Cross post: What makes a programmer great

A conversation with a friend of mine about confidence in programming (at uni and in the working world) spawned an experimental jointly-written post, which you can find here.  It’s worth it just to see the slightly disturbing contrast between the pictures chosen for her bit and mine.

A colleague has co-written a book that dives into what I wrote about – it’s called Apprenticeship Patterns.  I think I shall have to give it another read through, I feel like I might want to write more about this in the future.

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When I Come To Power: A SLAPP In The Face

A SLAPP – or a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation – is a lawsuit filed not to be won, or often even contested, but rather to cause the defendant to capitulate to the plaintiff’s demands due to fear, legal costs, or other inability or unwillingness to contest the suit.  Usually, when discussing SLAPPs, we’re talking about suits used to suppress criticism of one sort or another.  They’re most often associated with libel – the most famous UK example being McLibel – but can include a variety of other laws, such as trademark law (particularly with gripes sites).  This doesn’t only affect those directly involved, either, as it creates a chilling effect on legitimate criticism and dissent, which as a believer in free speech I find to be a serious problem.

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When I Come To Power: Libel Reform

Libel reform has been something of a hot topic of late; even the terminally inward-looking Labour government are looking at reform.  There have been a number of episodes that have shown that British libel law is being used to suppress criticism, both at home and increasingly from abroad (the nature of the global internet allowing people to claim that any website available in the UK is published in the UK).  It’s a serious threat to freedom of speech.  This much has been picked over at length – the question is, what would I actually do about it?

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When I Come To Power: The Post Series

I always find it difficult to explain my political position.  This is probably because I try to practice evidence-based opinion forming, whereas those in Westminster – and I include every politician and mainstream hack in this – form policy based on ideology, popular appeal and headline-grabbing catchiness.  I also find the traditional definitions of Left vs Right far too simplistic.  In an attempt to actually explain my positions on the issues that matter most to me, I’m going to be writing a series of posts under the heading of When I Come To Power – think of it as the manifesto for The Doug Party, although clearly I’d never be put in charge in a democracy – they’re far too sensible to let me anywhere near anything resembling power.

I’ll keep a full list of posts here, along with a summary of the changes I’d make.

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Software Engineers’ Predisposition Towards Skepticism

A recent post by Jesse Galef at Unreasonable Faith about why skeptics seem predisposed towards sarcastic forms of humour got me thinking.  The question was whether there was a causal link between deriving humour from being able to spot the things that are exaggerated or out of place and being able to spot the things that are similarly incorrect in a proposition (see The Hurley Model of humour as an evolutionary incentive).  Jesse describes this as “debugging”, and so naturally I thought of a potential link to my own profession.

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Rage Against The Traditional Media

Killing In The Name Of is the UK’s Christmas number 1, taking the usual X-Factor mediocrity down a peg, at least temporarily.  It ended up with just over 500k sales to win by 50k, and is the first single to claim the top spot through downloads only.  It’s not a revolution on either point, though; what’s far more interesting is the nature of the Facebook (and later Twitter) campaign that got it there.

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Some things I’d like to see fixed in Java

It looks like closures are making their way into Java 7.  Huzzah!  Since the Java guys are lavishing goodness upon us, I thought I’d put in a request to fix some of the petty grievances I have.  I’m going to ignore the core libraries for the purposes of this, as that’s a huge subject and libraries can be replaced (see the date/time API and Joda time).
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Moral theory and atheist/theist dialogue

Perhaps the single greatest source of misunderstanding in popular atheist/theist dialogues seems to be the problem of moral realism – that is to say that some or all moral or ethical propositions have an objective truth value (for instance, the statement “rape is always wrong”).  This is an important point, as it’s used both as a logical argument for the existence of God and an emotive appeal to the consequences of atheism, and it’s easy to see why people wouldn’t want to agree with an atheist who, as a moral relativist, appears to deny that rape is unequivocally wrong.  All too often, my impression is that the two sides are arguing about different things, so I’d like to explain what I think the atheist community could do better.

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WordPress migration, and blogging

As you may have noticed, I’ve moved from Joomla to WordPress, as it makes just posting stuff (as I’m going to start doing again, promise!) a whole lot easier.  If you see any odd migration artifacts, give me a shout and I’ll sort it out pronto.

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Making Google Reader Tweet

Looking for a way to get shared items from Google Reader into Twitter, I came across a service caller TwitterFeed, which periodically queries an RSS or Atom feed and tweets any new posts – useful for automatically tweeting your blog, for instance.  Well, Reader’s shared items are publicly accessible as an Atom feed (choose Your Stuff->Shared Items, there’s a link to it in your shared items in the blue box, and on that page there’s an Atom feed link).  Bingo!  Except not quite, because those items are kind of verbose for a tweet – if you’ve set a note, it starts “Shared by Douglas” (if you’re called Douglas, which handily I am).  That’s a whole extra 17 characters!  Plus, after the note, the actual content of the article starts, and it’s not clear which bit I wrote.

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