Google Search is evolving into a walled garden.

We’ve passed a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden. In June of 2019, for the first time, a majority of all browser-based searches on resulted in zero-clicks.

Step by step, Google is taking over all the information from the web to their own page. I can see the benefit from the end user: They are searching for a specific bit of information and do not care about your website. So from a user’s perspective, I applaud this trend. However, this is taking traffic and therefore money away from the websites, which means that Google is destroying business models all over the world.

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Squarespace on three kinds of Good Technical Debt. There are two interesting parts in this article.

“Tech debt” is a dirty word in the software engineering world. It’s often said with an air of regret; a past mistake that will eventually need to be atoned for with refactoring.

Financial debt isn’t universally reviled in the same way. Your friend takes out a mortgage to buy a house and what do you say? Congratulations!

The debt metaphor should be taken literally. Taking a debt means taking money someone with the promise of paying back in the future, then using that money for your benefit (possibly generating even more money) and paying it back with benefits. It’s a win-win situation - in theory, that is.

The other good point is this:

The key is to be intentional about what you invest time in and aware of the costs you’re taking on. […] Good tech debt has clear, well-known limitations. Document these in code comments, READMEs, FAQs, and conversations with the people who’d care.

Used carefully, good tech debt will help you build software faster by focusing your time on the things that matter most.

At the end of the day, it boils down to “Take a debt consciouisly, aware of the risks and with the intention of paying it back”.

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Someone has surfed the web on a budget of 50 MB per day:

I’m going to limit my browsing today to 50 MB, which in Zimbabwe would cost around $3.67 on a mobile data tariff. That may not sound like much, but teachers in Zimbabwe were striking this year because their salaries had fallen to just $2.50 a day.

For comparison, $3.67 is around half the $7.25 minimum wage in the USA. As a Zimbabwean, I’d have to work for around a day and a half to earn the money to buy this 50MB data, compared to just half an hour in the USA. It’s not easy to compare cost of living between countries, but on wages alone the $3.67 cost of 50 MB of data in Zimbabwe would feel like $52 to an American on minimum wage.

The article comes with hands-on tips on how websites could improve and shows impressively just how unethical poor web performance is.

It’s ironic, though, that the page where he posts his results is also guilty of transferring a lot of data - I measured a whooping 10 MB when accessing the page.

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Douglas Hofstadter on “Number Numbness” (1982). He is the author of “Goedel, Escher, Bach”, and also coined “Hofstadter’s law”:

Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

The article makes a great point of people not being able to grasp very large numbers:

I once taught a small beginning physics class on the thirteenth floor of Hunter College in New York City. From the window we had a magnificent view of the skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan. In one of the opening sessions, I wanted to teach my students about estimates and significant figures, so I asked them to estimate the height of the Empire State Building. In a class of ten students, not one came within a factor of two of the correct answer (1,472 feet with the television antenna, 1,250 without). Most of the estimates were between 300 and 500 feet. One person thought 50 feet was right-a truly amazing underestimate; another thought it was a mile.

Though the rest of the article focusses more on truly large numbers, like the difference between a million, a billion and a trillion, this quote shows that people have already difficulties with numbers which aren’t that big.

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