Back to Blogging

I've been away from blogging for a while, due mostly to a number of exciting technical developments here, and partly to non-technical things that kept me occupied for a bit. Let's see what happened in my absence:

Bitcoin billionaire

"Let's go to my pad where we can wade through my virtual cash."

  • Bitcoin had an enormous rise and a partial fall, though it's holding its own at the moment. As the inventor of Karma, one of the first peer-to-peer currencies that preceded Bitcoin by half a decade, I have some thoughts about Bitcoin and how to value the Bitcoin economy. I guess this will have to wait for the next phase of excitement involving everyone's new favorite virtual currency. And no, unlike most academics, I do not believe that Bitcoins are worthless. But nor have I stocked my survival shelter to the gills with beans, ammo and offline bitcoins (By the way, here's my "CAP Theorem for survivalists": "brains, brawn, and booze: pick at most two." Guess which two I'm betting on. Bonus points for appreciating how precisely my theorem models the CAP theorem, where the "three-way tradeoff" is actually just a two way conflict between C and A. But I digress?). Anyhow, the thinking-person's analysis on Bitcoin needs to lie somewhere in between those two extremes and I look forward to discussing Bitcoin.
  • There are a lot of exciting and major developments in distributed systems, both from my group and from my colleagues elsewhere. I plan to blog about some of the new results in distributed systems, as well as some cool hacks, in the coming weeks; some of them are ground-breaking.
  • The Boston bombings had both me and the nation transfixed for a while. I have no analysis to offer on this front; not my domain.
Some people just want to see the world burn
  • Some people just want to see the world burn. Those same people want to see the world use inconsistent databases. These fine folks, some of whom are close friends, seem to have gone on a jihad against what they call the "bank example." Guys, by which I'm referring to people at a specific school, named after a famous philosopher, whose name starts with "B", and continues with "erkeley," I see that you're pretty upset about a particular example that is covered in every Databases 101 course at every school, including your own. Like every good example, it derives its power from being simple, stark, and stripped of all real-world accouterments in order to illustrate a point about transactions. Attacking the bank example because it's not realistic is like attacking Calvin and Hobbes because Calvin looks two dimensional and tigers can't speak. You've missed the point.
Red dress at Gezi Park
  • There was a people's uprising in yet another country. This one is squarely in my domain, not only because I was born there, or because it was engineered entirely by online systems and social media, or because it's possible to interpret social systems as distributed systems whose aggregate behavior can be predicted without being able to specifically predict the behavior of any single actor, but because it impinges on the question of "what happens when governments perform data mining en masse on their own people, press and companies?" Everything we're going through in the US has analogues elsewhere, and we can learn quite a bit from countries that are further along in the big-brotherification process.
Out of the ballpark

If she can stand for her rights, online and on the street, in a little black dress, without a gas mask, wearing open-toed shoes, and literally kick burning caustic gas canisters, any techie keyboard warrior can take a stance on political issues related to life online.

  • There were significant revelations about the extent of eavesdropping and government surveillance. The debate about the tradeoff between perceived security and individual privacy is finally beginning to take place in the US. There is a lot to say on this topic, and everyone in tech should have an opinion. I realize that some people shun "taking a political stance." Being apolitical is regarded as a virtue among a certain class of technocrats. Yet, not having an opinion and refusing to take a stance on such a crucial topic is in turn a political stance, and quite a regressive one at that. Technologists are in a particularly gifted position, as they can see what would happen if certain capabilities were to be scaled up and taken to their logical conclusions. So we need to play a much needed public role in this emerging national debate.
The kid is back

The cult classic Buffalo-66 had many iconic lines. I particularly like and use "the kid is back!" My friends prefer "you know why they call you Goon?"

I'm looking forward to catching up.

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