative to Slack and HipChat

Zulip, the free/open source team chat project has released their 1.8 version. We’ve talked about Zulip and other Slack alternatives on SourceContribute before. What makes Zulip special, aside from being free/open source, is that it has better threads and threading than Slack.

Threads are ways of creating a continuous discussion around a particular topic. In Slack, they’re very rarely used, everyone usually just @-replies. However, Zulip’s UX for threads makes them so useful that you’ll be using them far more often.

Not only that! Zulip also has video calls integrated with Jitsi Meet.

And a new feature I really like is being able to @-reply to a group of people; you can do things like @teamA or @marketing to make it easier and faster to notify the right group of people about something.


Zulip was posted on ProductHunt in December. Other free/open source projects should be posting their releases on ProductHunt too; there are far too many proprietary projects on that site.

Zulip has a new darker theme, keeping in tune with the hacker/coder idea of what makes a great desktop environment.

I have a feeling that Zulip is in the right spot, along with, to really give Slack a run for its money now. Just check out the number of integrations that Zulip has.

TED is launching a platform for social entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurs often walk a tough road. Their ideas seek to improve life for communities that can’t afford to pay a lot, if anything, and without the support of funding options like venture capital, bank loans and stock markets, their best option to fund their ideas is generally the philanthropic sector. This requires an endless…

via A new initiative for launching big, audacious ideas — TED Blog

2018 State of Linux Video Editing has an article telling us how good/bad/great the state of video editing is in the Linux desktop in 2018.

The top pick is Kdenlive, which I’ve used when creating video courses (on AngularJS, Angular and recently on Python and Ruby).

Kdenlive is the best-in-class professional open source editing application, hands-down. As long as you run a stable version of Kdenlive on a stable Linux OS, use reasonable file formats, and keep your work organized, you’ll have a reliable, professional-quality editing experience.



  • The interface is intuitive for anyone who has ever used a professional-style editing application.
  • The way you work in Kdenlive is natural and flexible, allowing you to use both of the major styles of editing: cutting by numbers and just mousing around in the timeline.
  • Kdenlive has plenty of capabilities beyond just cutting up footage. It can do some advanced visual effects, like masking, all manner of composting (see this, this, and this), color correction, offline “proxy” editing, and much much more.

The other Linux video editors on the list are:

If you’re recording screencasts on Linux, one of the above Linux video editors will be a good tool in the toolbox.

Big-Tech’s Ethics and Tom Lehrer at 90

Nature has published a piece on mathematician Tom Lehrer, who is turning 90 this year. He has written and sung many a satirical song highlighting the dangers of nuclear proliferation and other political issues.

One of these songs is about an ethical dilemma that it seems many big tech companies are facing:

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

It matters what we build and who we build it for.