A casual mention in a presentation by Yahoo’s “Senior Vice President for Bad Decisions” helped Maciej Cegłowski build Pinboard.in into a sustainable business. https://www.economist.com/babbage/2011/04/04/stick-a-pin-in-it. Since this article ran in 2011, Pinboard.in acquired Delicious.
When John Titor first showed up on IRC chat in October of 2000, he was enjoying a neat kind of double billing – as his 38-year-old self sat downstairs in the kitchen, typing away, a two-year-old version of himself lay sound asleep upstairs in bed. The elder Titor had been sent back in time by the U.S. Army, which needed him to fetch some legacy computer hardware from the 1970’s, and he had a sort of layover in the year 2000. So like anyone with time to kill, he went online.
Titor arrived in Florida in a 2036 model Corvette (later sold off) outfitted with a 500 pound military-grade time travel device that he photographed and posted online, complete with manual. The reason for his visit was utilitarian – he had been sent back to the 1970’s to fetch a model IBM 5100 computer, “because Unix has problems in 2038”, and the 5100 had an undocumented feature that made it highly desirable to programmers working on the Unix bug. Apparently the Army of 2036 knew enough to build a time machine, but wasn’t able to fix a word-size error in a legacy operating system.
That bit actually made the whole story sound plausible to me.
Maciej Cegłowski takes readers on a culinary tour of Antarctica.
Cegłowski’s latest essay, “Gluten Free Antarctica,” is part of an occasional series on his adventure cruise to the southernmost continent. It’s brilliant: dryly humorous and insightful, like all of his writing.
Cegłowski is a multiple threat: Talented speaker, writer, software developer and entrepreneur. He developed the social bookmarking service Pinboard.in (motto: “Social Bookmarking for Introverts”). It’s a lean, high-performance clone of the del.icio.us bookmarking site from the 2000s, which was acquired by Yahoo and got bloated and slow. Eventually, Pinboard acquired the Delicious (as it was then called).
Maciej Cegłowski is the author of the Pinboard social bookmarking site (he calls it “antisocial bookmarking”), and a trenchant writer with a concise, witty voice. Here he tackles the dangers of Silicon Valley’s belief it can save the world:
As computer programmers, our formative intellectual experience is working with deterministic systems that have been designed by other human beings. These can be very complex, but the complexity is not the kind we find in the natural world. It is ultimately always tractable. Find the right abstractions, and the puzzle box opens before you.
The feeling of competence, control and delight in discovering a clever twist that solves a difficult problem is what makes being a computer programmer sometimes enjoyable.
But as anyone who’s worked with tech people knows, this intellectual background can also lead to arrogance. People who excel at software design become convinced that they have a unique ability to understand any kind of system at all, from first principles, without prior training, thanks to their superior powers of analysis. Success in the artificially constructed world of software design promotes a dangerous confidence.
Imagine if your sewer pipe started demanding that you make major changes in your diet.
Now imagine that it got a lawyer and started asking you to sign things.
You would feel surprised.
This is the position I find myself in today with IFTTT, a form of Internet plumbing that has been connecting peaceably to my backend for the past five years, but which has recently started sending scary emails.
Maciej Ceglowski, who develops the excellent Pinboard.in online bookmarking service says IFTTT, an Internet service that connects things to other things, wants him to use a proprietary API to connect his thing (Pinboard.in) to their thing (IFTTT). They’re requiring him to agree to onerous terms of service, too, he says.
In a nutshell:
IFTTT wants me to do their job for them for free
They have really squirrely terms of service
Ceglowski is an excellent writer, and this is an outstanding rant. I’m keeping my pitchfork and torch at the ready, but waiting to hear what IFTTT has to say before I brandish them.
I’ve been using Pinboard for years, and using Pinboard in conjunction with IFTTT almost as long. I’d dislike for them to have a falling out.
My Heroic and Lazy Stand Against IFTTT [Maciej Ceglowski – Pinboard Blog]