Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our weekly analysis of the most interesting and important news, stories, and events in the world of modern software and analytics.
This week, our top story compares the innovation coming out of Google’s cloud conference to the underwhelming impact of Apple’s big spring press event.
TWiMS Top Story:
10 Big Announcements from Google’s Cloud Conference—Network World
What it’s about: It may be challenging to think of Google as an underdog in any arena, but it distantly trails AWS and even Microsoft Azure in the cloud platform wars. However, Google seemed determined to do everything it could to change that at this week’s Google Cloud Platform (GCP) Next conference. In a quest to avoid being an afterthought in cloud enterprise strategies, the search leader unveiled a parade of new cloud announcements and features with a visible enterprise focus, noted Network World’s Brandon Butler in his recap. Keystones include new Cloud Identity and Access Management (IAM) roles and audit logging capabilities. Can Google actually catch up to AWS and Azure? Butler cites cloud analyst Sam Charrington, who weighed in on Twitter: “Here is GCP exec team’s operating thesis: ‘Cloud’s not done. The industry’s just beginning the journey.’ … Google came [from] behind to win in search, mail, maps, browser, mobile based on strength of tech/product. Still room to innovate.” In terms of innovation, among other moves, Google plans to closely align its investments in machine learning and AI with GCP, starting with making a slew of its machine learning systems publicly available.
Why you should care: When it comes to cloud platforms, choice is a good thing. And Charrington is certainly correct in noting that there’s still plenty of room to innovate there. Overall, though, the surprising slew of announcements from the GCP Next conference is further confirmation that the real action is in the cloud these days. That seems especially true after what’s being painted as a “boring” spring press event from Apple, where the focus seemed to be on smaller sizes and lower prices—not to mention fighting the FBI over encryption—rather than tech innovation. In a way, Apple is a victim of its own legacy of high-flying events, not to mention the maturing of the smartphone market and ongoing lethargy in tablet-land. The cloud momentum, meanwhile, shows no sign of slowing.
- Google Is Sharing Its Powerful AI With Everyone in Its Cloud—WIRED
- Google Is Planning a Massive Expansion of Its Datacenter Empire—Business Insider
- Google Takes Aim at AWS, Microsoft on Cloud Front—InformationWeek
- Why Amazon’s Biggest Cloud Customer, Netflix, Is Speaking at Google’s Big Cloud Conference—Business Insider
- Apple Is Boring Now—Quartz
- Apple Gets Cheap—Network World
- Why the iPad Pro May, or May Not, Work at Work—Computerworld
Twitter at 10: ‘A Window Into Other Lives’—The New York Times
What it’s about: Twitter had its tenth birthday this week, and as multiple outlets noted, it all started with a single, somewhat anticlimactic tweet. Now, Twitter has become a force of nature that can even sway mainstream society. The New York Times serves up a series of commentaries from various high-profile Twitter users on the good, bad, and ugly of the service. Twitter has played a positive role in movements for social justice and other arenas, for example. As journalist and news anchor Gwen Ifill says in the Times, however, “Twitter is a double-edged sword.” It’s a powerful platform for sharing information, for instance, but things can quickly turn toxic: “You can spend a whole lot of time dealing with anger,” she says. There was an example of that dark side just this week, as Microsoft had to yank its new AI bot, called “Tay,” after Twitter users “taught” it to be racist.
Why you should care: We’re at a crucial stage for Twitter. There’s no doubt Twitter is huge as well as hugely influential. In a single decade, it has clearly cemented its place in the cultural fabric. Presidential candidates fight on Twitter. The platform has played a significant role in major events and movements. It’s hard to find a celebrity or pro athlete who doesn’t have a handle, and there’s nary a news publication or journalist who’s not on the site. Yet for all its enormous popularity and influence, Twitter as a business continues to struggle and its future remains unclear. What happens next will be fascinating to watch, and could even portend the future of what we think of as social media. It’s also a reminder that no matter the popularity of your app, software developers aren’t promised a bulging bottom line. In at least one respect, though, Twitter may have tipped its hand at the end of its celebratory video. The video seems to torpedo rumors that Twitter plans to expand its famous 140-character limit by writing a longer message—and then editing it down to size with emojis and signing off.
- Twitter Turns 10 Today: Here’s How It’s Celebrating—Fast Company
- The American Idea in 140 Characters—The Atlantic
- Twitter at 10: A People’s History—The Verge
- The 100 Funniest Jokes in the History of Twitter—GQ
- Microsoft Silences Its New A.I. Bot Tay, After Twitter Users Teach It Racism [Updated]—TechCrunch
What it’s about: Former Intel chairman and CEO Andy Grove died on Monday at age 79. Born András Gróf in Communist Hungary, Grove became Intel’s president in 1979 and CEO in 1987. Among numerous other achievements, he is credited with helping move Intel away from memory chips and into the microprocessors that led to Intel’s enormous role in the dawn of the PC era. “Andy made the impossible happen, time and again, and inspired generations of technologists, entrepreneurs, and business leaders,” said current Intel CEO Brian Krzanich in a statement. Under Grove’s watch, Intel’s annual revenues skyrocketed from $1.9 billion to more than $26 billion. Grove also wrote two acclaimed management books, High Output Management and Only the Paranoid Survive.
Why you should care: In an industry full of larger-than-life people, Grove was one of the biggest. Silicon Valley as we know it wouldn’t exist without him. While names like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs might be more widely recognized around the world today, Grove advised them both—and plenty of other tech luminaries—early in their careers. “He was at the forefront of creating the personal computer industry, and whenever we spent time together, I always came away impressed by his brilliance and vision,” Gates says of Grove in an interview with Bloomberg. As Curtis Franklin writes in InformationWeek: “Many in our industry leave technologies as their legacy. Some leave companies as their heritage. It can only be said of a select few that they left behind an entire industry. An argument can be made that Andy Grove is president of that elite group.”
- Andrew S. Grove 1936-2016—Intel Newsroom
- The Man Who Built Silicon Valley: A Tribute to Andy Grove—a16z
- Intel’s Andy Grove: A Silicon Valley Pioneer—InformationWeek
- Silicon Valley Mourns Andy Grove, a Titan of Tech—WIRED
- The Lion of Silicon Valley—The Wall Street Journal (Paywall)
- Andy Grove, Who Taught Silicon Valley How to Do Business, Dies—Bloomberg
Stack Overflow Developer Survey Results—Stack Overflow
What it’s about: Late last week developer community Stack Overflow released a treasure trove of data about the people who make modern software tick. More than 56,000 devs responded to the site’s annual survey, and it’s both fun and illuminating to pore over the results—from demographics to favorite (and least favorites) languages and tools, to workplace challenges and salary data. But as commentators dug in this week, not everything they found was positive. The survey confirms once again something many are already aware of: There’s a huge gender imbalance in software development. More than 92% of Stack Overflow’s respondents identified themselves as men. FreeCodeCamp teacher Quincy Larson notes that while this isn’t necessarily news, it should still get our attention: “A 15-to-1 ratio of males to females? This is a much wider gap than most people realize,” he writes in his recap of the survey on Medium.
Why you should care: It’s like a census just for coders, and there’s loads of data worth considering. Some of our favorite takeaways:
- Developers love them some Rust and Swift: The two languages top the list of “Most Loved” technologies, with F#, Scala, and Go rounding out the top 5.
- Developers do not love Visual Basic: VB tops the “Most Dreaded” list of technologies, with WordPress garnering the dubious runner-up spot.
- In fact, Node and Angular are among the top “Most Wanted” technologies that devs hope to learn, coming in second and third, respectively, after Android.
Meanwhile, the survey indicates one thing that all developers appear to have in common: They want to write code! “Duh,” you might say, but there’s actually a correlation between regular code commits and greater job satisfaction: Devs who check in or commit code daily or multiple times a day are the happiest.
- Insights From Stack Overflow’s 2016 Survey of 50,000 Developers—Medium
- Meet 2016’s Developers, According to Stack Overflow’s Annual Survey—ZDNet
What it’s about: The marriage of modern software and the modern workforce requires considerable changes in enterprise IT—we’ve always done it this way is no longer a viable strategy. Box CIO Paul Chapman, who joined the company last summer, is the latest high-profile tech exec to ring that bell, telling CIO this week: “As IT professionals, we have to keep reinventing ourselves at the risk of losing relevancy, and that’s fearful for people.” Fear fuels resistance to change; no one likes to think their job is being threatened. But the catalysts for this sea change—from the cloud to shadow IT to sky-high user expectations for the digital interactions they have with your business—aren’t going away.
Why you should care: It might seem like Chapman is a bit biased: Box is the kind of cloud-based service that employees often use whether IT approves them or not. (Of course, Box has long pitched its enterprise services with IT in mind, too.) But shadow IT exists at firms like Box as well, and Chapman’s tenure has been marked by a similar evolution to those of its customers. So how does Chapman manage this in house? For starters, he advises turning shadow IT into an opportunity to get better data on why employees prefer one particular app over another. That can be invaluable when trying to differentiate the pros and cons of various options. CIO reports that Chapman conducted an “anthropology study” soon after joining the firm to figure out why employees rejected certain tools in favor of others, such as shunning the company-approved messaging app in favor of Slack. As a result, Box now uses a mixed approach to employee tools—people can choose from among Slack, Google Hangouts, and Salesforce Chatter for collaboration.
What it’s about: Want to make sure you’re hiring the best talent? Start typing immediately after asking the candidate a question during an interview. That’s what the big boys like Google and Amazon do, according to this hilarious send-up in The Cooper Review. Remember, it’s not rude; it’s a cutting-edge hiring strategy: “You could be taking notes, or you could be writing an email to your estranged father, doesn’t matter. See if the candidate can remain focused on the question or if he gets lost. This will help you find candidates who don’t let tiny distractions get in the way of finishing the job.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? Satire or not, this is a must-read for hiring managers at any tech company, with essential tips like: Are you starting your phone screens on time? You’re doing it wrong: Call them early, late, or never. After all: “Anyone can answer a series of probing questions when you call them at the expected time. But what happens if you call them when they’re still sleeping, in Zumba class, or on the toilet? This is how the top tech companies find people who are ready for the job at any moment.”
Why you should care: “It’s funny because it’s true” reads the tagline for The Cooper Review, which specializes in knowing takedowns of workplace and corporate culture. Yet as the tagline promises, there’s a twisted logic to the advice here because, well, this stuff happens all the time. There are plenty of laughs, too: Want to weed out thin-skinned candidates? “Make plenty of incorrect assumptions. If the candidate’s last job was at Twitter, say, ‘How long were you at Yahoo!?’” And make sure the entire hiring process benefits you and your company. Stuck on a thorny software problem? Ask job candidates to solve it for you! “Tech companies often have candidates solve real problems they are currently facing. This is a good way to get some free help with those problems.”
We Only Hire the Trendiest—Dan Luu
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