Archive for February, 2010

Code Quarterly (née Gigamonkeys Quarterly)

February 25, 2010

So this is an actual announcement. The idea I floated the other day about a quarterly journal for hackers is now a real going concern, renamed Code Quarterly. I got a ton of email from people interested in the idea and have put together some writer’s guidelines for folks interested in contributing. If you just want to be told when we have made some progress toward actual content, go to the website and fill out our form. Or follow us on Twitter.

Gigamonkeys Quarterly

February 18, 2010

I’m not sure if this is an announcement, a pre-announcement, or simply a trial ballon, but here’s an idea that’s been getting me excited lately: Gigamonkeys Quarterly, a web site / journal / publishing house that will publish well-written articles and books of interest to hackers.

My basic theory is that there’s a niche waiting to be filled by someone publishing well-written pieces longer than blog articles but shorter than books and making them available in a variety of formats.

So my plan is to create a web site where I can publish in-depth articles about computers and software written by me and by other writers who are interested in working with a hands-on editor. (Me, that is.) We will then publish individual pieces in other formats: DRM-free PDFs, ebooks for devices such as Kindle and iPad, and print-on-demand paper books. And then, if all goes well, we’ll also publish a nicely typeset paper magazine quarterly. Finally, we may publish book-length treatments of various subjects in serial and then publish them as books when they’re complete. Or all these plans might change drastically when they come into first contact with the enemy.

I plan to pay contributors for their work but at the moment all I can say about that is that I expect to pay them fairly for their contribution, based on how much money, if any, the Quarterly makes.

The basic categories of articles I’m interested in are:

  1. Explanations of deep technical ideas aimed at competent programmers.
  2. Annotations and critques of interesting code.
  3. Profiles of and Q&A interviews with interesting programmers.
  4. “Think pieces” about larger issues of interest to hackers. e.g. Should the code behind scientific research be released and if so, why isn’t it?
  5. Book reviews.
  6. Cool hacks – interesting code explained by its author.
  7. Computer history – articles that explore how we got where we are today.

If you have any interest in writing for the Quarterly or being involved in any other capacity, feel free to email me. Or if you just have words of encouragement, or even discouragement, I’d love to hear those too.

The Power of Pink

February 9, 2010

I recently read a great book Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot about the differences between boys and girls. Subtitled, “How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps – And What We Can Do About It”, the book’s basic thesis is that there are some statistically significant biological differences between boys’ and girls’ brains but not so many nor as significant as is often made out. Rather, cultural influences act to magnify the differences that are there to make older boys and girls, and eventually men and women, quite different. Thus an initial biological seed can be reinforced by culture to produce a powerful effect.

For instance, according to Eliot, one of the most statistically significant differences between the sexes is toy preference – starting around their first birthday kids start identifying toys and “for girls” and “for boys” and by the time they’re three they, statistically speaking, strongly prefer to play with the toys that are “for” their sex. (Of course some kids cross the gender line regularly and most kids will occasionally. But it’s a strong effect; much stronger than the frequently touted differences in verbal or mechanical ability.) The development of these preferences seems to be neither completely hardwired nor completely cultural. But it is strong.

I experienced this first hand the other day when I went to buy my three-year-old daughter Amelia some roller skates at Target. The had three kinds, a set of “princess” skates in pink and purple and decorated with pictures of princesses, a set of purple Dora the Explorer skates, and finally a set of red skates modeled after the main character from the Pixar movie Cars. I suggested the Cars skates, since Amelia loved the movie and had been quite excited to see some Cars toys earlier on our trip through the store. But she immediately countered with a request for the Dora skates because “the Cars skates are for boys and these are for girls.” I tried for a bit to remind her how much she liked the movie but there was no changing her mind. And I didn’t want to linger too long lest she notice the truly ghastly princess skates.

On the other hand, there is still some wiggle room. Today I got a package of hand exercisers from Iron Mind, a company that makes serious strength training tools for hardcore muscle heads. These grippers, part of the “Captains of Crush” line, are knurled metal and the ones I got, which require 167.5 and 195 pounds of pressure to close, are only the middle of the line by difficulty. So serious manly exercise equipment, right? Not so fast. Along with the full-sized grippers, I also got a stubby gripper intended for exercising the thumb and one finger at a time, which is just about the right size to be a full-size gripper for Amelia. She was instantly drawn to it, trying to squeeze it closed with both hands. “I’m going to be the strongest kid in the world,” she said. “This is my princess gripper.”

I wonder if Iron Mind would consider making Captains of Crush in sparkly pink?