Bureau of Programming


“The Case Against Immigration”

From the Trump administration’s (latest) immigration ban from Muslim-majority countries to the tightening of H1-B visas, the U.S. tech sector has found itself at a crossroads with a shifting dynamic on immigration policy. While most tech companies support a pro-immigration policy—mostly in the immigrants-drive-innovation vein—there’s a flip side that’s less familiar but worth understanding.

Steven Camarota, writing for Foreign Affairs, presents a cogent argument against the US’s current immigration system. He argues the costs are too high, that it favors the wrong people, and that it won’t reverse the demographics of an aging nation.


Django 1.11 Released

Django 1.11 was released today. It is an LTS release (supported for three years) and is the first version to support Python 3.6. It includes three major new features: class-based model indexes, template-based widget rendering, and subquery expressions.

  • Class-based model indexes: Django now provides an Index class that facilitates the creation of database indexes (example).
  • Template-based widget rendering: Form widget rendering is now template-based. You can override Django’s widgets’ HTML (listed here) to customize how inputs appear.
  • Subquery expressions: You can now perform subqueries and use the SQL EXISTS statement using query expressions (i.e., without writing raw SQL).

The Django team also released 1.10.7, 1.9.13, and 1.8.18 to address two security issues.


Drupal Contributor Banished Over Sex Life

Gabriela Barkho, writing for The Outline, ruminates on the departure of Larry Garfield from the Drupal community:

At what point do code of conduct guidelines cease to protect the community, and start to exclude members for their private habits?


PHP 7 (and 7.1) in a Nutshell

If my day job is any indication, PHP won’t die. You can make the best of it by upgrading to the latest version. Here’s a rundown of the new features in PHP 7.0 and 7.1.

Continue reading (4 minutes) • Save to Instapaper

Twitter Allegedly Hiding Criticism of United Airlines

Dimitar Mihov, writing for The Next Web:

This sort of moderation is more commonly known as “ghost-deleting.” The term is a little misleading since such tweets are technically not deleted, but merely prevented from appearing in users’ feeds. This measure, however, is usually reserved strictly for offensive tweets—and this is hardly the case here.

In other censorship-related news, Reddit’s /r/videos moderators removed the video of the passenger being assaulted on United Flight 3411.


Why I Stopped Attending Programming Meet-ups

I’ve decided I’m no longer attending programming meet-ups. The reason I’m no longer attending is because they’re free.

To be more accurate, it’s because of all the adverse effects of free. “Free” means having no expectations. It means taking what you’re given. It means the value isn’t obvious or measurable. It means, frankly, they’re not sure if anyone would show up if it weren’t free. It also means they can charge you in ways that aren’t monetary.

Some common characteristics of programming meet-ups:

  • The event is mislabeled. You come for X, but learn Y instead.
  • The core material begins late. You don’t expect or want food, but you are told how there would have been pizza, but the pizza got lost in transit, because someone named Peggy signed for it, but no one named Peggy works there.
  • The presenter hasn’t prepared. You squint at poorly-indented code without the benefit of syntax highlighting.
  • The presenter talks down to the audience. You learn how much the presenter enjoyed attending MIT and how many Fortune 500 companies the presenter has worked for.
  • The sponsor’s presence dominates. You are told: “Have you heard about Z? It’s great. There’s a free tier. You’d have to be an idiot not to use Z. I use Z all the time, and I’m very successful. Let’s take five minutes so I can walk you through Z’s dashboard.”
  • The Wi-Fi doesn’t work. You enjoy watching your web browser send packets into oblivion as your OS attempts and fails to demystify the venue’s network capture scheme.

It’s hard to blame the meet-up groups themselves. They’re trying. Their organizers do invest legitimate effort into fielding speakers, promoting their talks, and creating a welcome space. But it’s a really inefficient medium for learning anything.

A few days ago, Smashing Magazine, of all places, published a tremendous article on HTTP/2 Push. It’s great—thorough, well-edited, timely—some things I’d never expect from a meet-up. It’s also free. Plus I can skim it. And if it weren’t good, I could have found a different article or book or talk on the topic.

But the low to zero cost of meet-ups means there’s little incentive to produce quality presentations. The groups attract people who want to show off their pet projects or who are cajoled into speaking by their managers. The speakers simply don’t have the skill or interest or time to captivate a professional audience. Even though presentations can be very effective means of teaching, preparing a talk takes time, far more time than writing an article.

I’m sure meet-ups have value for some people, some of the time. If you want to meet other programmers, go. Or if you want to see what’s new in a related field, go. But otherwise, if you’re looking to learn something, well, there’s a whole world wide web for that.


User Uninstalls Python, Obliterates System

From Server Fault:

A disaster just occurred to me after I ran the command yum remove python and now I can’t boot the server up anymore.

Never remove Python.


Patagonia Begins Selling Used Clothing

The outdoor clothier Patagonia has begun selling pre-worn clothing.

Founded in 1973, Patagonia has been well-studied by management and business ethics gurus for its focus on corporate responsibility and environmental awareness (and, you know, financial success). Of course, there’s a certain irony in any brand, whose job it is to sell you more stuff, shrouding themselves in an Earth-first, reduce-reuse-recycle ethos.

Marisa Meltzer, wrote for The Guardian:

[Patagonia] is hyper-aware of these contradictions, perhaps to the point of tying itself in knots. In 2011, on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year in the US, Patagonia ran an ad featuring a photo of a plush blue fleece, and copy that read DON’T BUY THIS JACKET. The advert invited customers to make a commitment to reduce what they buy, repair their gear and recycle the stuff they no longer need. (Patagonia’s campus in Reno, Nevada houses the largest garment repair facility in North America.) But it had the opposite effect: Patagonia’s Black Friday sales increased by 30% over the previous year. The anti-sales message, as they might have expected, made consumers feel better about buying more.

This new “Worn Wear” shop—with most items priced at $40—is the latest in a string of unusual (anti-)business decisions.


“Is It Time to Break Up Google?”

Jonathan Taplin, writing in an op-ed in the New York Times:

We are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Google, Facebook and Amazon are the kinds of natural monopolies that need to be regulated, or whether we allow the status quo to continue, pretending that unfettered monoliths don’t inflict damage on our privacy and democracy.

Ryan Cooper makes a similar argument in The Week.