From Thoughts

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Finding the source of research news

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A researcher at Washington State University had a role in some interesting news that came out yesterday. We published a great writeup: “Major study documents benefits of organic farming“. Newcastle University published a release: “New study finds significant differences between organic and non-organic food“. Large news organizations such as The Guardian and The New York Times provided a good digestion of the results.

Alas, a comment on Hacker News summed up my feelings on many of these:

There is no link to the paper or a preprint of the article.

Often when I read news like this, I want to dive in and at least skim the published research. But this is where our various content management systems break down the most.

Even though this paper is licensed under the very open Creative Commons CC by 3.0, which allows me to share and even build on the material as long as I provide proper attribution—it’s a horrible process to find.

At WSU News, our article included contact information for the researcher but no direct link to the paper or even the primary university’s release. In Newcastle’s release, a page is linked to that actually includes the full text of the paper, but the name doesn’t match the title and is a somewhat confusing experience. This is much better than many, as the paper is at least accessible. In the New York Times, the article links to the abstract at the National Center for Biotechnology Information. This abstract has a link for the full text at Cambridge Journals Online, where it isn’t actually published yet but will be on July 15th. The Guardian provides a way, but uses the words “several academic websites” to link to two different places. One is the same NCBI abstract the NYT links to. The other is at Research Gate, which actually has a link to the full paper but includes a really confusing order form in the first two pages of the PDF so that you aren’t actually sure what you’re looking at.

The best page I’ve found yet is actually another at WSU. Chuck Benbrook, the researcher involved with the study, published an article that links to a full page of resources, including the full text of the paper and supplemental data.

I guess the most discouraging part of this is the wide open license on the paper. It gets much harder to track things down when a paper is published in a paid journal. I’m lucky in that I work for a university. If I want access to a paper, there is likely a way. The process can be confusing though, especially if you aren’t used to the required jumping around.

To be clear, this is not a gripe on anyone writing the articles. It is a gripe on those of us creating the systems that manage this content.

The part I’m going to push for at WSU is a way to attach source data to these articles in a clear way. Every time an article is written about a piece of research, that research should have a clear space on the page—in the same spot every time—that provides instructions or direct access to a document.

And with that.

Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. Baranski, M., D. Srednicka-Tober, N. Volakakis, C. Seal, R. Sanderson, G. B. Stewart, C. Benbrook, B. Biavati, E. Markellou, C. Giotis, J. Gromadzka-Ostrowska, E. Rembiałkowska, K. Skwarło-Son, R. Tahvonen, D. Janovska, U. Niggli, P. Nicot and C. Leifert.

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A Very Good Year, 2013

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZmCQyKGktc

I still have a draft post titled ‘2011, a year for the epic books‘ hanging out, waiting to never be published. That was an amazing year.

I don’t have a draft saved for 2012. I’m very good at thinking about all the things I would put in a round up post, but then putting it all off until weeks after and then ditching it entirely.

This year has been a very good year. It likely goes alongside 2011 as a year for the epic books, so it should get a write up. I’ll forget less then.

Work: 10up and Washington State University

I started off the year as a happy director of web engineering for 10up with a fantastic team. In April we put together our first developer summit and had a great time over a few days in Portland expanding on workflows and knowledge. I’m so grateful for the time I had, the people I met, and the friends I made while working with #team10up. The entire experience of my 1.5 years with 10up took so much to the next level.

In July, I started a new position with Washington State University. As senior WordPress engineer there, I’m leading the charge to build out a central publishing platform built around WordPress at WSU. Our efforts have been very well accepted so far and I’m looking forward to an extremely exciting and productive 2014.

Vagrant, WordCamps, and WordPress

At the end of 2012, I unleashed the fun that is Varying Vagrant Vagrants in the hopes of breaking up with MAMP. It was a success and not only provided for a MAMP free 2013 for me, but lead to talks at meetups in Seattle and Portland, an unconference session at WordCamp Portland, and talks at WordCamps Chicago and Vancouver. Throughout the year we’ve spread the word of VVV. We pushed version 1.0 just a few weeks ago and Vagrant has grown in general as part of the WordPress development workflow.

WordCamp Seattle was the only WordCamp at which I didn’t talk about Vagrant. I did have a great time sharing the floor with Tanner and Kailey for lightning rounds on WordPress coding done right.

In October, I attended the first WordCamp Europe in October. That experience was amazing. Not only did I get to spend a full week walking around and learning about the beautiful town of Leiden, I met so many people in the WordPress community that I hadn’t yet had the chance to meet and made several new friends. The week was full of great conversation and made a great impact on my view of the overall WordPress community and what we’re working toward.

Due to my new position at WSU, I was able to spend a ton of time consumed with WordPress core for August and September. I’m now more familiar with the multisite portions of WordPress than ever and was recognized as a Recent Rockstar for the 3.7 release, my favorite thus far. I’m looking forward to a very productive 2014 in the world of WordPress.

Location

The year was almost a 50/50 split. We made the 352.3 mile move from Portland, OR to Pullman, WA half way through July. While I miss quite a bit about Portland–mostly people, Pullman has been welcoming and all around great so far. We’ve settled in well and are enjoying it enough to start thinking of Pullman as a home for many years to come.

Beer

This year was a pretty big year for beer. Not only did I expand my knowledge (probably a bit far) on the various styles of beer in the world, I became a home brewer a few months ago. I’ve brewed a pretty weak IPA, a nice stout, and a yet to be determined porter. In 2014, I’m looking forward to making some really nice IPAs and exploring the world of Belgian Ale’s thanks to a new book Michelle got me for Christmas.

Homebrewing aside, the highlight of the beer year was a trip to the De Molen brewery in Bodegraven with Konstantin while in the area for WordCamp Europe. We had many wonderful beers, among them the Hel & Verdoemenis, considered the best brew in the Netherlands. On the way out of the brewery, I was able to grab a couple of the best beers in the world, the Westvleteren 12. Even though I drank that in a hotel room after carving away at the wax with inefficient tools, it was great.

My goal for beer in 2014 is to be more focused in consumption and more crafty in creation. Any visitor to Pullman, WA will be guaranteed a good brew. ;)

Miscellaneous notes for 2014

For Christmas I got two amazing things. An Aeropress and a guitar.

As a mass consumer of coffee, the Aeropress has already changed my life. I’m looking forward to drinking smaller servings of more quality coffee throughout the year and cutting the habit of drinking coffee because it’s always there.

And the guitar! In 2011, that epic year, I sold 3 guitars, a mandolin, and a couple amps. My love of music had dwindled a bit, mostly because I hadn’t made time. Michelle came through this Christmas with an acoustic guitar that has lit the fire again. I’m looking forward to a 2014 full of music. :)

And last, but not least. You all rock. Happy New Years!

Things I like from Richard Stallman’s fantastic article, “Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before”

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GNU and the FSF, along with many others, are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the free software movement. To mark that, Richard Stallman has an excellent article over at Wired, “Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before“, in which he explains why free software is good for users and some downsides of the services that we’re trusting with our data.

This is a perfect read for me right now, as I’ve been trying to think of good ways to put into words the excitement of building a central publishing platform at Washington State University around WordPress. Using open source software for this task feels right and open sourcing as much of the work that we do feels even better.

Stallman provides a couple great quotes on why public schools should be champions of free software. I’m going to take them out of context because I like them so much. Please go read the entire article anyway.

The indirect harm [of using non-free software] is magnified when the user is a public entity or a school. Public agencies exist for the people — not for themselves. When they do computing, they do it for the people. They have a duty to maintain full control over that computing on the people’s behalf. Therefore, they must use only free software and reject SaaSS.

And

Schools — and all educational activities — influence the future of society through what they teach. So schools should teachexclusively free software, to transmit democratic values and the habit of helping other people. (Not to mention it helps a future generation of programmers master the craft.) To teach use of a non-free program is to implant dependence on its owner, which contradicts the social mission of the school.

So happy to have read this today.

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Airlines are Weird

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I’m flying to Amsterdam in October for WordCamp Europe. For the purpose of cost savings, but mostly to be in Iceland for a handful of minutes, I booked PDX / SEA / KEF / AMS.

This looks crazy at first glance, but it made some sense when I lived in Portland. Now that I’ve moved to the eastern edge of Washington, departing from PDX is unfortunate. More effective would be flying from our local airport to SEA and then joining the previously booked flight path from there.

I called Icelandair with expectations, and those expectations were confirmed.

Because I booked the cheap seats, things are locked in place. Any change requiring a reissue of tickets requires an additional fee of $300. I can’t drop off the PDX -> SEA leg of the flight, and if I don’t show up for the leg, I’m in the system as a no show and I lose my seat on the entire booking.

I expected this, but it’s still weird. The airline should have plenty of opportunity to rebook that single leg, likely for much more than it was worth as part of this trip.

And now, I’ll most likely be hopping from PUW -> SEA -> PDX -> SEA -> KEF -> AMS and back again.

Parting #team10up

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I still have a pretty vivid memory of my first Skype call with Jess a couple days before my official start date with 10up.

I had known Zack for a few months and spoke to Jake a few times during the hiring process, but that call with Jess was the first real point of contact on a real work topic. I wasn’t entirely nervous, but I still had no idea what to expect with this whole distributed workforce thing.

Fortunately, Jess has a way of making you feel like you’ve been working together for years and that call went great.

These types of interactions solidify what Team 10up is all about. Over the last two years new team members have immediately been embraced as they walk in the virtual door. It’s this sense of community that has made the team so strong. A general, mostly unspoken, philosophy of being open with each other, admitting mistakes, and being there to answer questions has gone a long way in creating an amazing bond that I haven’t experienced with any previous team. All while distributed!

Friday will be my last day with 10up. And I’m going to miss it a lot. I know that I’ll reflect for a long time on—and probably write about—the thought that while this next part is extremely exciting, leaving people hurts.

A week from today I start a new position at Washington State University, where I’ll help architect a publishing platform built around WordPress for use by the colleges and departments of the university.

I couldn’t be more excited about the work that we’re going to be doing at WSU and I’m looking forward to the impact we’ll make.

I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone at 10up for everything that I’ve experienced1 and learned over the last year and half. Thank you all!

1. I’m batting away loads of stories right now to avoid a novel. The team at 10up knows them all well, and we are hiring, so if you’d like Helen to fill you in on the great pizza caper or Carl to explain who is responsible for that plugin, go apply!

FISA Court Nonsense

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Per this disturbing article from the New York Times, none of the 1,800 surveillance applications handled by the FISA Court last year was denied. While that in itself is disturbing, the worst is what happens next:

The judges have also had to intervene repeatedly when private Internet and phone companies, which provide much of the data to the N.S.A., have raised concerns that the government is overreaching in its demands for records or when the government itself reports that it has inadvertently collected more data than was authorized, the officials said. In such cases, the court has repeatedly ordered the N.S.A. to destroy the Internet or phone data that was improperly collected, the officials said.

Proceed with Caution toward the Self-Driving Car

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Proceed with Caution toward the Self-Driving Car

A good perspective on the caution required as we enter an era of self driving cars. While I normally find myself in full support of the switch, there were a few sections that made me think and we definitely have a long way to go.

There was one statement that gave me pause:

No system can yet match a human driver’s ability to respond to the unexpected, and sudden failure could be catastrophic at high speed.

I would argue that a primary reason for looking forward to autonomous vehicles is that no system can match a human driver’s ability to cause the unexpected.

On Lance

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NY Times – Armstrong Drops Fight Against Doping Charges

There’s much more to the article than the headline, but that’s the headline. Armstrong does have a statement up explaining why he dropped the fight, but the headline wins the day. My reaction, as a cycling fan, is mixed…

Man… who even knows anymore.

I feel bad for giving up on Lance as a drug-free rider, but I think I did a while ago. Tyler Hamilton kind of destroyed my thinking that cyclists at that level might come out honest.

If I’m wrong and the media won, that sucks.

I hope Lance as a cancer fighter can keep moving strong. He has done so much for cancer awareness that to me outshines his cycling.

I hope for cycling’s sake that a bunch of cool kids are coming up and preparing to destroy the field without drugs. That would be awesome.