This Week in Modern Software logoWelcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, New Relic’s weekly roundup of the need-to-know news, stories, and events of interest surrounding software analytics, cloud computing, application monitoring, development methodologies, programming languages, and the other issues that influence modern software.

This week, our top story is an unprecedented apology to developers from Twitter. 


TWiMS Top Story:
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to Developers: We’re Sorry—Fortune

What it’s about: You expect a certain amount of hubris at major tech company events, but Twitter’s Flight conference struck a more humble, conciliatory tone with the 1,500 or so developers in the audience: The CEO apologized for the company’s rocky relationship with devs in the past and promised better days ahead. Dorsey and other Twitter execs then tried to show they meant it with a slew of new developer-focused announcements, spotlighting mobile and the enterprise. There were updates to its Fabric mobile development framework (including closer integration with Fastlane for simpler submission to app stores), email login support for Digits (its mobile two-factor authentication tool), and Gnip Insights (enterprise-oriented APIs for tracking and analyzing audience engagement on the platform).

Why you should care: Major platform companies—think Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, etc.—have long understood the importance of third-party developers to extend their ecosystems. But Twitter has a rockier history with devs, going back to the company’s pre-IPO history, when in 2012 it heavily restricted its rules and APIs governing third-party client apps built on top of the platform. That move even helped spur an developer-oriented alternative network called born largely out of frustration with changes to Twitter. Jack Dorsey’s return as permanent CEO marks an ideal time for Twitter to repair its relationships with developers and reinvigorate the platform, especially as it appears set to double-down on mobile as its best bet for user and revenue growth. Fortune’s Jonathan Vanian notes that Dorsey “flattered developers by detailing how they helped expand Twitter’s reach in its early days by building their own apps and services on top of it.” For more analysis of Twitter’s situation and Dorsey’s impact, check out Om Malik’s piece in The New Yorker.

Further reading: 


Advertisers on the Rise of Ad Blockers: ‘We Lost Track of the User Experience’Fast Company

What it’s about: The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) recently made a significant admission: “We messed up.” That’s IAB’s Scott Cunningham, senior VP of technology and ad operations as well as GM of the IAB Tech Lab, in a blog post. Cunningham was referring to the recent spotlight on ad-blocking and related technologies, and notes advertisers and their tech teams have to shoulder a big part of the blame: They lost sight of the user. That’s significant because, well, advertisers don’t like ad blockersbut instead of just crying foul, the IAB announced its LEAN Ads program as an alternative to existing standards for Web and mobile advertising. The acronym stands for “Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported, Non-invasive ads.” It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but as Cunningham notes, the ad tech industry might not have much choice: “The consumer is demanding these actions, challenging us to do better, and we must respond.”

hand signaling stop: this week in modern softwareWhy you should care: Mobile ad-blocking technologies received renewed attention after Apple enabled them with iOS 9 and then Google stoked the fire with its Accelerated Mobile Pages Project. But the ad-blocker debate seems to engender a misguided generalization that people want to block ads just because they don’t like ads. Rather, it’s increasingly apparent that many mobile users block ads for performance, experience, and security reasons. That’s a lesson that mobile developers would do well to heed: If you disregard performance, experience, and security issues, your users will get rid of the unnecessary stuff or go elsewhere for what they need. It’s also a reminder that the mobile landscape is very much about iteration and evolution, which in turn sometimes requires difficult self-assessment. From the competing visions of the two-headed Google-Apple oligarchy to the soon-to-be-mainstream unlocked phone and a bevy of other issues, there’s never a dull moment for mobile developers (see the links below).

Further reading:


9 Bad Programming Habits We Secretly LoveInfoWorld

What it’s about: Hey, developers are people, too, and we’ve all got our bad habits. InfoWorld’s Peter Wayner lists nine bad habits particular to the programming population, from using goto to stuffing too much code into a single line to “yo-yo” code, along with a half-dozen other programming no-nos. And Wayner offers up a brief history and explanation of the potential problems each one causes, which might be especially useful for younger developers who avoided some of these bad habits simply by virtue of when they first got their hands on a laptop and a compiler. The infamous “spaghetti code” that often results from an obsessive love of goto statements, for example, has largely been subdued by structured programming and other factors.

Why you should care: It’s kind of fun to check off which of these bad habits you’re guilty of. (Don’t worry, we’re not checking your answers.) But Wayner’s not just savaging the bad habits of middling developers—he makes the case for why some of these maligned practices could actually be useful in specific circumstances. That goto statement of such ill repute, for example: Wayner points out that “Often an artful break or return will offer a very clean statement about what the code is doing at that spot. Sometimes adding goto to a case statement will produce something that’s simpler to understand than a more properly structured list of cascading if-then-else blocks.” Food for thought, given how many “bad habits” of programming are so named because they lead to messy, inefficient code.

Further reading:


Software Eats Healthcare, For DummiesAlex Danco

What it’s about: Much as New Relic is fond of saying, “Every business is a software business,” software has yet to take a huge bite out of healthcare. For starters, making a real difference in this critical industry will take a whole lot more than doctors carrying tablets and patients using health-monitoring apps. Alex Danco believes software will eventually eat healthcare, and with tasty results, but first we need to understand much more about how the healthcare system works. Among other fundamentals: “healthcare,” unlike “biology” or “medicine,” is not science—it’s business. Recommended reading for anyone in that “business”—and for all of us who want to understand exactly what we’re paying for (and why) when we visit the doctor.

stethoscope and code: this week in modern softwareWhy you should care: Danco pins the problem largely on the “fee for service” model used in most healthcare scenarios, regardless of the health concern or who’s paying the bill. Moreover, Danco says former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale’s “bundling and unbundling” quote about making money is equally applicable to healthcare as it is to software. He notes the electronic health records (EHR) era as an unexpected catalyst for unbundling “all of the low-end services that were expensive but not profitable.” You don’t need to go to the doctor to check your blood pressure; you can do it at a pharmacy or even a grocery store.

The next phase, Danco’s predicts, will be HIPAA-compliant communication tools (“Slack for healthcare”) unbundling low-end healthcare tasks that take time and don’t turn a profit for high-end healthcare providers. That will in turn enable “collective networks of people who all have common goals and all have common solutions. And then the magic happens: if everyone is bundled into common networks with common goals and fixed upfront costs, THAT’S WHAT SOFTWARE SOLVES.”

Further reading:


Can This Adorable Bedtime Storybook Make Toddlers Want to Code?Fast Company

What it’s about: How do you introduce really young children to the basic concepts of computer code in a way that inspires them to want to learn more as they grow older? When Amie Pascal and Heather Petrocelli went looking for a book that could do that as a birthday gift for the child of a programmer friend, they couldn’t find it. Now, their Kickstarter campaign to create such a book—The Wonderful World of Creatures and Code (WWoCC)—is on target to be funded, according to a Fast Company profile by David Lumb. It will include HTML tags, JavaScript, and some computing basics like the keyboard as part of a “a cutesy, rhyming A-Z storybook.”

Why you should care: There’s been plenty of attention paid to teaching kids coding and other computing concepts, including adding or increasing it to public school curriculums. But to really make an impact, it’s important to start early, even before kids begin formal schooling. Interestingly, the authors say the planned project—aimed at children ages 7 and under but really for any age—will be a print book only, with no plans for a digital version.

Further reading:


Rent Is So High in San Francisco That I’m a Software Engineer and I Live in a VanQuartz

camper van: this week in modern softwareWhat it’s about: Give Katharine Patterson credit: When she says she’s going to do something, she does it—“it” in this case being “living in a van on the streets of San Francisco to avoid paying exorbitant rent.” The kicker: Patterson’s employed as a software engineer at an unnamed tech firm. (SFGate notes a LinkedIn profile for a person with the same name and job title currently working at Google.) She wrote about the experience in a recent post for Quartz, and documents her journey on her blog, which includes photos of how she’s redecorating the inside of the 1969 VW camper van she bought. And apparently Patterson is part of a trend. Another young Googler is saving 90% of his paycheck (and paying down student loans) by living in a 128-square-foot truck in a parking lot on the company’s Mountain View campus. The 23-year-old is also, of course, documenting his story on his blog, where he keeps a “Net Savings” clock that just recently moved into positive territory, meaning his savings on rent and other expenses have exceeded the $10,000 he spent on the truck and other upfront costs.

Why you should care: To her credit, Patterson seems self-aware and understands that many people live in cars—or on the streets—because they have no other choice. She acknowledges she’s doing it by choice, and is able to eat, shower, and do laundry without undue anxiety or hardship. Patterson’s also aware that what she’s doing is technically illegal and potentially dangerous, and wrote a follow-up post on how she stays safe. But there’s something troubling going on when people near the top of the economic pyramid can’t afford to live near their highly paid dream jobs.

Further reading:


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Hand, doctor, and camper van images courtesy of

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a wide variety of publications and companies. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek story, “Are You Too Old for IT?” He’s also a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards. View posts by .

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