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Algorithms Visualized: amazing

Check out this article that shows off how visualizations can help you understand how algorithms work. It's an amazing piece of work: Creatively, he figured out how to illustrate an algorithm so I can better understand how it works; Technically, the code that implements these visualizations is itself very clever and elegant; and Aesthetically, the overall effect on the page itself is quite beautiful. I am jealous!

Google+ Awesome Pictures

A very little known feature of Google+ Is the "auto awesome" feature. I want to sing its praises!

On your smartphone. you can download the G+ application and configure it to automatically back up all your photos to Google+, even if you choose to keep them all private. A useful feature, but not unique.

But dig a little deeper and you will find that you can enable something called "auto-awesome", When you do that the non-evil gnomes at Google will look at all your pictures and from time to time do some crazy fun tweak to it to make it more awesome. And it looks like they add different kinds of awesomeness from time to time.

The beauty here is that this takes literally zero effort on your part: it just happens. And sometimes the creations are just downright…. AWESOME! Here's a before and after to whet your appetite:

Corporate doublespeak or inspiration?

Maybe I've been out of the corporate world for too long. And I do wish Microsoft well because Google and Facebook and others need competition so they don't totally ruin our world. So I read with interest Satya Nadella's email to employees which is available for all to read.

The first thing that caught my eye is this abuse of logic and English: "We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world…." This phrase is all over the place. Do you see the problem? [Maybe I am too nerdy in my parsing of English.

The second thing I caught my eye was that the salutation is "Team," Microsoft has around 130,000 employees. I guess that's a pretty big team. But also, I may be wrong about this. But all the examples (2) of emails from Bill Gates to all employees didn't have any salutation. Hmm. I think the first time I saw that salutation was in emails from Steve Jobs to Apple Employees.

Final annoying nit picking point from the Natella email: "At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more." Hmm, that singular focus looks like a 2×2 matrix, so there are four most important things.

I know that a document like this that will be released to the universe past, present and future, is a heavily choreographed piece with many authors. I always had a hard time with corporate mission statements and such. And if I received this as a way to get me excited and feeling that there was renewed focus in the company. Well, meh.

Amazon, I love you, But I want to break up [UPDATED]

Email I just sent to Amazon.

Dear Amazon: I can't believe you stoop as low as that and hide the ability to close my account so thoroughly that I now have to engage in a multi- message email discussion with you to convince you to do so. Please CLOSE my account!

If you want to close your Amazon account, good luck, you will be playing hide and seek with them. Kind of lame.

Ok, I sent them that email, and it seems they still won't let me go! Lame^2. Here's what their response email says:

Dear Pito,

Here are some things to keep in mind:

-- If you use your log-in on other sites (e.g.,,, international Amazon sites except for and, etc.), you'll also lose access to those accounts.
-- If you've placed orders on AmazonLocal, you'll no longer have access to your vouchers.
-- Any open orders you have will be canceled.
-- All subscriptions will be canceled (Amazon Prime, Subscribe and Save, etc.).
-- If you have a remaining Gift Card or promotional credit balance, you won't have access to use the funds.
-- Returns and refunds can't be processed for orders on closed accounts.
-- You won't be able to initiate Textbook Rental returns and will remain responsible for outstanding rentals.
-- You won't be able to access Kindle, Amazon Instant Video or Amazon Appstore content.
-- You won’t be able to re-download content from your Games & Software Library.
-- Your Amazon Payments account will be closed and can't be reopened.
-- We can't transfer the history of an account to another account.
-We will delete your customer profile as well as all your reviews, discussion posts and customer images.
-- You'll no longer have access to your Associates, Amazon Web Services, Seller, Author Central, Kindle Direct Publishing and/or Mechanical Turk accounts.
-- If you have an Amazon Web Services account, please contact AWS customer support for assistance with closing your AWS account : account…

If you still want to close your account after reviewing the items above, please write back by visiting this link and state that you want to close your account:

It’s probably not cool to say, but I am not sure about “Mayday.Us”

"We’re kickstarting a Super PAC big enough to make it possible to win a Congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016. We set fundraising goals and then crowdfund those goals."

Lofty goal but so vague I can't tell which way is up!

I remember something that sounded similar, a few years ago: It was called Americans Elect. They had awesome goals, and they even got Thomas Friedman to endorse them. Like Lawrence Lessig. (See I don't say "Larry" because we aren't really on a first name basis 🙂 The problem is that Americans Elect failed miserably, and there was even some buzz that it was some kind of a front for less savory operators who I would not have supported if I had known them. I honestly don't remember the details anymore but it did make me less willing to jump in an support positive but vague sounding causes.

So I am not ready to jump in with both feet into Mayday.Us.

To NDA or Not to NDA?

We all have heard more than once that "VCs will NOT sign NDAs, don't even ask!". And we've also heard and said many times that "Ideas are cheap" and that many first time entrepreneurs are far too precious about their great ideas. They keep them top top secret, ask prospective customers to sign an NDA, and in general undermine their own ability to get useful real feedback on the thing they want to create. The attached article is interesting in its analysis of those tradeoffs:

"Not everyone agrees. Thom Ruhe, vice president for entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, said the declining use of N.D.A.s “is certainly not in the interests of entrepreneurs. It favors the V.C.” Although it is rare that an investor steals an idea, Mr. Ruhe said, it does happen. “But in the skewed echo chamber of the Valley, and the sycophantical networks that aspire to be just like them,” he said, “they’ve made the easier and less morally defensible position — no N.D.A.s — the coin of the realm.”

Is Apple trying to buy off “Fake Steve” or is it April 1 in December?

I wrote recently about Fake Steve and wondered aloud how he could get away with what he gets away with.

If that thread interested you at all, you've got to go look at the latest shenanigans that Fake Steve is reporting in his blog. He's being offered big bucks to stop blogging.

"[snip…] He sits there with his hands on his knees. He says, I'm authorized to go as high as five hundred thousand dollars, but that's it.[snip…] From Secret Diary of Fake Steve Jobs

Hall of mirrors. Is this Fake Steve Jobs speaking, or is it Daniel Lyons for real, or is it Fake Daniel Lyons?

Originally posted on Dec 23, 2007. Reprinted courtesy of ReRuns plug-in.