Interesting Things #7 β€” Don't read everything


This is Beng Tan and welcome to Interesting Things, a curation of interesting stories and links from tech, indie biz, science, and related fields.

I got interesting feedback this week. Someone said they get overwhelmed if a newsletter has tons and tons of info in it. They were referring to this one. 😨

But I’ll take this as a compliment. 😁

And I will say: Don’t read everything. Just read what you find interesting and skip the rest. It’s a newsletter. It’s not gonna vanish into your social media feed. You can always come back later. Or not at all.

Oh, and don’t read it all in a day. Spread it out over a week. Relax.

I hope you find the following stories interesting. If you don’t, you can [unsubscribe]({{ unsubscribe_url }}) and I won’t pollute your inbox again.

Happy reading!


What’s in email tracking links and pixels? β€” An attempt to deconstruct tracking links and pixels and highlight the data that is being collected.

Extrapolating to Unnatural Language Processing with GPT-3’s In-context Learning: The Good, the Bad, and the Mysterious β€” Something that wasn’t apparent in smaller models seems to β€œemerge" as models get bigger.

UnixShell Programming: The Next 50 Years [pdf] β€” Improving the shell holds much promise for development, ops, and data processing.

The ARM processor (Thumb-2), part 1: Introduction β€” How does Windows 10 use this processor in user mode?

New CSS functional pseudo-class selectors :is() and :where() β€” These seemingly small additions to CSS selector syntax are going to have a big impact.

Livebook is a secret weapon for documentation β€” A new way to provide documentation, interactive exploration, and expose the app logic in a way we couldn’t before.

Failing Big with Elixir and LiveView β€” A post-mortem of why a political party in Germany had to delay their convention by an hour.

Structural Typing in Rust β€” Bringing structurally typed functions to Rust via LabelledGeneric.

Tightness Driven Development in Rust β€” The tightness of a type is the proportion of invariants that are upheld in the type definition as opposed to its methods.

Write Rust lints without forking Clippy β€” Dylint makes it easy for developers to maintain their own personal lint collections.

Testing in the Twenties (May 2021) β€” A compelling argument in favour of taking automated testing seriously.

On the Diverse And Fantastical Shapes of Testing β€” Martin Fowler on the meaning of unit testing.

Logging is important β€” Having good logs requires a little bit of thought and consistency. But is not that hard.

Please don’t count outages (or SEVs, or whatever) β€” When a metric becomes a goal, it ceases to be useful.

Making JavaScript run fast on WebAssembly β€” Optimising javascript performance for new environments (other than the browser).

Is WebAssembly magic performance pixie dust? β€” There is something to gain from taking a piece of JavaScript, turning it into AssemblyScript and compiling it to WebAssembly.

Leaky Abstractions β€” While deleting a file from a disk is usually trivial., deleting from certain ZIP files is extremely slow.

SQL Query Optimization: Understanding Key Principle β€” Gain a true understanding of SQL query speeds, incuding a demonstration of slow and fast query types

syscall & sysret β€” How syscall or sysret is implemented on WingOS by a 14-year old.

About Yak Shaving β€” The story of how I started doing open source.

The Future Web: Will Canvas Rendering Replace the DOM? β€” Google Docs is switching to canvas rendering. WebAssembly is growing. Are we moving to a future of opaque binary blobs?

The startups reinventing the web browser β€” The web browser is a crucial part of modern life, and yet it hasn’t really been revised since the ’90s. That may be about to change.

Contributing to Gemini ecosystem β€” A glimpse into what’s happening in this next-gen platform.

Analysis report of the Facefish rootkit β€” Facefish can be characterized as a backdoor for Linux platform.

Running the 1G Analog Phone from 1997 β€” Someone created a 1G cellular network with a laptop and commonly available hardware.

Joseph Weizenbaum’s Original ELIZA β€” A storied part of tech history.

Three Embarrassing Software Engineering Fails β€” The biggest mistakes I made in my careerβ€Š, β€Šand what I learned.

Behind the painstaking process of creating Chinese computer fonts β€” More than 40 years ago, designers drew and edited thousands of characters by hand to make it possible to type and print in Chinese.

How Lois Lew mastered IBM’s 1940s Chinese typewriter β€” She memorised 5,400 (non-unicode) code points.

Conditional HTTP GET: The fastest requests need no response body β€” A great guide on how conditional http headers interact with the browser cache.

Offload Mental Simulation β€” Is this an essential feature for all future programming systems?

#indie biz

Be Decision-Driven Not Data-Driven β€” The tech media is obsessed with data but maybe being data-driven is the wrong goal.

How to raise for the first time β€” You may find our learnings handy if you’re an early stage startup looking to raise.

SaaS Fundraising Handbook β€” Be Fully Prepared for Your Company’s Next Fundraise.

Meet Your Next Angel Investor. They’re 19 β€” It’s never been easier to invest in startups, and Gen Z is taking full advantage.


Sick bats also employ ‘social distancing’ which prevents the outbreak of epidemics β€” Bats also resort to isolation which can assist in preventing mass contagion.

How This Zombie Fungus Turns Cicadas into Horror-Movie Sex Bots β€” An amphetamine and a psychedelic help parasitic fungi spread their spores through insects' doomed mating attempts.

Mach 30 β€˜tunnel’ will put China decades ahead β€” Hypersonic tech could make it possible for super-fast jets to fly anywhere in the world in two hours or less.

Cities Have Unique Microbial ‘Fingerprints’, First Study of Its Kind Reveals β€” Got sick when you holiday in a new place? You probably got exposed to a new microbiome.

Fifteen Years of Radar Reveal Venus’s Most Basic Facts β€” Every day on Venus is a different length.

Has the American-Grown Truffle Finally Broken Through? β€” These delicacies, harvested in an experiment in North Carolina, have food-lovers and farmers ravenous for more.

China maintains ‘artificial sun’ at 120 million Celsius for over 100 seconds, setting new world record β€” A key step toward the test running of a fusion reactor.

153 years after discovery of the immune system’s dendritic cells, scientists uncover a new subset


A hacker mindset β€” Rules to help develop what I call ‘a hacker mindset’.

The Digital Nomad Life and the Ambiguous Gift of Freedom β€” Is this lifestyle really as dazzling as it seems?

pencil and paper thinking (Apr 2021) β€” To truly understand the world, we need tools far more powerful than pencil and paper.

Secret Chats Show How Cybergang Became a Ransomware Powerhouse β€” A Russian-speaking outfit called DarkSide offered would-be computer crooks not just the tools, but also customer support.

Moving my US tech job to Australia β€” Another data point in this new trend.

My Personal Creed of Employment β€” I describe the attitude and practices I wish to follow. I hope some of them might help you.

A disturbing, viral Twitter thread reveals how AI-powered insurance can go wrong β€” Lemonade tweeted about what it means to be an AI-first insurance company. It left a sour taste in many customers’ mouths.

Decision Making Bias: Availability β€” We overestimate the likelihood of events that are easier to recall.

MeWork β€” There’s a new class of billionaire in America which makes their fortunes destroying value rather than creating it.


Everything You Might Want to Know about Whaling β€” I think whaling is really cool. I can’t help it. I embarked on this project to understand everything I could about whaling.

Pixel Thoughts β€” A 60-second meditation tool to help clear your mind.


If you enjoyed these stories, please share this newsletter with 2.9 friends (I’m trying to increase the R0 number).

And should you come across anything interesting in your wanderings, please email or tweet me. I’d love to give them some exposure too.

Happy reading!