Young Reacts #212

To those in the US: Happy MLK day! The fact that I, an immigrant Asian, can live without discrimination or fear in the US owes a lot to Dr. King. The progress has been too slow, and challenges are still innumerable, but let’s use today to remember his legacy.

Software Engineering ⚙️

The State of JS 2022

I always learn new things from this report. This time I learned the following:

tRPC Introduction

After learning about this library in the survey, I read about what tRPC is. It reads like it’s simpler than GraphQL to adopt for full-stack developers who work on a monolith. But it won’t give you GraphQL’s flexible APIs.

People ❤️

Finding Fulfillment

This article made me look back at my past decisions. Did I make them out of ego? Did I sacrifice my true fulfillment to satisfy my ego at the time? How can I make better decisions for myself in the future?

Shopify encourages employees to say no to meetings

Shopify canceled all non-1:1 meetings at the beginning of the year. This was intended to force all meetings to be re-evaluated on their merits. I like this. All meetings should be able to justify their existence.

Business 💰

Every book deserves to be heard

Apple announced a pilot program to create audiobooks with AI voices. As an avid audiobook listener, I got very excited as I often wanted to get interested in an old book without an accompanying audiobook. Unfortunately, this will also upend many narrators’ livelihoods, and only the author-narrated books will survive as collector’s items.

CNET Is Experimenting With an AI Assist. Here’s Why

CNET, a major tech media, started publishing articles created by an AI system and edited by a human editor. I am actually not surprised, I suppose, because I’ve already seen ChatGPT.

My lawyer, the robot

This is the most advanced and high-stakes AI in today’s post. DoNotPay, a legal tech company, is looking for a person to use its AI to argue their case.

Young Reacts #211

It’s nice to see you again in 2023. Tech layoffs continue in January (Amazon, Salesforce, etc.), and I wish you the resilience to manage the stress well.

Software Engineering ⚙️

First-class Support for TypeScript

With the 0.71 release, React Native’s starter CLI will generate a project in Typescript, not Javascript. Even React’s starter CLI doesn’t do that. So Typescript isn’t just first-class, more like a preferred option now.

How did NASA remotely fix the code on the Mars Pathfinder?

I wondered how to debug a program running on a computer millions of kilometers away. The answer was simple: those programs run with the debugging facility enabled, and the engineers can transmit a command to modify the programs’ states. It’s just that you need to triple-check everything because a mistake costs dearly.

People ❤️

Measuring an engineering organization

This article is one of the most impactful ones in my recent memory. Engineering leaders cannot avoid providing some visibility into their teams’ operations. But different stakeholders are looking for different insights, and the leaders should tailor measurements for the use cases. This article provides the typical use cases and the typical metrics for each.

Business 💰

FTC fines Fortnite maker Epic Games $520M over children’s privacy and item shop charges

$245M out of $520M was to refund customers for Epic Games’ dark patterns that “trick users into making purchases.” This refund was the largest refund in FTC’s history. I hope that this news warns other companies from employing dark patterns.

Why we still believe in the future

Meta’s VR chief, Andrew Bosworth argues Meta’s core ad business is still strong and reaffirms Meta’s commitment to VR.

The infrastructure behind ATMs

The article tells an interesting story about how ATMs came about and provided the infrastructure for debit cards and that the infrastructure for debit card transactions is different from that for credit card transactions.

Interesting Finds 💡

I usually wake up just ahead of my alarm. What’s up with that?

I had the same experience that, when I had to wake up early to catch an airplane or a meeting, my eyes were open 30 min before my alarm went off. This article goes into a few possible explanations.

Young Reacts #210

This is the last issue of 2022. Thank you for being a subscriber through this eventful year. I will take a break next week to celebrate the new year and return on January 9. Happy new year!

Software Engineering ⚙️

Web workers, React, and TypeScript

I wanted to learn about two things reading this article: first, is the communication overhead between the main thread and the worker thread small enough? Second, can that communication be typed (see this article for inspiration)? Unfortunately, the answer to the first question wasn’t in this article, and the answer to the second was no.

A framework for balancing and budgeting engineering resourcing

An essential part of engineering management is balancing priorities and communicating your balancing decision with the stakeholders. Summarizing the team’s priorities in percentage will provide valuable discussion points.

People ❤️

317 Free Resources for Product Management

When you try to devise a creative solution to a problem, there is no worse drag than having to start from a blank page. This list has templates from actual product companies (Airtable, Coda, etc.).

The Dangers of Courage Culture and Why Brene Brown Isn’t For Black Folk

Women of color experience the world very differently from how men of color or white women experience it. Just as “lean in” didn’t work for women of color, Brene Brown’s advice probably won’t work for them.

Business 💰

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

This article digs deep into the machine learning data supply chain. It starts with how private images captured on a robot vacuum ended up online and how different parties get involved in building “smart” devices. I knew of companies like Scale AI but didn’t understand how they fit into the picture until I read this article.

Interesting Finds 💡

The decline of the city grid

This article comes with a cool interactive visualization of how grid-like your neighborhood is. The image at the bottom is a polar histogram of my neighborhood. It shows that while the area has large grid blocks (see horizontal and vertical lines), it also has a lot of non-conforming roads. I added the histogram of Chicago for comparison.

My neighborhood

Young Reacts #209

As we go into the final two weeks of 2022, I wish you happy holidays!

Software Engineering ⚙️

Engineering in a Hybrid World

This report shows how other larger technical organizations operate. I found this part on measuring engineering productivity most intriguing: “Developer productivity can be compared to a sales funnel, with key metrics that can be tracked at each stage.” The report defines the stages as Writing Code, Code Review, Testing, Deployment, and Maintenance.

nact ⇒ node.js + actors

This Node.js library helps you by forcing you to delineate the different domains in your code. I also see a similarity in call patterns of nact’s actors and GraphQL’s resolvers. I don’t have an opportunity to test this out at work, but I will remember this in the future.

People ❤️

Why Incentive Plans Cannot Work

This article reminded me of the book “What Money Can’t Buy.” When we put price tags on intangibles, we lose the ability to see anything else.

Control vs. Context

The author suggests that control and context may not be one or the other but can coexist; there can be a high control and high context environment. It’s an interesting thought, but I can’t entirely agree that they are independent of each other, as his 2×2 grid suggests. High context enables low control, and low context forces high control. If people have enough information to make good decisions, they don’t need to be told what to do.

Business 💰

The charges against Sam Bankman-Fried and the first FTX Congressional hearing

It’s about time SBF gets actual charges for his fraud. Saying sorry and admitting his incompetency should not save him.

CEO Geoff Schmidt’s message to Apollo employees

Apollo, one of the top GraphQL tooling companies, laid off 15% of their workers. I was sad to see this happen because I’ve been a big fan of their work.

Apple announces biggest upgrade to App Store pricing, adding 700 new price points

I did not know that App Store only supports a few hundred price points. That explains why no apps are priced at “weird” numbers, such as $0.24 or $4.86.

Young Reacts #208

After so much legwork and decisions, my home remodeling project is scheduled to be completed this week. Through this process, I’ve learned to collaborate better with my wife and let go a little more. I cannot wait to see my home in its new glorious look!

Software Engineering ⚙️

npm Best Practices Guide

Although npm hasn’t been on the news lately, we need to be mindful of the damage we may cause with npm (See this example). This guide has plenty of good advice, such as using lock files and npm scopes.

Should you use jest as a testing library?

I don’t quite agree with the author’s conclusion that jest doesn’t work well for Node.js applications. But I did learn how jest has implemented its parallel runner.

People ❤️

3 rules to express your thoughts so that everyone will understand you

Even before reading this article, I knew and followed the first and third rules: “make no more than three points” and “make important points three times.” But I haven’t thought about its second rule: “explain difficult ideas in three different ways.” This rule will make my points more digestible and expand my understanding of the topic.

Why are there so many tech layoffs, and why should we be worried? Stanford scholar explains

This professor argues that layoffs are a result of ‘social contagion,’ meaning they do it because others do it. And the unfair part is that the execs who make the decision will be impacted the least, given their golden parachutes. The employees, however, will be hurt mentally and physically.

‘Diablo IV’ developers work long hours, bracing for impending release

Yes, I am excited about the release of Diablo IV in June of next year. No, I don’t think hitting the date is worth sacrificing employees’ mental and physical health. But this capitalist society will punish the company if the team misses the date.

Business 💰

OpenAI’s attempts to watermark AI text hit limits

ChatGPT, only a few days after its release on November 30, is already banned from Stack Overflow because of its ability to produce valid-looking but incorrect answers at scale. Will watermark technology save us from the onslaught of online misinformation?

Visualizing Tech Company Layoffs in 2022

tech layoffs in 2022

You can easily see the scale of the layoff in this visualization.

Young Reacts #207

I’ve been enjoying the World Cup and its many upsets so far. I am happy that current and former Arsenal players do well on this global stage. Even some who didn’t fit in with Arsenal’s system continue to perform at the top level for their national teams. It reminds me that we all need the right environment to realize our full potential.

Software Engineering ⚙️

Speeding up the JavaScript ecosystem – one library at a time

This article showcases the power of debugging tools by shedding a few seconds of build time with only dozens of lines of change.

NextJS, SvelteKit, Remix and the future of Storybook

Storybook prioritizing its compatibility with other frameworks and build tools is good evidence that they are gaining more popularity.

Retrofitting null-safety onto Java at Meta

One lesson from this article is similar to one from Ten Years of Typescript: enabling a gradual migration was critical to the adoption. A large software project should always support the migration path to be successful.

People ❤️

Tension: why product development requires balancing conflicting goals

The contrasting statements in this article brought my attention to consider a few tradeoffs.

“Output is not outcome.”

This means that on-time project delivery does not guarantee that the resulting product solves customer problems.

“Business problems are not customer problems.”

This means that the customers don’t care about the business’s needs (growth, profitability, etc.). Plus, if I may add my interpretation, the business also needs a way to make money as it solves customer problems.

Better, Faster, and More

I don’t appreciate how this article explains (somewhat patronizingly) why one cannot compare the compensation for different offers because each role is unique. This logic will always give the employers the upper hand because the candidates will never have as much information as the hiring company.

However, I agree that it’s easy and tempting to focus on quantitative values such as compensation instead of intangibles like role fit and growth opportunity.

Business 💰

FTX’s Collapse Was a Crime, Not an Accident

I did not know who Sam Bankman-Fried was before his frauds were uncovered. But seeing how he played the media as a philanthropist, I am reminded that we cannot trust one’s words but only their actions.

New Meta AI demo writes racist and inaccurate scientific literature, gets pulled

By this point, there have been enough public AI abuses. AI research teams should more proactively collaborate with a red team to harden their products before public releases.

For those in the United States, I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving. The world is suffering, but I found much to be grateful for: my family is healthy, we could afford to buy a house, I have enough experience to feel confident about navigating the tech downturn, and I had friends to spend Thanksgiving together. What were you thankful for?

Software Engineering ⚙️

Why Twitter had 7500 Employees, and Startups Crush Big Companies.

The maintenance work and product complexity make it difficult to move fast with an established product. I also believe the communication cost within and between teams lowers individual productivity.

Deno 1.28: Featuring 1.3 Million New Modules

Deno announced in September that it would enable all npm to interoperate with Deno within three months. And they did it. I am amazed that they hit this self-imposed deadline.

How Precision Time Protocol is being deployed at Meta

The detailed technical discussion went over my head. But I learned that a synchronized time could help solve data consistency challenges and that you need custom hardware to get the nano-second level precision.

Bug Blog: eSports Trade Issue

I saw many League of Legends matches disrupted by this issue, so I found this article extra interesting. It’s always cool to see an approach that worked initially breaks down as the scale changes.

People ❤️

The Principal Engineer’s Handbook

As I “moved up” in my career, it became harder to tell my capacity. This handbook defines an engagement model (Owner > Stakeholder > Supporter > Friend) and recommends owning no more than two initiatives. It’s a good rule of thumb to follow.

Business 💰

Disney mired in chaos as Bob Iger takes reins back from ‘novice’ CEO Chapek

I wasn’t aware of all the controversies around Disney parks. But I still wonder what choice an executive has under pressure to grow year after year but to milk more money from its most loyal customers. Regardless, it would suck to be pushed out of your job by the one who appointed you.

All Deviations Are Opted Out of AI Datasets

Generative AI models have used real humans’ work without permission. To help protect those humans’ copyrights, DeviantArt created new HTML directives (“noai” and “noimageai”) to signal that a given page or image is not for machine consumption, just like the “noindex” directive. The tricky part is that the training models need to respect those tags.

Interesting Finds 💡

I found the artwork in the thread pretty amusing. Do take a look!

Young Reacts #205

We closed on a house last week. It was our first time buying a home, and it was as unnerving as exciting. We plan to do some work on the house before we move in, and it has opened a whole can of worms. We had to make so many decisions and did not have enough time. I never cared about the brand of the toilet in my apartment, but now I needed to know enough to pick a new toilet. I never knew that there were dozens of white paints, each with a minutely different tone.

I was overwhelmed. Then, a wise person told me to take one step at a time and to learn to enjoy the process. We will live in the house for a long time and have plenty of time to tinker with it. I tend to rush the process so that I can mark it as “done.” But some things in life cannot be completed (your house will always have an eyesore) and are more about the journey. I will take this opportunity to internalize that.

Software Engineering ⚙️

Is Turbopack really 10x Faster than Vite?

This is not the first time an unverifiable claim has been made for JS tooling. I wish there were established JS parsing, formatting, and bundling benchmark tests as there are for CPU or graphics cards. Then, instead of a company benchmarking its competitors’ products, each can focus on its own. With that, we can improve on tweets like this.

Are we monitoring our tools?

It is an exciting idea to centralize the usage metrics of the tools at a company. We spend a lot of time and energy understanding the value of the tools during the renewal period. So even a basic centralized usage database will save so much time. I feel like all SaaS tooling companies should provide an API to collect usage data.

People ❤️

Kindness, Tech Staffing and Resource Allocation

Many tech pundits talk about “bloat” when discussing the recent layoffs. I disagree with that labeling. A thousand engineers are a lot and expensive. But they can be there for a number of different reasons: scaling an existing product, taking a bet on a new product, or improving the team’s productivity. Knowing their challenges and priorities from the outside is impossible, and it’d be good to have some humility and empathy.

Business 💰

Rent Going Up? One Company’s Algorithm Could Be Why.

This article raises an interesting question. Is it anti-competitive if landlords use the same algorithm to set their rents? What if that algorithm uses the landlords’ private data? How can we know the algorithm does not use those private data?

Also, one memorable quote from the article: “One of the algorithm’s developers told ProPublica that leasing agents had “too much empathy” compared to computer generated pricing.”

The DOJ has reportedly opened an antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster’s owner

The poor buyer experience of Ticketmaster is a clear example of a monopoly hurting consumers, from tech failure to ticket scalping. Taylor Swift tickets are now going over $20,000.

Farewell from Protocol

As tech companies struggle, tech media struggle as well. I enjoyed reading Protocol (I had linked to quite a few of their articles) and will miss it.

Interesting Finds 💡

Introducing Notion AI

Remember this article about using Generative AI to brainstorm new product ideas? Notion productized it.

Young Reacts #204

It was another tough week for tech workers with massive layoffs. I really feel for those who may have to uproot their life in the US because of their immigration statuses. I am thankful I don’t have to worry about my legal status anymore.

Software Engineering ⚙️

Seeing through hardware counters: a journey to threefold performance increase

The performance investigation in this article goes from a high-level metric, like requests per second, to a low-level one, like the CPU cache metrics. It is an excellent reminder that there is no perfect abstraction and, at the core, everything is in bits.

People ❤️

Mental Models to Help You Cut Your Losses

In uncertain times like this, it’s more important to move on from your losses in terms of your investments and career. Two strategies in this article should help us navigate our losses: verify the riskiest assumption and define the success/exit criteria.

Meet the Big Tech Companies Flouting NYC’s New Pay Transparency Law

It’s been six months since the pay transparency law in New York City took effect. But many employers are still not on board. So I welcome investigations like this pushing the companies to respect the law.

Business 💰

FTX files for bankruptcy, Bankman-Fried steps down

I am not surprised that another crypto company goes down for poor management and greed. But every failed company has real-life consequences on real people, such as a teachers’ pension fund losing $95M.

Waymo’s self-driving service is now available to the public in downtown Phoenix

It’s super exciting to see a general release of a self-driving taxi service. I hope such services will help those with limited ability to drive (the elderly and people with disabilities) in the near future.

Interesting Finds 💡

What Are Expected Goals (xG)?

I saw this new metric, expected goals, on soccer highlights and wanted to understand what it was. It’s the historical probability for a shot to result in a goal, given different factors such as the distance to the goal. “Not all shorts are created equal.”

Young Reacts #203

I don’t think I mentioned this before, but I am a huge League of Legends fan. Its 2022 World Championship concluded with the underdog team defying the odds throughout its journey. Congrats to DRX! It’s been a rare treat to see a movie-like story unfold in real life. You can read more about their journey in this Twitter thread.


People ❤️

Why Feedback Hurts

Receiving feedback has always been difficult for me. But as this article says, treating the feedback as the giver’s perception of me, not the truth, helps me deal with the discomfort.

Hit the Ground Running – How to Ramp Up at Your New Job in 3 Weeks ($)

I rarely include a pay-to-read article, but I included this one because it changed my perspective. My mentor once told me that I should be patient when I join as a leader because it takes ~2 years for a leader to learn the necessary context. But this article suggests that it can be done in 3 weeks. Granted, the author moved between orgs at Amazon, which would have made the transition easy. But 3 weeks and 2 years are very different numbers.

A Leader’s Guide to Metrics Reviews

When my team tried to implement our metrics review, we felt lost on where to begin. This article suggests modeling the business before building the dashboard, which makes complete sense now. I also like that the article provides the agenda for the review meeting.

A coaching paradox

My current coaching engagement is sadly ending next week, but it was a fantastic experience. It was a way to take a step back from my day-to-day activities and to hold myself accountable to make changes.

Business 💰

Shonda Rhimes is among the creators unhappy with Netflix’s mid-video ads, sources say

“Creative freedom” was Netflix’s key selling point to its creative partners. The newly introduced mid-video ads can hurt the creators’ narratives, and some don’t like it.

AI-generated art sparks furious backlash from Japan’s anime community

AI technology poses a tricky problem for copyright laws. Should an artist have control over whether AI uses their art? Even if so, how can the law practically enforce it?

The Pink Transit Tax: Women Spend More Than Men to Get Around NYC

Though I knew of incidents my female friends ran into, I never had to think about this. Another privilege I unknowingly enjoyed.