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Links and Notes for August 13th, 2021

Published by marco on

Below are links to articles, highlighted passages[1], and occasional annotations[2] for the week ending on the date in the title, enriching the raw data from Instapaper Likes and Twitter. They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts. YMMV.

[1] Emphases are added, unless otherwise noted.
[2] Annotations are only lightly edited.

Table of Contents

COVID-19

US epidemiologist Michael Osterholm warns of impending catastrophe as children are sent into unsafe schools by Benjamin Mateus (WSWS)

“Ware County, Georgia school district officials told the press that they had closed 11 of their schools for at least two weeks after an outbreak of COVID-19 tore through their campuses. A total of 76 students tested positive, while 679 were placed in quarantine for possible exposure. At least 67 staff had also tested positive, and another 150 were, likewise, in quarantine. Those infected or in quarantine account for 13 percent of the student body and 23 percent of the faculty. The closures came less than two weeks after school opened on August 4.”

“[…] If you look at the state of Louisiana right now, they’re tied with the country of Georgia for the highest rate of infections in the world.

“He continued, “But what we’re seeing happen right now is, while those states are starting to level off a bit, we’re now seeing in the southeast—Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, southern Illinois—all start to take off. We’re seeing it in the northwest states like Oregon and Washington. We’re even seeing in the Midwest increases.””

Economy & Finance

“[…] there are large areas of the country near the coasts, lakes, or rivers, where there is a far greater likelihood of serious flood damage due to both rising water levels and also the greater probability of hurricanes and other extreme weather events. One implication of this increased risk is that there are now likely millions of mortgages that should not be issued without flood insurance.

“Flood insurance is usually quite expensive. Having it as a requirement for mortgages will make the affected areas far less attractive to would be homebuyers. It would also be a big hit to house prices in the affected areas. Also, in floods many cars are destroyed. That should mean that auto insurers either write policies that explicitly exclude flood damage, or raise their prices for people living in areas newly susceptible to flooding.

“[…] solid documentation of the fire risk to houses as a result of global warming should have a substantial impact on the course of development. If someone wants to build a home in a densely wooded area, they should know that insurance will either be very costly, or altogether unavailable, because of the heightened fire risk resulting from global warming.”
“In a world where such extreme weather may be a more regular event, berry growing is a less profitable and more risky business. The same applies to agriculture in many other areas, most notably the inland valley in California, where hot weather and water shortages are likely to be a serious hit.”

Basically: the actuarial tables are out-of-whack and need to be updated. Will they? Unlikely, since that would mean that those currently profiting from the development drive would profit less. They’ll need time to pivot to something else, after which they’ll cheerfully acknowledge the unviability of their previous ventures.


Global Billionaire Pandemic Wealth Surges to $5.5 Trillion by Chuck Collins (CounterPunch)

“The world’s 2,690 global billionaires saw their combined wealth rise from $8 trillion on March 20, 2020 to $13.5 trillion as of July 31, 2021, drawing on data from Forbes. Global billionaire total wealth has increased more over the past 17 months of the pandemic than it did in the 15 years prior to the pandemic. Between 2006 and 2020, global billionaire wealth increased from $2.65 trillion to $8 trillion, a gain of $5.35 trillion.

And when the bubble pops? How much of that wealth is left?

“Less than one percent of people in low-income countries have received a vaccine, while the profits made by Big Pharma have seen the CEOs of Moderna and BioNTech become billionaires. The Covid-19 crisis has pushed over 200 million people into poverty and cost women around the world at least $800 billion in lost income in 2020, equivalent to more than the combined GDP of 98 countries.
““The surge in global billionaire wealth as millions of people have lost their lives and livelihoods is a sickness that countries can no longer bear,” said Morris Pearl, former managing director at Blackrock and chair of the Patriotic Millionaires. “Rich people getting endlessly richer is not good for anyone. Our economies are choking on this hoarded resource that could be serving a much greater purpose. Billionaires need to cough up that cash ball ―and governments need to make them do it by taxing their wealth.””


Capitalists Can’t Become Nicer by Laurence Miall (Jacobin)

“Carney writes in a moral register, but capitalism is not swayed by moral arguments. In a world fast reaching planetary limits to growth, bemoaning the lack of fairness in a system designed to lavish its spoils on elites seems deliberately obtuse.
Even if we grant that ethical companies can exist, what about the remaining unethical ones which are still causing massive social and environmental problems? The duty of publicly traded corporations is to create shareholder value, of course. Carney suggests that this aim is fading in importance compared to others, but without providing much evidence to back up his case.”
“As Simon English points out in his review of Value(s) for the Evening Standard: Business leaders have been paying lip-service to this stuff for ages, certainly before Covid-19. And it is not clear to me that even the death of the planet is motivation enough for them to genuinely budge, to accept less (of anything).


Imagine a New York City Not Dominated by Real Estate by Danny Katch (Jacobin)

“[…] it’s clear that Zoom poses a major threat to commercial real estate developers, who have seen New York City property values almost triple over the last twenty years. That in turn is a major problem for cities like New York that have become dangerously dependent on rising real estate costs as their primary engine of economic growth and tax revenue.
“Rather than squarely facing the inevitable changes remote work will bring to a city built around enormous towers of cubicles, Cuomo and De Blasio seem to be hoping that New Yorkers will be so eager to “return to normal” that they’ll willingly go back to hellish commutes that the last eighteen months have proven to be largely unnecessary. But trying to get millions of workers back onto crowded subways and into crowded offices, even as COVID cases are dramatically rising, makes it less likely that there will be a return to normal anytime soon.”
“In what has become a numbingly familiar story over the course of this pandemic, these Democrats are loudly lecturing vaccine deniers about the dangers of the Delta variant — while pushing for a premature full reopening that flies in the face of science and basic public health concerns.”
By pushing for a return to full-time office work, Cuomo and De Blasio are essentially calling on the public and private sectors to subsidize the real estate industry with artificially high rents — and millions of unnecessary hours spent by their workers in crowded and contagious cubicles, trains, and buses.”
“At a time when even Andrew Cuomo is asking business leaders to chip in extra for the sake of the greater good, the Left can argue that we’ll take these corporate contributions in the form of higher taxes that can be democratically allocated, rather than artificially high rents to prop up wealthy real estate titans. And Cuomo’s replacement, Kathy Hochul, can sign the Housing Our Neighbors With Dignity Act passed by the legislature in June, which would allow New York state to finance the conversion of vacant hotels and office buildings into affordable housing.
“The gap between workers whose jobs can and cannot be done from home has put workers on opposite sides of wide gaps in income and mortality during this pandemic, and there may be similarly bruising fights to come between a building’s office workers who want to continue remote work and its maintenance and cleaning workers who fear being laid off.

Public Policy & Politics

Beyond Neoliberal Trade (Boston Review)

“[…] the central question about the international system is not whether it allows for optimal allocation of resources across borders but whether it provides a suitable environment for the survival and growth of these social organisms. Does it promote or hold back the productive capacities of nations? Actually existing global capitalism, from this view, is very far from the efficient, self-equilibrating system of neoliberal fantasy. International competition is red in tooth and claw; unmanaged, it is more likely to disrupt the development process of the weaker participants than to deliver mutual benefits.”
“Intentionally or otherwise, this language suggests that it’s the proper role of some countries to make cars and computers, and the role of others to make clothes and coffee beans, and nothing should be done to change this. The countries that specialize in higher education and software and pharmaceuticals should retain their monopolies, while the countries that specialize in plantation agriculture and sweatshop clothing should keep on doing that. Everybody should stay in their lane.”
“The increasing weight of IP provisions in today’s “trade” agreements means they are no longer simply about setting rules for exchanges between countries. While the ideal of free trade closes off the possibility of transforming productive capabilities, IP rules prevent them from using even the capabilities they already have. They are also a reminder that the market power that the New Trade Theory takes as its starting point isn’t just a fact about the world but something that has to be actively created and maintained.”
“Unless a country’s currency reliably weakens when it runs a trade deficit, and its trade balance quickly improves in turn, there is no automatic mechanism to ensure that employment in a sector lost to trade will be made up by employment somewhere else. Without reliable exchange rate adjustment, the logic that says trade must always leave a country better off as a whole no longer applies […]”
“Greece, for example, moved from a trade deficit of 12 percent of GDP in 2008 to essentially balanced trade five years later. Did its competitiveness improve? Not at all; Greek exports actually fell over this period. The trade deficit closed only because Greek imports fell by far more—almost half—thanks to a catastrophic depression.
“Reserve accumulation, and the trade surpluses it requires, are sometimes seen by U.S. critics as a violation of market norms, a form of currency manipulation or mercantilism. But they are better seen as a defensive response to the absence of any global management of international payments. There would be less need to run surpluses to accumulate foreign exchange reserves if countries took the more direct route of regulating financial flows across their borders with capital controls—but that is something that the neoliberal consensus has strenuously ruled out.”
“Far from making development obsolete, climate change gives it new urgency. Much like industrialization, decarbonization requires a rapid, far-reaching, coordinated reorganization of productive activity, a task that decentralized markets are particularly unsuited for. If governments in the North and South alike are going to rebuild their economies on a sustainable basis, they will need to use many of the same tools that were used to build new export sectors and shift labor and resources from agriculture to industry in the past.”


Afghanistan: So What Do the Filthy Commie Peaceniks Say Now? by David Swanson (CounterPunch)

“When the U.S. government refused to abide by agreements, refused to stop bombing, refused to give credible negotiation or compromise a chance, refused to support the rule of law around the world or lead by example, refused to stop shipping weapons into the region, refused to even acknowledge that the Taliban is using U.S.-made weapons, but finally claimed it would get its troops out, I expected that U.S. media outlets would develop anew a strong interest in the rights of Afghan women. I was right.”
“The Stop Arming Human Rights Abusers Act (H.R.4718) would prevent U.S. weapons sales to other nations that are in violation of international human rights law or international humanitarian law. During the last Congress, the same bill, introduced by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, gathered a grand total of zero cosponsors.
“Catch up with the world and cease being the leading holdout globally on the most major human rights treaties including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (every nation on Earth has ratified except the United States) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (every nation on Earth has ratified except the United States, Iran, Sudan, and Somalia).”


Bomber Biden Sends B-52s in Tantrum over Taliban Advance by Dave Lindorff (CounterPunch)

“[…] the US war on Afghanistan and the occupation of its main cities by US forces and a puppet Afghan military trained and funded by the US, was a criminal act of imperialist aggression and occupation, aimed at giving the US control of a country strategically located between Iran, China and Pakistan and blessed with vast stores of valuable minerals.


 George Bush: 'Heh, heh, heh'

Biden and Blinken are doing a lot to own it just because of how surprised they’re acting that Kabul has already fallen. Good thing we spend 1.4T per year on military and black-budget “intelligence agencies”. Biden announced in July that Kabul wouldn’t fall. Blinken said last week it definitely wouldn’t be a “Friday to Monday thing”, that the embassy would remain. Absolute morons. Absolute war criminals. Now they and all the media are pretending to care about Afghans again (especially the women … won’t someone please think of the women?). Absolutely base hypocrisy.


It is Government Weakness, Not Taliban Strength, That Condemns Afghanistan by Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch)

“As with the Soviet Union in the 1980s, failure in Afghanistan has global implications far beyond the country where the war is being waged. In fact the defeat is more complete than that suffered by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, but after Soviet withdrawal the Communist government in Kabul survived for several years, in sharp contrast to the present debacle.
“Western generals have the gall to say the US retreat was too precipitate and they needed more time to train and prepare the Afghan armed forces. But after 20 years and the expenditure by the US of of $2.3tn in Afghanistan, the claim that the military lacked time or resources is an absurd evasion of responsibility.
“These failings were blamed by Westerners on the corruption of the Afghan state and society, but much of the American aid money never made it past the sticky fingers of US consultants and security companies. Wherever this largesse was going, it was not into the pockets of the 54 per cent of Afghans living below the poverty line of $1.90 a day.”

An old saying declares that Afghans never lose a war – because they always join the winner before it comes to an end. Thus Ismail Khan, a powerful warlord in Herat is reported by the Taliban to have joined their forces, though the government sources say that he was captured.

“Such switches of allegiance explain the momentum of the Taliban advance. Twenty years ago, I saw the Taliban likewise abandon Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Ghazni without a fight. But consolidating these successes may prove difficult because the Taliban are either hated or disliked in much of the country, particularly in the cities, where they will only be able to rule by the use or threat of violence.

I don’t understand how “much of the country” opposes them, but they’ve conquered the country inside of a week. Either they haven’t really conquered anything or the hatred is exaggerated or they really are an incredibly swift and fearful and powerful force capable of conquering an entire country in a week. I think it’s much more likely that they were already in control long before and the flags just changed now that the Americans are officially gone.


A Day in the Death of British Justice by John Pilger (CounterPunch)

Julian Assange, who has committed no crime and has performed an historic public service by exposing the criminal actions and secrets on which governments, especially those claiming to be democracies, base their authority. For those who may have forgotten, WikiLeaks, of which Assange is founder and publisher, exposed the secrets and lies that led to the invasion of Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the murderous role of the Pentagon in dozens of countries, the blueprint for the 20-year catastrophe in Afghanistan, the attempts by Washington to overthrow elected governments, such as Venezuela’s, the collusion between nominal political opponents (Bush and Obama) to stifle a torture investigation and the CIA’s Vault 7 campaign that turned your mobile phone, even your TV set, into a spy in your midst.”
“Has Ms. Dobbin worked her way through the medieval maze at Belmarsh to sit with Julian in his yellow arm band, as Professors Koppelman and Melzer have done, and Stella has done, and I have done? Never mind. The Americans have now “promised” not to put him in a hellhole, just as they “promised” not to torture Chelsea Manning, just as they promised.


The Vanishing Legacy of Barack Obama by Matt Taibbi (TK News)

Obama was set up to be the greatest of American heroes, but proved to be a common swindler and one of the great political liars of all time — he fooled us all. Moreover, his remarkably vacuous post-presidency is proving true everything Trump said in 2016 about the grasping Washington politicians whose only motives are personal enrichment, and who’d do anything, even attend his wedding, for a buck. Trump’s point was that he, Trump, was already swinishly rich, while politicians have only one thing to sell to get the upper class status they crave: us. Obama did that. He sold us out, and it’s time to start talking about the role he played in bringing about the hopeless cynical mess that is modern America.
“Again, history books will not recognize it, but Obama previewed Donald Trump’s campaign, or at least a version of it, selling himself as an untainted outsider challenging a failing and mistrusted political establishment.”
“When Obama came to town, residents of the predominantly black city expected him to ride to the rescue by declaring a federal disaster and sending in FEMA for a cleanup. Instead, he told a story about how he was sure he ate lead paint as a kid (and turned out fine!), then took a micro-sip of Flint water, as if to show how safe it was. When the assembled gasped in horror, he chuckled with annoyance, “This is a feisty crowd tonight!” After, he held a quick presser where he repeated the sipping trick and zipped back to Air Force One in his limo. The scene is as close to pure political evil as you’ll ever see on stage.


In Somalia, the US is bombing the very ‘terrorists’ it created by TJ Coles (The Gray Zone)

“The Pentagon is committed to global domination, Somalia is a strategic chokepoint, and the Department of Defense needs reasons to maintain its presence in the country.
“[…] by painting the nomadic and Sufi Islamist nation of Somalia as a hub of right-wing Salafi extremism, Western policymakers and media propagandists created a self-fulfilling prophesy in which Muslim fundamentalists eventually joined the terror groups they were already accused of being part of.


Biden Must Call Off the B-52s Bombing Afghan Cities by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies (Antiwar.com)

“The Taliban’s speedy and simultaneous occupation of large amounts of territory all over the country appears to be a deliberate strategy to overwhelm and outflank the government’s small number of well-trained, well-armed troops. The Taliban have had more success winning the loyalty of minorities in the North and West than government forces have had recruiting Pashtuns from the South, and the government’s small number of well-trained troops cannot be everywhere at once.”
“Twenty years after Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld committed a full range of war crimes, from torture and the deliberate killing of civilians to the “supreme international crime” of aggression, Biden is clearly no more concerned than they were with criminal accountability or the judgment of history.
“As we approach the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we should reflect on how the Bush administration exploited the US public’s thirst for revenge to unleash this bloody, tragic and utterly futile 20-year war.”


US intelligence warns Kabul could fall within one month by Bill Van Auken (WSWS)

“At least 2,000 Afghan government troops were at the base, the headquarters of the 217th Pamir Army Corps, one of seven army corps in the country, which was responsible for security in the country’s north. The Taliban captured large stocks of US-supplied weapons and Humvee armored vehicles, as well as a helicopter in the surrender.


The U.S. Government Lied For Two Decades About Afghanistan by Glenn Greenwald (SubStack)

“Last month, the independent journalist Michael Tracey, writing at Substack, interviewed a U.S. veteran of the war in Afghanistan. The former soldier, whose job was to work in training programs for the Afghan police and also participated in training briefings for the Afghan military, described in detail why the program to train Afghan security forces was such an obvious failure and even a farce. “I don’t think I could overstate that this was a system just basically designed for funneling money and wasting or losing equipment,” he said. In sum, “as far as the US military presence there — I just viewed it as a big money funneling operation”: an endless money pit for U.S. security contractors and Afghan warlords, all of whom knew that no real progress was being made, just sucking up as much U.S. taxpayer money as they could before the inevitable withdraw and takeover by the Taliban.
“There was virtually nothing that could happen in Afghanistan without the U.S. intelligence community’s knowledge. There is simply no way that they got everything so completely wrong while innocently and sincerely trying to tell Americans the truth about what was happening there.
“Any residual doubt about the falsity of those two decades of optimistic claims has been obliterated by the easy and lightning-fast blitzkrieg whereby the Taliban took back control of Afghanistan as if the vaunted Afghan military did not even exist, as if it were August, 2001 all over again. It is vital not just to take note of how easily and frequently U.S. leaders lie to the public about its wars once those lies are revealed at the end of those wars, but also to remember this vital lesson the next time U.S. leaders propose a new war using the same tactics of manipulation, lies, and deceit.

Journalism & Media

Internet of Snitches by Kyle Rankin (Purism)

You should have control over your own computers. Your phone should be your castle. True control means controlling your hardware and software. It means picking hardware that doesn’t depend on absolute trust in a vendor for its security, but gives you control over your own security so you don’t have to ask the vendor’s permission to use the computer how you wish. It means using a free operating system that lets you install whatever software you want and remove any software you don’t. Finally, it means running free software that you or anyone in the community can modify (or change back) if a developer ever makes it work against your interests.”


Meet the Censored: Paul Jay by Matt Taibbi (TK News)

“The real problem is that it’s technologically impossible to exercise human-level judgment in every case, and many of the smaller independent media ventures simply can’t survive algorithmic errors — another factor that will give large media companies a huge inherent market advantage over time. No matter what your political views, it should be troubling that the question of whether or not the public gets to see real video from important historical episodes like the events of January 6th is dependent on how companies like YouTube define proper “context.””
“I’m not in favor of the algorithms at all. Period. So let’s start with that. The whole idea of censorship through algorithm is BS. The idea that you can have the major platforms for public discourse privately owned, and exempt from any kind of public oversight, or even constitutional oversight, to me represents a step towards a kind of technocratic police state.”

Science & Nature

My Extreme World by Tom Engelhardt (CounterPunch)

“This season, California’s wildfires have already devastated three times the territory burned in the same period in 2020’s record fire season.”
“Take Greenland, where a “massive melting event,” occurring after the temperature there hit double the normal this summer, made enough ice vanish “in a single day last week to cover the whole of Florida in two inches of water.””

Philosophy & Sociology

Contra Hanania On Partisanship by Scott Siskind (Astral Codex Ten)

“If one ethnic group is Democrat and another is Republican, this is only bad in the usual ways. But if one education level / professional group is Democrat and another is Republican, you get different ones capturing different institutions and then all the institutions are fighting against each other. Also, institutions lose viewpoint diversity and become monocultures. Also, people become suspicious of institutions that have been captured by people of the other political party and stop trusting them, and then society can’t reach a normal epistemic consensus.
“think I would go with the same recommendations in my post on Republicans and class − try to decrease the salience of college in society, so that not every smart person needs to get a college degree, and not every important job is degree-gated. Probably solving racism would help shake up political coalitions, so somebody should do that too.”
“Piketty’s paper includes a great 1925 quote by John Maynard Keynes on why he would never vote Labour: “I do not believe that the intellectual elements in the Labour Party will ever exercise adequate control; too much will always be decided by those who do not know at all what they are talking about.””

Technology

Apple defends iPhone photo scanning, calls it an “advancement” in privacy by Jon Brodkin (Ars Technica)

“While some employees “worried that Apple is damaging its leading reputation for protecting privacy,” Apple’s “[c]ore security employees did not appear to be major complainants in the posts, and some of them said that they thought Apple’s solution was a reasonable response to pressure to crack down on illegal material,” Reuters wrote.

Obviously some of them think so. I would imagine that “[core] security employees” who, presumably, worked on this feature, would approve of it, in broad strokes. It’s a rare employee who’s going to go against a sugar daddy like Apple.

“Apple is separately adding on-device machine learning to the Messages application for a tool that parents will have the option of using for their children.
“Apple said the changes will roll out later this year in updates to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey and that the new system will be implemented in the US only at first and come to other countries later.
“Opsahl noted that “the Five Eyes—an alliance of the intelligence services of Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—warned in 2018 that they will ‘pursue technological, enforcement, legislative or other measures to achieve lawful access solutions’ if the companies didn’t voluntarily provide access to encrypted messages. More recently, the Five Eyes have pivoted from terrorism to the prevention of CSAM as the justification, but the demand for unencrypted access remains the same, and the Five Eyes are unlikely to be satisfied without changes to assist terrorism and criminal investigations too.””


Apple to work with law enforcement to scan personal photo libraries for child abuse content by Kevin Reed (WSWS)

“Matthew D. Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins University, told the New York Times that Apple’s new features “set a dangerous precedent by creating surveillance technology that law enforcement or governments could exploit.” Green went on, “They’ve been selling privacy to the world and making people trust their devices. But now they’re basically capitulating to the worst possible demands of every government. I don’t see how they’re going to say no from here on out.””
“Greg Nojeim, co-director of the Security & Surveillance Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told CNN, “Apple is replacing its industry-standard end-to-end encrypted messaging system with an infrastructure for surveillance and censorship,
“Whistleblower and former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden tweeted, “No matter how well-intentioned, @Apple is rolling out mass surveillance to the entire world with this. Make no mistake: if they can scan for kiddie porn today, they can scan for anything tomorrow. They turned a trillion dollars of devices into iNarcs—‘without asking.’””


Apple’s Plan to “Think Different” About Encryption Opens a Backdoor to Your Private Life by India Mckinney And Erica Portnoy (EFF)

“Apple can explain at length how its technical implementation will preserve privacy and security in its proposed backdoor, but at the end of the day, even a thoroughly documented, carefully thought-out, and narrowly-scoped backdoor is still a backdoor.
“All it would take to widen the narrow backdoor that Apple is building is an expansion of the machine learning parameters to look for additional types of content, or a tweak of the configuration flags to scan, not just children’s, but anyone’s accounts. That’s not a slippery slope; that’s a fully built system just waiting for external pressure to make the slightest change.
“It is also important to note that Apple has chosen to use the notoriously difficult-to-audit technology of machine learning classifiers to determine what constitutes a sexually explicit image. We know from years of documentation and research that machine-learning technologies, used without human oversight, have a habit of wrongfully classifying content, including supposedly “sexually explicit” content.
People have the right to communicate privately without backdoors or censorship, including when those people are minors. Apple should make the right decision: keep these backdoors off of users’ devices.”

Programming

Conway’s Law: latency versus throughput by Mark Seemann (Ploeh)

“When the team is located in the same room, working towards the same goals, communication is efficient − or is it? You can certainly get answers to your questions quickly. All you have to do is to interrupt the person who can answer. If you don’t know who that is, you just interrupt everybody until you’ve figured it out. While offices are interruption factories (as DHH puts it), this style of work can reduce latency.”
“[…] it turned out that a week after I’d had a meeting, I’d be called to what would essentially be the same meeting again. Why? Because some other stakeholder heard about the first meeting and decided that he or she also required that information. The solution? Call another meeting. My counter-move was to begin to write things down. When people would call a meeting, I’d ask for an agenda. That alone filtered away more than half of the meetings.”
“I often see companies advertise for programmers. When remote work is an option, it often comes with the qualification that it must be within a particular country, or a particular time zone. There can be legal or bureaucratic reasons why a company only wants to hire within a country. I get that, but I consider a time zone requirement a danger sign. The same goes for “we use Slack” or whatever other ‘team room’ instant messaging technology is cool these days. That tells me that while the company allows people to be physically not in the office, they must still obey office hours. This indicates to me that communication remains ad-hoc and transient. Again, code quality suffers.
“My argument is only this: if you decide to shift to an asynchronous process, then I consider parallel development essential. Even with parallel development, you can’t get the same (low) latency as is possible in the office, but you may be able to get better throughput. This again has implications for software architecture. Parallel development works when features can be developed independently of each other − when there’s only minimal dependencies between various areas of the code.
“This style of work benefits my employer. By working asynchronously, I have to document what I do, and why I do it. I leave behind a trail of text artefacts other people can consult when I’m not available.
Software development with a co-located team can be efficient. It offers the benefits of high-bandwidth communication, pair programming, and low-latency decision making. It also implies an oral tradition. Knowledge has little permanence and the team is vulnerable to key team members going missing. While such a team organisation can work well when team members are physically close to each other, I believe that this model comes under pressure when team members work remotely.”