Bookmarked Coding on Copilot: 2023 Data Suggests Downward Pressure on Code Quality by William Harding and Matthew Kloster

Gitclear takes a look at how the use of Copilot is impact coding projects on GitHub. They signal several trends that impact the overall code quality negatively. Churn is increasing (though by the looks of it, that trend started earlier), meaning the amount of code very quickly being corrected or discarded is rising. And more code is being added to projects, rather than updated or (re)moved, indicating a trend towards bloat (my words). The latter is mentioned in the report I downloaded as worsening the asymmetry between writing/generating code and time needed for reading/reviewing it. This increases downward quality pressure on repositories. I use GitHub Copilot myself, and like Github itself reports it helps me generate code much faster. My use case however is personal tools, not a professional coding practice. Given my relatively unskilled starting point CoPilot makes a big difference between not having and having such personal tools. In a professional setting more code however does not equate better code. The report upon first skim highlights where benefits of Copilot clash with desired qualities of code production, quality and team work in professional settings.
Via Karl Voit

To investigate, GitClear collected 153 million changed lines of code,
authored between January 2020 and December 2023….. We find disconcerting trends for maintainability. Code churn — the
percentage of lines that are reverted or updated less than two weeks after
being authored — is projected to double in 2024 compared to its 2021,
pre-AI baseline. We further find that the percentage of “added code” and
“copy/pasted code” is increasing in proportion to “updated,” “deleted,” and
“moved” code.

Gitclear report

Bookmarked A quick survey of academics, teachers, and researchers blogging about note taking practices and zettelkasten-based methods by Chris Aldrich

Chris Aldrich provides a nice who’s who around studying note taking practices. There are some names in here that I will add to my feeds. Also will need to go through the reading list, with an eye on practices that may fit with my way of working. Perhaps one or two names are relevant for the upcoming PKM summit in March too.

Chris actively collects historical examples of people using index card systems or other note taking practices for their personal learning and writing. Such as his recent find of Martin Luther King’s index of notes. If you’re interested in this, his profile is a good place to follow for more examples and finds.

I thought I’d put together a quick list focusing on academic use-cases from my own notes

Chris Aldrich

Last Friday our 7yo daughter could bring some toys to school. This as it was the last day before a week off, and they would spend the last hour or so playing.
The evening before she thought about what toys she would take to school. And made a list after we brought her to bed…

This is how personal knowledge management starts.
The list also has a few icons (such as for playmobil 6 figurines and 3 animal figures). She wanted to also bring a book (in case it would get boring at some point), but added 0% and an image of a battery. Because the teacher had said anything with a screen or battery wasn’t allowed. So it had to be a paper book. The list also mentions earplugs, because ‘it will likely get noisy’.

Friday morning when she got up she showed me the list, as I was making my own notes, about ODRL.

I marvel at the level of detail in her list as she thought it through the evening before. In the morning she decided against the earplugs and book in the end. I was an active notes writer from early on in primary school. Not so much focused on the school work, that was usually a boring breeze, but I focused on what I saw happening around me, very often social connections I noticed between others too, things I found puzzling or stood out. I had this notion things and people would make sense more if I could suss out the connections between them.

Bookmarked a message on Mastodon by David Speier

David Speier is a freelance journalist who researches the German far right. In this thread on Mastodon he describes the work they’ve done to check statements from interviews with a former far right member, and to connect them to other source material (photos from events, other people, reports etc.). Of interest to me here is that they used Obsidian to map out people, groups, places, events and occurrences, to verify, to see overlaps and spot blind spots. Nice example of taking something that is inherently text and image based and use Obsidian to ferret out the connections and patterns. There are some topics that currently pop-up in my work in very different projects, and more purposefully teasing out the connections like in this example seems a useful notion.

In einer #Obsidian-Datenbank haben wir Kontaktpersonen, Gruppen, Orte und Ereignisse zusammengeführt. Mehr als 70 umfangreiche Belegdokumente untermauern die einzelnen Aussagen von „Michael“

David Speier

Peter has experimented for a while with Mastodon (and the ActivityPub protocol behind it) and decided that it’s not for him.

Well, this has been fun, but it turns out that the effort-vs-reward for the fediverse doesn’t balance for me; I need fewer reasons to be tethered, not more. @mastohost, recommended by @ton, was an excellent playground. In 24 hours this account will self-destruct. But, now and forever, is where you’ll find me.

I very much recognise his point. The disbalance he mentions I felt strongly in the past month, where it was absent in the five and a half years before it. The enormous influx of people, positive in itself, and the resulting growth in the number of people I followed made my timeline too busy. In response I started following topics more and am evaluating rss feeds from ActivityPub servers. The disbalance expresses itself in spending too much time in the home timeline, without that resulting in notable things. (I mean literally notable, as in taking notes) Unlike my feedreader. It does result in some interesting conversations. However such interactions usually start from a blogpost that I share. Because of the newness of AP and Mastodon to the large wave of people joining, many posts including mine are of the ‘Using Mastodon to talk about Mastodon’ type. This is of course common for newly adopted tools, and I still have a category on this blog for metablogging, as blogging about blogging has been a 20 year long pattern here. Yet it is also tiring because it is mostly noise, including the whole kindergarten level discussions between petty admins defederating each other. There’s a very serious discussion to be had about moderation, blocks and defederation, to turn it into a tool that provides agency to individual users and the groups they are part of. These tools are important, and I’m glad I have them at my disposal. Ironically such serious discussion about Mastodon isn’t easy to conduct in a Tweetdeck and Twitter style interface, such as Mastodon provides. I moved the home timeline over to the right in my Mastodon web interface, so I don’t see it as the first thing when I open it up. I’ve concluded I need to step away from timeline overwhelm. Much as I did on Twitter years ago.

A tired purple mastodont lies on the ground sleeping while groups of people are talking in the background, sketchbook style. Dall-E generated image.

There are however two distinct aspects about AP and the recent incoming wave of people that I am more interested to be engaged with than I was before this started.

First, to experiment personally with AP itself, and if possible with the less known Activities that AP could support, e.g. travel and check-ins. This as an extension of my personal site in areas that WordPress, OPML and RSS currently can’t provide to me. This increases my own agency, by adding affordances to my site. This in time may mean I won’t be hosting or self-hosting my personal Mastodon instance. (See my current fediverse activities)

Second, to volunteer for governance related topics in the wider Dutch user group of Mastodon. Regardless of my own use of Mastodon, it is an environment in which many more people than before have new choices to make w.r.t. taking their online presence and tools in their own hands. A step from a global silo such as Twitter to e.g. a larger Dutch instance, while not the same as running one’s own, can be a significant step to more personal agency and networked agency. I’m involved in a group discussing how to establish governance structures that can provide continuity to the Dutch instance, lets people on the instance have an active voice and role in its internal governance, and raises awareness of the variety of tools and possibilites out there while purposefully avoiding becoming a new silo (through e.g. providing pathways away from the instance). Such governance is not part of the Mastodon instance, but structured around it. Such involvement is an expression of my experience and role in using tech for the past 33 years online as being inherently political.

A purple mastodont is conversing with a crowd of people, sketchbook style. Dall-E generated image.

Newton in 1675 famously said about his work, that if he was seeing further it was by standing on the shoulders of giants.*

Doing so he acknowledged the lineage of the things he worked on, which he added his own combinatory creativity to, gaining us all very considerable new insights.

This weekend reading Chris Aldrich’s essay about the often actively ignored history of the things that make up the current wave of note making methods and tools, Newton’s turn of phrase crossed my mind again. Chris Aldrich showcases the history of something that currently is mostly discussed as building on a single person’s practice in the 1950s to 1990s, as an actually very widely used set of practices going back many centuries.

I think it is a common pattern. Repeating endlessly in bigger and smaller forms, because we’re human.
I also think the often re-used ‘shoulders of giants’ metaphor makes it worse, actively hiding any useful history of most things.

Every output is the result of processes, and building blocks that go beyond the person making the output. And most of those inputs and earlier practices are of a mundane origin. There aren’t that many giants around, that we all can stand on their shoulders for all we come up with.

Everything has a lineage, and all those lineages have something to tell you about the current state of things you’re working on. Along all those lineages knowledge and experience has been lost, not because it wasn’t useful moving forward, but because it wasn’t transferred well enough. Going back in such lineage, to use as feedback in your current practice can be tremendously valuable.
It’s something actively used as a tool of exploration in e.g. ‘the future, backwards’ exercises. In PKM, the example that triggered this posting, it is common to use your old self in that way (talking about how you’re learning from ‘previous me’ and as ‘current me’ write notes for ‘future me’) It’s even what makes Earth’s tree of life special.

It takes looking for that lineage as a first step. Yet if then all we do is scanning history’s horizon for giants that stand out, we may find none, several, or usually one nearer that will have to do as big enough and simply assume that’s where the horizon is, while overlooking everyone else that any giants and we are always building on.

Everything has a deep lineage with a story to tell. Everyone stands on everyones shoulders, of all sizes. It is shoulders all the way down.

If I have seen further it is by knowingly standing on the shoulders of Giants everyone.

Photo ‘Santa Teresa, feria del Vendrell 2019’ by Joan Grífols, license CC BY NC SA

* Most of us may recognise Newton’s 1675 phrase in a letter he wrote. Newton probably knew it was much older. But do we individually generally acknowledge it was at least 500 years old when he wrote it down, or usually attribute it to Newton?