Five short links

Photo by Rennett Stowe

Save vs Death – As a gamer, and especially as a role-playing gamer, I've spent a lot of time learning to viscerally understand probabilities at a gut level. I'd never made the connection, but that perspective has informed so much of what I've done in my life, from optimizing products to making life choices. It's sobering to read Jim's meditation on how that approach affects your world view when you're facing mortality head on.

It’s not what you know, but who you know: The role of connections in academic promotions – A natural experiment that demonstrates how much having a personal connection to a job candidate affects decision makers, with some thoughtful analysis of why that sometimes makes sense at an individual level, even when it results in overall unfairness.

Mapping with Geocommons and OpenHeatMap – Out of all the open-source projects I've done, OpenHeatMap has had the longest life. It's a painful mess of PHP code, but it seems to meet a real need, so I try to keep it up and running. The hardest part is that as more and more people use it, the mean time between server failures shrinks, so I end up having frequent down time. I've been working on strategies to reduce the flakiness (the usual failure mode is the postgres server hitting memory problems and dying) but apologies to anyone who's been affected recently.

How location technology can change publishing – My friend Drew Breunig always has interesting things to say about practical applications of location data.

Zombie.js – After the shame of having the Jetpac login system down overnight without noticing, I've been investing heavily in automated testing. So far desktop Selenium has been my favorite approach, but someone pointed me at Zombie as an alternative, and it looks very impressive. I've used PhantomJS before for screenshots, but from what I've seen so far Zombie doesn't require X windows or other heavy dependencies. I'll give a full report once I've had a chance to use it in production!

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