The Thing

Fred Wilson on writing everyday, The Blank Screen, emphasis mine:

Sometimes this process produces great insights for me and possibly others. Sometimes it produces garbage. But I’ve come to realize that the daily post, and its quality or lack thereof, is not really the thing. It is the ritual, the practice, the frequency, the habit, and the discipline that matters most to me. And, I would suspect, the same is true of the readers and commenters who frequent this blog.

I’ve been impressed with the discipline that Fred Wilson has in writing every day. It certainly isn’t an easy thing, but the level of ease isn’t usually the best way to measure the resulting value.

A National Day Of Thanks

What do Abraham Lincoln, the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, and Thanksgiving have in common? Sarah Josepha Hale.

From Wikipedia, emphasis mine:

Hale may be the individual most responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday in the United States; it had previously been celebrated only in New England. Each state scheduled its own holiday, some as early as October and others as late as January; it was largely unknown in the American South. Her advocacy for the national holiday began in 1846 and lasted 17 years before it was successful. In support of the proposed national holiday, Hale wrote letters to five Presidents of the United States: Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln. Her initial letters failed to persuade, but the letter she wrote to Lincoln convinced him to support legislation establishing a national holiday of Thanksgiving in 1863. The new national holiday was considered a unifying day after the stress of the American Civil War.

This year I’m grateful for the determination of Sarah Josepha Hale in pushing for a national Thanksgiving holiday.

The end of the year holiday season is a special time of year, and it wouldn’t be the same without setting aside a day where we remember to be grateful.

No Branches

Aaron Boodman on How Chromium Works with “No Branches”:

On many projects, it’s common to branch the source code to work on major new features. The idea is that temporary destabilization from the new code won’t affect other developers or users. Once the feature is complete, its branch is merged back into trunk, and there is usually a period of instability while integration issues are ironed out.

This wouldn’t work in Chrome because we release every day. We can’t tolerate huge chunks of new code suddenly showing up in trunk because it would have a high chance of taking down the canary or dev channels for an extended period. Also, the trunk of Chrome moves so fast that it isn’t practical for developers to be isolated on a branch for very long. By the time they merged, trunk would look so different that integration would be difficult and error-prone.

I’m a long time fan of this approach, where branching is the exception and not the rule.

The whole article is worth reading.


My new favorite Graphite function – percentileOfSeries:

percentileOfSeries returns a single series which is composed of the n-percentile values taken across a wildcard series at each point. Unless interpolate is set to True, percentile values are actual values contained in one of the supplied series.

I came across percentileOfSeries while looking for a way to combine several data points into a single trend. It does a good job of solving that problem.

Split Stack Broadband

Fred Wilson on A Model For A Competitive Broadband Market:

I believe the telecommunications market needs to move away from vertical integration where one provider builds, manages, and delivers the entire telecommunications stack to the market.

In theory I like the idea of having municipalities “owning” the underlying infrastructure, then allowing others to provide services on top of that. In practical terms that broadly mean a two level stack: fiber in the ground and Internet services.

This appeals to the “Internet as infrastructure” view point. Internet service at home is no longer a nice to I have, I view it in the same category as other critical services like water and electricity.

Competition is good for many things, and hard for some things. When it comes to broadband, I really don’t want a different company each month ripping up the road to run fiber to a house. Instead it makes more sense to allow central control of the fiber running to a home, then allow competition to provide services over that fiber.

Unfortunately there are no fiber connections to my house, and I’m not aware of any plans to change that.


FLIF, a new “Free Lossless Image Format”:

FLIF is a novel lossless image format which outperforms PNG, lossless WebP, lossless BPG and lossless JPEG2000 in terms of compression ratio.

Even if the best image format was picked out of PNG, JPEG 2000, WebP or BPG for a given image, depending on the type of image (photograph, line art, etc), then FLIF still beats that by an average of 10% in our comparisons.

Source code is available at

The million dollar question is if browsers will ever support this format.

Brotli for Nginx

Two months ago Google announced Brotli, a new compression format:

Brotli is a whole new data format. This new format allows us to get 20–26% higher compression ratios over Zopfli. In our study ‘Comparison of Brotli, Deflate, Zopfli, LZMA, LZHAM and Bzip2 Compression Algorithms’ we show that Brotli is roughly as fast as zlib’s Deflate implementation. At the same time, it compresses slightly more densely than LZMA and bzip2 on the Canterbury corpus. The higher data density is achieved by a 2nd order context modeling, re-use of entropy codes, larger memory window of past data and joint distribution codes. Just like Zopfli, the new algorithm is named after Swiss bakery products. Brötli means ‘small bread’ in Swiss German.

Compression is a big deal for web performance, being able to send the same file with fewer bytes is a big win.

There are now two Nginx modules for supporting Brotli compression: ngx_brotli from Google and ngx_brotli_module from CloudFlare.

Business and Privacy


Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.


VIZIO will share Viewing Data, together with the IP address associated with the corresponding VIZIO television, with limited third parties with whom we have specifically partnered. These third parties may combine this information with other information about devices associated with that IP address, in order to customize the advertisements displayed on those other devices.

Part of the issue here is expectations of privacy. We’ve had televisions around for decades, during which time tracking hasn’t been an issue, first because of technology then because of laws that were setup consistent with privacy expectations. From ProPublica’s “Own a Vizio Smart TV? It’s Watching You”:

Cable TV companies and video rental companies are prohibited by law from selling information about the viewing habits of their customers. However, Vizio says that those laws – the Video Privacy Protection Act and cable subscriber protections – don’t apply to its business.

Time to decide if we still expect a level of privacy from our “smart” televisions.