Five short links


Picture by Robert Edgar - I was complaining about all the problems I've had installing Postgresql on OS X, so I'm grateful to a commenter for pointing me to this Heroku-sponsored attempt to make it easier. It does seem a lot more usable than any of the alternatives I've tried.

Swoosh – "A generic approach to entity resolution". Fuzzily matching large numbers of records to figure out which ones represent the same objects is a fundamental operation whenever you're dealing with big unstructured data sets. It's hard to implement all the plumbing to support the matching operations, and even harder to optimize the whole process, so this Stanford framework looks appealing, and I know at least one startup is using it in production.

Charles – A startlingly-useful desktop app for inspecting the web traffic your machine is sending and receiving. Great for understanding the underlying nuts-and-bolts of an online application.

Tune in next week – I spend a lot of time trying to understand our user's psychology so we can convert the time they spend on Jetpac into actions that persuade more people to sign up, and generally build the business. This is something I struggle with, I worry that I'm doing something unseemly, which is why this essay on the art of the cliff-hanger was so striking. Story-tellers have hacked their audiences for millenia, aiming for the moment when "curiosity is converted into a commercial transaction", which captures the balance I'm trying to strike.

Rare photos of the Soviet bomb project – There are some amazing photos from the dawn of the atomic age, but what leapt out at me was how the scientist behind the Communist bomb figured out that the US was working on a weapon. After he'd published a nuclear research paper that received no citations "Flerov did a literature search and realized that nobody was publishing on fission anymore — and indeed, all of those who had been publishing on it had dropped off the map completely. He immediately started writing letters — including to Stalin himself — pointing out that this could only indicate that the United States was working on an atomic bomb." This was information that was visible to anyone, but only he seemed to spot it.

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