Eric

My name is Eric Hydrick and I'm a software developer with an emphasis on back-end development living and working in central North Carolina. My main language emphasis is Java, although I also have experience in Python, and briefly worked in Progress (v9).

Sep 302018
 

Wil Wheaton recently left Twitter and gave Mastodon a try, only for it to not last very long. The “long story short” version of it was that as soon as he joined an instance and starting posting (or “tooting” as the Mastodon kids call it), people started spamming the report this post function until the instance’s admin had to remove him in an attempt to stop the flood of report spam. There’s an interesting blog post by Nolan Lawson about looking at this as an attack or harassment vector that got me thinking about some changes to community-level moderation tools that might help stem this sort of abuse.

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 Posted by at 1:00 PM
Aug 312018
 

This is a case study in why it’s important to focus on the problem rather than what you think you want. Perhaps you remember griping about how expensive your cable bill was, and how you only watched a small subset of the channels offered and wondered why couldn’t you just pay for just those channels. Well guess what? Now that Disney is launching it’s own streaming service (Disney Play), we’re approaching that future. Unfortunately, it’s a future that comes after we’ve already seen the promise of a future with aggregated digital content like YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu.

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 Posted by at 11:45 AM
Jun 292018
 

Almost every time I see a report on how a company’s stock is doing, or why the price did whatever it just did, I become more and more convinced that there’s no actual rational behavior or logic going on in stock trading anymore. Companies will report a great quarter and the price will tank. A company will announce plans to expand as well as what they did to complete that plan, and the stock price will drop because they had a large expense that quarter. It used to be that it was considered good advice to have a lot of your stock portfolio consist of “blue chip” stocks – the price would be largely stable and they paid dividends regularly. Now everyone wants to get in on “unicorns” (startups valued at over $1 billion dollars, which is generally insane to begin with), or focus on high growth stocks, with an insistence that they always be high-growth stocks. More and more I’ve become convinced that the stock market is largely a BS engine driven more by hype than actual economics.

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 Posted by at 11:45 AM
May 252018
 

If you work in any industry that makes use of other people’s data, and odds you’ve been hearing a lot about a new European Union law going into effect called GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation if you’re curious). I’m not going to get into the law’s requirements – if it applies to you then odds are the attorneys working for or retained by your company have already discussed what you need to do to be in compliance, that’s not what interests me here (besides, I’m neck deep in implementing the things my company’s lawyers said need to be implemented to say we’re in compliance). After hearing people say that Facebook’s latest scandal could/should result in GDPR-style regulation in the US, I thought I’d take a closer look at the ideas behind GDPR, and see how well they stack up as well as take a passing look at how good or bad they’re likely going to be.

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 Posted by at 11:45 AM
Apr 272018
 

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Facebook’s been in the news recently, specifically around the exposure of millions of users’ worth of data to a firm called Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica allegedly used this to help various Republicans, including Donald Trump, during the 2016 election cycle. And to hear a lot of people talk about it, that’s the last sign before the start of the apocalypse, or something like that. To be honest it’s been hard to find a calm take on the whole thing, which has been part of the problem. People are shocked at how much data Facebook has on them. They can’t believe that Facebook lets people use this data to target ads to others. Or that companies may use this targeting for political advertising to try to swing an election. Or Facebook was “breached” (everyone else’s word, not the correct one) and this data leaked out. The truth is that while there were some problems with Facebook, and some bad actors at play, we’re focusing on the wrong things here, and it’s inspiring us to hysterics instead of reasoned analysis and reasonable responses.

I’m going to pause here and just make a note that I work for an email marketing company that emphasizes segmentation and targeted marketing. I’ve also written a Facebook application to create custom audiences on Facebook and keep them synced with their source mailing list. None of this requires data from Facebook users, so I don’t capture any sort of profile information, and all the opinions I’m writing here are my own, but it’s probably worth bearing in mind that my employment revolves around targeted marketing and I have done work to help marketers sync some of their “targeting” over to Facebook, so clearly I’m not as bothered by the concept of targeted advertising as some people may be.

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 Posted by at 11:45 AM
Mar 262018
 

Probably 1 of the most difficult juggling acts in software development is scoping a minimum viable product. I’m pretty sure a lot of that comes from the juggling act and judgement calls that constitute defining said minimum viable product. It’s not easy to do, mostly because defining a minimum viable product involves balancing 2 mutually exclusive terms. That said, I think you can find the best set of tradeoffs en route to the minimum viable product by examining the principles behind each part and then combining them back together once we understand what we’re looking for to satisfy each keyword.

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 Posted by at 11:45 AM
Feb 262018
 

After attending a few different software conferences, I’ve begun to appreciate the skill involved in giving a good public presentation, and just how rare it is to encounter. I’m not claiming to be an expert, the extent of my formal public speaking “training” consists of a half-semester course in college, and I wouldn’t rate my ability as anything beyond “competent enough to present something to the office.” That said, I think we’ve all seen enough bad presentations to have noticed a few things they all have in common. My goal here is to offer some things that I’ve noticed from good presentations in the hopes of encouraging people to start emulating some better habits.

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 Posted by at 11:30 AM
Jan 312018
 

There’s a line that I wrote in my recent post on social networks that’s been sticking around my head ever since I typed it: “Venmo is a much more creative social application than Mastodon is.” That line got me thinking about just what makes a social application…”social”, and I’m starting to think that a lot of what we term “social” applications aren’t really “social,” but something else entirely.

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 Posted by at 6:00 AM
Dec 302017
 

I’ve been thinking about just what it would take to create the type of media operation I described in “The future of journalism won’t look anything like today’s journalism” – specifically what pieces are still needed to get this type of operation off the ground, what pieces already exist, etc. As I think more on it, the more it seems that most of the individual components, with the exception of delivering content in a format other than the article, already exist. The biggest impediment to adopting these tools is likely attitude, namely organizations being so used and attached to how they’ve been doing things that they’re not thinking about approaching this from a completely blank slate.

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 Posted by at 12:00 PM
Nov 272017
 

Following what’s probably a very predictable course of operational maturity, my team at work started out manually uploading jars onto VMs, maybe with a few simple services, scripts, and setup tricks to keep the manual steps for deploying software to a minimum. As the amount of code we wrote and maintained grew, we started to focus on automating more and more of our code deployments, with an emphasis both on rolling deployments (so there’s no visible downtime to users), and on increasing reliability by reducing the number of steps we could possibly mis-type or forget. Since our code was heavily deployed on AWS anyways, OpsWorks seemed like the perfect setup for us. So far, while it isn’t actually perfect, it’s been a good tool for getting our app deployments and instance configuration more automated, which is what we really needed.

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 Posted by at 9:00 PM