Why Swift Creator Chris Lattner Stepped Down From Its Core Team This Week

The creator of Apple’s Swift programming language stayed involved in the Swift core team and Evolution community… until this week. Though he’d left Apple more than five years ago, “Swift is important to me, so I’ve been happy to spend a significant amount of time to help improve and steer it,” Lattner wrote in an explanatory comment on the Swift community forum. “This included the ~weekly core team meetings (initially in person, then over WebEx)…”

The tech news site DevClass notes Lattner is also “the mind behind compiler infrastructure project LLVM,” but reports that “Apparently, Lattner hasn’t been part of the [Swift] core team since autumn 2021, when he tried discussing what he perceived as a toxic meeting environment with project leadership after an especially noteworthy call made him take a break in summer.”

“[…] after avoiding dealing with it, they made excuses, and made it clear they weren’t planning to do anything about it. As such, I decided not to return,” Lattner wrote in his explanation post. Back then, he planned to keep participating via the Swift Evolution community “but after several discussions generating more heat than light, when my formal proposal review comments and concerns were ignored by the unilateral accepts, and the general challenges with transparency working with core team, I decided that my effort was triggering the same friction with the same people, and thus I was just wasting my time.”

Lattner had been the steering force behind Swift since the language’s inception in 2010. However, after leaving Apple in 2017 and handing over his project lead role, design premises like “single things that compose” seem to have fallen by the wayside, making the decision to move on completely easier for language-creator Lattner.

The article points out Lattner’s latest endeavour is AI infrastructure company Modular.AI.

And Lattner wrote in his comment that Swift’s leadership “reassures me they ‘want to make sure things are better for others in the future based on what we talked about’ though….”
Swift has a ton of well meaning and super talented people involved in and driving it. They are trying to be doing the best they can with a complicated situation and many pressures (including lofty goals, fixed schedules, deep bug queues to clear, internal folks that want to review/design things before the public has access to them, and pressures outside their team) that induce odd interactions with the community. By the time things get out to us, the plans are already very far along and sometimes the individuals are attached to the designs they’ve put a lot of energy into. This leads to a challenging dynamic for everyone involved.

I think that Swift is a phenomenal language and has a long and successful future ahead, but it certainly isn’t a community designed language, and this isn’t ambiguous. The new ideas on how to improve things sounds promising — I hope they address the fundamental incentive system challenges that the engineers/leaders face that cause the symptoms we see. I think that a healthy and inclusive community will continue to benefit the design and evolution of Swift.

DevClass also reported on the aftermath:
Probably as a consequence of the move, the Swift core team is currently looking to restructure project leadership. According to Swift project lead Ted Kremenek… “The intent is to free the core team to invest more in overall project stewardship and create a larger language workgroup that can incorporate more community members in language decisions.”

Kremenek also used the announcement to thank Lattner for his leadership throughout the formative years of the project, writing “it has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to work with Chris on Swift.”

In 2017 Chris Lattner answered questions from Slashdot’s readers.

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Facebook and YouTube Block RT, Other Russian Channels From Earning Ad Dollars

Reuters reports:

YouTube on Saturday barred Russian state-owned media outlet RT and other Russian channels from receiving money for advertisements that run with their videos, similar to a move by Facebook, after the invasion of Ukraine.

Citing “extraordinary circumstances,” YouTube said in a statement that it was “pausing a number of channels’ ability to monetize on YouTube, including several Russian channels affiliated with recent sanctions.” Ad placement is largely controlled by YouTube. Videos from the affected channels also will come up less often in recommendations, YouTube spokesperson Farshad Shadloo said.

He added that RT and several other channels would no longer be accessible in Ukraine due to “a government request….” YouTube previously has said that it does not treat state-funded media channels that comply with its rules any differently than other channels when it comes to sharing ad revenue.

Meta Platforms Inc, owner of Facebook, on Friday barred Russian state media from running ads or generating revenue from ads on its services anywhere in the world.

CNN’s Ukraine-Russia updates point out that YouTube’s actions follow a warning letter to YouTube’s parent company Alphabet on Friday by Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner. “Warner said his staff was able to find instances of RT’s monetization on YouTube, and that he had alerted the Departments of Justice and Treasury to a report about YouTube allowing sanctioned entities to monetize on YouTube as well. “

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Programming in Rust is Fun – But Challenging, Finds Annual Community Survey

Respondents to the annual survey of the Rust community reported an uptick in weekly usage and challenges, writes InfoWorld:

Among those surveyed who are using Rust, 81% were using the language on at least a weekly basis, compared to 72% in last year’s survey. Of all Rust users, 75% said they are able to write production-ready code but 27% said it was at times a struggle to write useful, production-ready code…. While the survey pointed toward a growing, healthy community of “Rustaceans,” it also found challenges. In particular, Rust users would like to see improvements in compile times, disk usage, debugging, and GUI development…

– For those who adopted Rust at work, 83% found it “challenging.” But it was unclear how much of this was a Rust-specific issue or general challenges posed by adopting a new language. During adoption, only 13% of respondents believed the language was slowing their team down while 82% believed Rust helped their teams achieve their goals.
– Of the respondents using Rust, 59% use it at least occasionally at work and 23% use it for the majority of their coding. Last year, only 42% used Rust at work.
From the survey’s results:
After adoption, the costs seem to be justified: only 1% of respondents did not find the challenge worth it while 79% said it definitely was. When asked if their teams were likely to use Rust again in the future, 90% agreed. Finally, of respondents using Rust at work, 89% of respondents said their teams found it fun and enjoyable to program.
As for why respondents are using Rust at work, the top answer was that it allowed users “to build relatively correct and bug free software” with 96% of respondents agreeing with that statement. After correctness, performance (92%) was the next most popular choice. 89% of respondents agreed that they picked Rust at work because of Rust’s much-discussed security properties.
Overall, Rust seems to be a language ready for the challenges of production, with only 3% of respondents saying that Rust was a “risky” choice for production use.

Thanks to Slashdot reader joshuark for submitting the story…

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Surveillance Firm Says Apple Is ‘Phenomenal’ For Law Enforcement

Secret recordings of a surveillance firm’s presentation show how much iCloud data Apple surrenders to law enforcement with a warrant — though it’s Google and Facebook that can track a suspect to within three feet. Apple Insider reports: PenLink is a little-known firm from Nebraska which earns $20 million annually from helping the US government track criminal suspects. PenLink also sells its services to local law enforcement — and it’s from such a sales presentation that details of iCloud warrants has emerged. According to Forbes, Jack Poulson of the Tech Inquiry watchdog attended the National Sheriff’s Association winter conference. While there, he secretly recorded the event.

During the presentation, PenLink’s Scott Tuma described how the company works with law enforcement to track users through multiple services, including the “phenomenal” Apple with iCloud. Apple is open about what it does in the event of a suboena from law enforcement. It’s specific about how it will not unlock iPhones, for instance, but it will surrender information from iCloud backups that are stored on its servers. “If you did something bad,” said Tuma, “I bet you I could find it on that backup.” Tuma also says that in his experience, it’s been possible to find people’s locations through different services, although not through iCloud. “[Google] can get me within three feet of a precise location,” he said. “I cannot tell you how many cold cases I’ve helped work on where this is five, six, seven years old and people need to put [the suspect] at a hit-and-run or it was a sexual assault that took place.” It’s also possible for law enforcement and firms like PenLink which help them, to get location data from Facebook and Snapchat. […]

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How ByteDance Became the World’s Most Valuable Startup

Roger Chen and Rui Max from Harvard Business Review explain how ByteDance became the world’s most valuable startup. What’s the secret? According to the editors, it’s the company’s shared-service platform, or SSP, which it uses to power innovation. From the report: Bytedance uses its SSP platform differently from most companies. The company’s product teams or units don’t control their own operating resources. Instead, many common business, technology, and operating functions (among them HR and legal) are centralized and organized into corresponding teams. The teams are highly specialized, so that the right people can be found and flexibly deployed as needed to each new venture. Cloud and shared operational tools, some of which have been developed in house, allow ByteDance to maintain this seemingly complex organizational setup. Product and related teams still focus on serving customer needs, but they rely on different SSP teams to accelerate development and growth. For example, when ByteDance tasks a new venture team with investigating user needs and market opportunities, the team can go to the user-research specialists at the SSP for data support, saving time on market analysis. In other companies, these tasks are undertaken by the product team, which is rarely best equipped for such information gathering. Subsequently, when a use case has been identified that justifies developing a new app or product feature, the product team is paired with engineers at the SSP level to develop the new product or feature.

In some cases, product teams customize existing technologies that have already been developed by the SSP. Algorithms are a case in point. Product teams at ByteDance work with SSP algorithm engineers to fine-tune their enormously powerful recommendation engines. The SSP has also brought together other important teams: user-growth teams, which help identify and acquire desired users; content teams, which establish partnerships to acquire new content; analytics teams, which help to develop deeper user insights; and sales teams, which drive monetization. As expected, because so many capabilities have been centralized into this large SSP, the actual product teams tend to be small and focused, especially in the exploration stage. Douyin, for example, began with just a handful of employees, and the education team began with just two. Importantly, the relationship between the SSP and market-facing teams is symbiotic and mutually beneficial. It’s this virtuous loop of continued discovery and improvement that has enabled ByteDance’s success.

Relying on its SSP, ByteDance has developed unique innovation and growth strategies. These strategies have five main characteristics: [broad exploration, rapid iteration, selective focus, maximum-capability cross-pollination, and productizing platform services]. […] ByteDance’s SSP strategy — accelerate new projects by providing instant access to best in class technology and operations — has been so successful that one would expect many other companies to have embraced it. Yet few companies have managed to replicate ByteDance’s success with the strategy. Why? Because they have not put in the organizational enablers that helped ByteDance overcome fiefdom mindsets, which inhibit collaboration. Three of these organizational enablers are particularly important: [OKR system, explicitly flattened hierarchy, and data-driven culture]. […]

ByteDance’s SSP-based innovation strategy has clearly played a key role in its first decade of explosive growth. It has allowed the company to incubate rapidly and broadly and to scale efficiently, by using centralized but flexibly deployed technical and operational stacks. This strategy has served the company well in part because of the similarity among its various algorithm-driven products. ByteDance is now exploring other product categories and is refining its strategy to be more suitable for its evolving organizational model and processes, but no matter how the company evolves, its SSP-based innovation strategy is sure to play an important role.

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ACM, Ethics, and Corporate Behavior

theodp writes: In the just-published March 2022 issue Communications of the ACM, former CACM Editor-in-Chief Moshe Y. Vardi takes tech companies — and their officers and technical leaders — to task over the societal risk posed by surveillance capitalism in “ACM, Ethics, and Corporate Behavior.” Vardi writes: “Surveillance capitalism is perfectly legal, and enormously profitable, but it is unethical, many people believe, including me. After all, the ACM Code of Professional Ethics starts with ‘Computing professionals’ actions change the world. To act responsibly, they should reflect upon the wider impacts of their work, consistently supporting the public good.’ It would be extremely difficult to argue that surveillance capitalism supports the public good.” “The biggest problem that computing faces today is not that AI technology is unethical — though machine bias is a serious issue — but that AI technology is used by large and powerful corporations to support a business model that is, arguably, unethical. Yet, with the exception of FAccT, I have seen practically no serious discussion in the ACM community of its relationship with surveillance-capitalism corporations. For example, the ACM Turing Award, ACM’s highest award, is now accompanied by a prize of $1 million, supported by Google.”

“Furthermore, the issue is not just ACM’s relationship with tech companies. We must also consider how we view officers and technical leaders in these companies. Seriously holding members of our community accountable for the decisions of the institutions they lead raises important questions. How do we apply the standard of ‘have not committed any action that violates the ACM Code of Ethics and ACM’s Core Values’ to such people? It is time for us to have difficult and nuanced conversations on responsible computing, ethics, corporate behavior, and professional responsibility.”

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TVAddons’ Adam Lackman Admits TV Show Piracy, Agrees To Pay $19.5 Million

In 2017, Bell Canada, TVA, Videotron, and Rogers teamed up in a lawsuit against the operator of TVAddons, the largest repository of Kodi add-ons. The legal action proved extremely controversial but now, after many twists and turns, the matter is now over. As part of a consent judgment (PDF), TVAddons’ founder [Adam Lackman] has admitted liability and agreed to pay a cool US$19.5 million in damages. TorrentFreak reports: In a letter dated February 18, 2022, the media companies and Lackman told the Federal Court that they had resolved their differences by agreeing to a consent judgment. That was reviewed and issued by Justice Rochester, who laid out the agreed terms in her judgment handed down February 22, 2022. Lackman admits to communicating TV shows owned by the plaintiffs to the public, including by directly or indirectly participating in the “development, hosting, distribution or promotion of Kodi add-ons that provide users with unauthorized access” to the plaintiffs’ TV shows, contrary to sections 3(1)(f) and 27(1) of the Copyright Act. The TVAddons founder further admits that he made the TV shows available to the public in a manner that provided access “from a place and at a time individually chosen by them” and induced and authorized users of the infringing add-ons to “initiate acts of infringement of the Plaintiffs’ right to communicate the Plaintiffs Programs to the public by telecommunication,” again by developing, hosting, distributing or promoting Kodi add-ons.

The Federal Court issued a permanent injunction to restrain Lackman (and anyone acting with him, under his authority, or in association) from communicating the plaintiffs’ content to the public in any way, including via the development or distribution of infringing add-ons such as the ‘FreeTelly’ and ‘Indigo’ tools. The terms of the injunction are lengthy and comprehensive, leaving no doubt that TVAddons and all related tools and services are now dead, with Lackman unable to do anything remotely similar in the future.

“THIS COURT ORDERS the Defendant Mr. Lackman to pay the Plaintiffs the amount of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) in the form of a lump sum for damages, profits, punitive and exemplary damages, and costs,” Justice Rochester writes. The judgment is in Canadian dollars but for reference, that’s currently around US$19.5 million. The judgment also authorizes the bailiffs and independent supervising solicitor (with the assistance of computer forensics experts) to transfer the evidence obtained during the search of June 2017 to the media companies. Exactly what data was seized is currently unclear but it is likely to be sensitive, particularly if the trove includes user data and/or information about Kodi add-on developers. Finally, it appears the media companies will also be taking control of “login credentials, accounts, domains, subdomains and servers” in order to bring this years-long battle to a conclusion. Adam Lackman announced his relief on Twitter, noting that “It wasn’t the outcome I had hoped for, but an outcome nonetheless.”

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