Medical workers aid injured people at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon following an explosion in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. Photo: Charles Krupa/AP
At least two explosions at the Boston Marathon today left several people injured, with the effect amplified through social media.
The scene in Boston remains chaotic and few details have been confirmed, including just what caused the twin blasts at the finish line at about 3 p.m. Eastern time. There have been reports of multiple injuries, and a web-hosted Boston police-EMS-Fire Department scanner, frequently tweeted, contains reports of a “several suspect packages,” including at least one reported at the Mandarin Hotel. A Vine video apparently captured one of the explosions.
“There are a lot of people down,” one man, whose bib No. 17528 identified him as Frank Deruyter of North Carolina, said, according to ESPN.com.
First responders are requesting explosive-ordnance disposal units to the scene of the suspect packages. Voices over the scanner warn that people, including runners, currently hurried into bars and restaurants near the marathon, need to remain indoors until a street sweep for possible explosives can be found. “People should get away from the area as quick as possible” is a message that Boston first responders say they want put on social media.
A secured command post is being put together at the Copley Square Westin Hotel. There are reports of a “possible incendiary device” at the JFK Library at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. (SEE 4:25 P.M. UPDATE.) Helicopters are reportedly en route.
The FBI referred comment to the Boston police department.
It is far too early to speculate about what was responsible for the blasts in Boston. First reports of such disasters are almost invariably incorrect. But those caveats may not be enough for an era of social media. Within minutes of the blast, photographs of the gruesome scene rocketed across Twitter andFacebook. Unconfirmed reports and frequent commentary — including those warning about premature speculation — have been flying across Twitter, compressing the cycle of reaction to the disaster.
We will update this post as soon as additional confirmed information becomes available.
Update, 3:56 p.m.: There is a police-controlled detonation of a suspicious item on Boylston Street.
The Boston Marathon stated on its Facebook page that the explosions were caused by “two bombs.”
A White House official sends a statement: “The President has been notified of the incident in Boston. His administration is in contact with state and local authorities. He directed his administration to provide whatever assistance is necessary in the investigation and response.”
Update, 4:11 p.m.: Col. James Sahady, a spokesman for the Massachusetts National Guard, confirms there were over 400 National Guard troops present for the Marathon. It’s unclear as yet what, if any, bomb detection tech they had on the scene.
Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Crosson, a Pentagon spokesman, says he’s unaware of any current requests from Massachusetts for additional military assistance. That may be liable to change.
Another White House update: “Shortly after being notified of the incident around 3 p.m. EDT, the President received a briefing from Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco and other members of his senior White House staff in the Oval Office. The President called Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to express his concern for those who were injured and to make clear that his administration is ready to provide needed support as they respond to the incident.”
The JFK Library tweets that a fire that appears to have started in an electrical room is extinguished: “Investigators are investigating. Any tie to Boston Marathon explosions is pure speculation.”
Update, 4:37 p.m.: Important to note: not every report of an explosive device pursued by first-responders is evidence of an explosive device. First responders get flooded with information during disasters like this.
Update, 4:40 p.m.: The Boston municipal website is currently down.
Update, 4:55 p.m: In the first official statement since the blast, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis confirmed that there was an “explosion” at the JFK Library that he is treating as related to the two explosions at the Marathon, which he said took place on Boylston Street. That’s seemingly in contradiction to earlier accounts from the Library, but Davis said he did not know for sure that the incidents are related.
The Boylston Street incidents took place about “50 to 100 yards apart.” Each scene resulted in “multiple casualties,” Davis said. Several people at the Marathon scene “deposited bags [and] parcels” that Davis warned would be “treated as… suspicious devices.” Explosive-ordnance demolition teams may detonate them to be safe.
“We have not found another device,” Davis said, despite at least one controlled detonation. Davis declined to speculate about terrorism, saying, “You can draw your own conclusions.”
Contrary to some unconfirmed reports, Davis did not mention any suspect in custody. Despite a report going across the police scanner about a suspicious truck purporting to gain access to a secured area, Davis declined to say any specific truck was under investigation.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick urged people to “stay out of crowds and calmly make their way home, or, if they’re visitors, hotels.”
Update, 5:16 pm.: Google has set up a Person Finder for those looking for loved ones in the explosion.
Update, 5:24 p.m.: White House says Obama has been briefed by FBI Director Robert Mueller and Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, “on the active investigation and response to the incident in Boston, including the ongoing coordination with state and local officials.”
Update, 5:50 p.m.: Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Crosson, a Pentagon spokesman, says the Defense Department has still not been tasked with providing additional equipment or manpower to the ongoing Boston situation.
Update, 5:58 p.m.: Boston Police Commissioner Davis formally says, “There is no suspect in custody. We are questioning many people, but there is no one in custody.”
Additionally, he clarifies, the JFK Library incident was “incendiary or a fire…. We haven’t linked that to the incident.”
Update, 6:10 p.m.: “We still do not know who did this or why, and people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have the facts,” President Obama said in his first remarks about the Boston Marathon explosions. “Any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice. … We will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable.”
The FBI has yet to confirm a statement on CNN that what took place in Boston was a “terrorist attack,” which Obama notably did not say.
Update, 6:30 p.m.: Maj. Lisa Ahaesy of the Massachusetts National Guard confirms to Danger Room that the National Guard contingent on hand for the Marathon before the explosions included two Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support teams. (I’m not keen on the “WMD” catch-all term, but that’s the proper noun for the teams.) One of those teams would have been from out of state. The teams have mobile lab equipment to detect and mitigate nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological equipment, but it is not clear right now what gear was specifically on the scene.
The Massachusetts Air National Guard has not established Combat Air Patrols to monitor the airspace above Boston.
Update, 6:35 p.m.: Obama did not describe the Boston Marathon event as terrorism, yet a White House official who would not speak for the record emailed reporters said the federal government will initially approach it as such.
“Any event with multiple explosive devices — as this appears to be — is clearly an act of terror, and will be approached as an act of terror,” the official said. “However, we don’t yet know who carried out this attack, and a thorough investigation will have to determine whether it was planned and carried out by a terrorist group, foreign or domestic.”
There remains no claim of responsibility for the explosions yet — credible or otherwise.
Update, 7:21 p.m.: The AP’s Lolita Baldor reports that at Massachusetts’ request, the Navy will send athree-person explosive-ordnance detection unit to Boston from nearby Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island. The team represents the first U.S. military contribution to the Boston response under federal control.
Update, 10:30 p.m.: Not being a marathoner, I have no idea whom the affected runners would be. Who crosses the finish line at 4:09?
Carl Ciochon knows. Today was the 49-year old Oakland lawyer’s fifth consecutive Boston Marathon. In Boston, the Marathon “is not just some sporting event,” he tells Danger Room. “People have come up to me to tell me Marathon Monday is their favorite day of the year.” As seriously as the average Bostonian takes it, the Marathon committee is even more intense: would-be competitors have to submit a qualifying time for their previous marathons to assure themselves of a spot; and the Marathon verifies that they’re representing themselves truthfully.
Or at least they do for the first two waves of runners. The third consists of less-dedicated marathoners and people running for charity. That’s not a knock: given the intensity of a marathon — in which you push your body beyond the limits of your endurance — “it makes it all the more of an accomplishment for them to finish,” Ciochon says.
Those were the people who crossed the finish line at Copley Square after four hours and nine minutes. People running for charity; and the supportive Bostonians who cheer them on. By the end, the marathoners are blurry-eyed and exhausted, focusing on finishing their race, not on their surroundings.
It was perfect running weather this morning, Ciochon says. In the low 40s, a light headwind during his 10 a.m. start time. By the time Ciochon finished, at 1:14 p.m. — marathoners are exact about their time — he walked a half mile to ensure he didn’t cramp up, picked up his checked baggage, and, as he’s done four times before, laid down in the Boston Public Garden to enjoy the day. He didn’t even realize anything had happened nearly two hours later until friends and family texted him to ensure he was unhurt.
This was supposed to be Ciochon’s last Boston Marathon. “The novelty has worn off a bit,” he says. “But I’ll be back next year.”
Update, 10:57 p.m.: The death toll stands at three people. The toll of wounded at over 140 people. Reports are coming in from Boston hospitals about major amputations.
Video: CBSBoston via YouTube; Photo: Dan Lampariello/Twitter
LinkedIn is a Wall Street darling, its stock up more than threefold in two years on soaring revenue, spiking profits, and seven straight quarters beating bankers’ estimates. But LinkedIn’s success isn’t just about numbers: an impressive acceleration of LinkedIn’s product cycle and a corresponding revolution in how LinkedIn writes software is a huge component in the company’s winning streak.
Much of LinkedIn’s success can be traced to changes made by Kevin Scott, the senior vice president of engineering and longtime Google veteran lured to LinkedIn in Feb. 2011, just before the buttoned-down social network went public. It was Scott and his team of programmers who completely overhauled how LinkedIn develops and ships new updates to its website and apps, taking a system that required a full month to release new features and turning it into one that pushes out updates multiple times per day.
The result can be seen today as LinkedIn releases a smart set of new features for recruiters, including an intelligent “people you should hire” suggestion box. And it can be seen in all the other products LinkedIn has banged out over the past year, including revamped company pages, overhauled notifications, a redesigned homepage, comments and likes on news pages, iPad and Windows Phone apps, revamped profile pages, a job listings app, and blogging features. Just this week, Linkedin rolled out a feature cribbed from Facebook that lets users hotlink their friends in status updates.
LinkedIn senior VP for engineering Kevin Scott. Photo: LinkedIn
“Without having done all this work to change how we built our software,” says Scott, “it literally would be impossible for us to be building endorsements, and the new influencers product, and the new version of profile and the things that are happening in mobile, and the upgrades we made to the recruiter product, and all of these dozens of significant changes that are rolling out.”
LinkedIn’s newly-adopted software development methodology is known as “continuous deployment.” Under continuous deployment, a developer writes new code in tidy, discrete little chunks and quickly checks each chunk into the main line of software shared amongst all LinkedIn developers, a line known as “trunk” within the software version control systems standard in the tech industry. Newly-added code is subjected to an elaborate series of automated tests designed to weed out any bugs. Once the code passes the tests it is merged into trunk and cataloged in a system that shows managers what features are ready to go live on the site or in new versions of LinkedIn’s apps.
LinkedIn’s prior system of software development was more traditional, involving software “branches” forked off from trunk and developed in parallel over a period of weeks or days. A developer would finish a big batch of code corresponding to some feature and then lobby for this feature branch to be merged into trunk. Once merged into trunk, the feature would again need to be tested to ensure it did not break any of the other new code checked into trunk at the same time. Bugs and outright broken software are common under this so-called “feature branch” system, since typically several big batches of code, each written in isolation by a separate team, are merged into trunk at once. To avoid such meltdowns, managers tended to tightly limit the number and scope of new features mashed together each month, slowing down a company’s development cycle.
“It was a pretty big risk the business took, to say to its engineering team, you’re going to run across a bridge and burn it behind you.”
Shifting from feature-branch-based development to the new continuous deployment system required halting all development for two months as LinkedIn trained staff, migrated old code, and built out the automated tools it needed to make the new system work.
“It was a pretty big risk the business took,” says Scott, “to look at its engineering team and say, ‘we’re going to completely change the way we do software… and somewhere in the middle of this two-month process you’re going to run across a bridge and burn it behind you.”
LinkedIn is hardly the only company to use continuous deployment. Scott had experience with the system from prior gigs, and other internet companies have embraced the practice as well, including handcrafted-goods marketplace Etsy and Facebook. But LinkedIn’s big switch to continuous deployment has been linked to very concrete and visible financial success, helping lend credence to the practice and potentially helping to accelerate the delivery of software across the tech industry.
For Scott, the move to continuous deployment was about solving concrete problems rather than spreading a doctrine.
“We had to go from this model where developers were developing their code in relative isolation and then raising their hand and say, ‘please integrate my feature branch into the release branch and test it and qualify it for me and push it out to the site in the appropriate release window,’” Scott says. “We wanted to be at the point where… as soon as they were checking in their code… it was qualified and releasable… that anything sitting in trunk must be releasable at any point in time, and if it’s not releasable it’s just as significant as a site emergency. Stop all forward software development and everyone is all hands on deck to get trunk fixed.”
The experiment seems to be going well. Scott made his comments in our last interview, when he also outlined LinkedIn’s system for nurturing employee side projects. Since then, the LinkedIn software barrage has continued smoothly — and the stock has shot up 61 percent.
When I first entered the world of WesterosCraft, a Minecraft server where Game of Thrones fans have recreated the sprawling continent from George R. R. Martin’s novels in mind-blowing detail, I didn’t really grasp the size or scope of the project. At least, not until I attempted to retrace the route Ned Stark took south in the original book, following the Kingsroad from Winterfell to the capital city of King’s Landing. From start to finish, it took over an hour of tireless walking to complete the trip.
It’s no surprise, once you hear the astonishing statistics: At a size of 59,000 blocks by 22,000 blocks, WesterosCraft is over 500 square miles relative to the characters – roughly the size of Los Angeles.
“The size of what we’re doing isn’t really what Minecraft is meant for,” says Will Blew, the co-creator and technical lead behind the project. Originally launched by Blew and project lead Jacob Granberry in 2011, WesterosCraft quickly grew from a few dozen users to an international community of hundreds of active builders, with thousands more on the forums.
Granberry estimates that he now spends 20 to 30 hours per week on the project in addition to his day job; thanks to making headlines on sites like Reddit, Kotaku and Wired (sorry, guys), the popularity of WesterosCraft has grown over the past several months, straining both the server and its co-creators. “It’s become more and more of a part-time job than a hobby,” said Granberry.
More than that, it’s become an entire world unto itself, and one that brings Game of Thrones to life in a very different way from the HBO show. Can’t wait for the March 31 debut of Season 3? In WesterosCraft you can still soar into the Sky Cells of the Eyrie, walk the entire, icy length of The Wall and descend into the dungeons of the Dreadfort. Peer in a certain window among the snow-capped crenelations of Winterfell, and you might even glimpse an illicit coupling that could get you thrown off a tower.
Screenshot: King’s Landing
But the true jaw-dropper is King’s Landing, a marvel of pixelated urban sprawl that comprises over 3,000 buildings, along with the Red Keep, the Sept of Baelor, the tournament grounds, the dock leading to the infamous Blackwater Bay, the merchant-specific streets of Steel, Silk and Flour, and yes, even a vast and traversable sewer system running through tunnels beneath the city. It is easy to get lost in it; it is difficult not to.
While most castles take around two to three weeks to build, King’s Landing took over four months. The completed city was so large and dense, said Blew, that the blocks are literally innumerable; if they tried to calculate the number “the server would just die because it’s too much to count.”
Despite the growing demands of WesterosCraft, Granberry describes its vibrant, devoted community as not only one of the most rewarding parts of his work, but also the most essential to its success. “If we had never gotten popular, the project probably would have died a long time ago, because it’s so much. Even now with hundreds of people, there’s still a ton of work to do just on the map itself. Some of the stuff that’s been built hasn’t even been mentioned in the books. It’s [only] on a map that George R. R. Martin released. But it’s been built [in Westeroscraft] and you can go visit that in game.”
There’s a scene in the novel Clash of Kings, for example, where Arya Stark visits a small village that is never named. Naturally, someone in WesterosCraft has not only built it but given it the wholly original name of Harbury – as befitting a suburb of the nearby Harrenhal – after brainstorming for ideas with other users on the forums.
That’s the spirit that seems to infuse WesterosCraft and its community: both a painstaking faithfulness to its source material and a desire to innovate collaboratively in the spaces where canon offers no answers.
In a world as big as Westeros – and a community as devoted and enthusiastic as WesterosCraft — there are a great many spaces to fill in. Although the project’s first allegiance is to the books, the inspirations for the aesthetics and architecture of their original designs are wildly diverse: visuals from the HBO show, fan concept art, crude hand-drawn diagrams, photographs of international cities, historical research on medieval urban planning and of course, their own imaginations.
Screenshot: Castle Black at The Wall
While individual builders can propose and execute smaller projects on their own, large structures are constructed through group builds, a sort of modern-day barn raising where between 50 and 90 different people collaboratively create massive, intricate castles and sprawling cities block by block. The time lapse videos (below), much like the final products, are impressive.
Becoming a builder is no small matter, either; it involves a strict application process and often multi-step tests to ensure that aspiring architects possess not only the construction skills but also the aesthetics and attention to detail necessary for the project. “It’s pretty stringent,” said Granberry. “We’re not easy on them.”
At a tutorial area jokingly labeled “IKEA,” sample rooms show builders – or the “nobuild” newbies who aspire to become them – the proper way to furnish kitchens, lounges, and bedchambers for the domiciles of different classes. In the warningly-titled “NEVER EVER” section, a sign next to a series of bookcases reads, “Westeros has a literacy rate of 0.1%, limiting it to the upper classes. When I see books in a low/middle class home, I want to gouge my eyes out.”
Other tutorials admonish users to add chimneys to furnaces in order to allow for proper ventilation, and to ensure that torches placed inside houses don’t touch the roofs because “wood/thatch burns.” The torches in Minecraft don’t actually burn anything, of course, but the more important thing – and the principle behind the grand and intricate thought experiment that is Westeroscraft – is that they would, and that this matters.
The attention to these details cannot be overestimated, and it is a testament to the success of WesterosCraft that it’s difficult to decide what’s more impressive: the massiveness of its scope or the meticulousness of its minutiae.
“People are really involved, which is awesome,” said Granberry. “A lot of our inspiration for the server is based off realism. Someone was looking at the farmland a few months ago, and said, ‘this isn’t what real medieval farms would look like.’ So they wrote up a whole guide to building realistic-looking medieval farms in Minecraft.”
The guide, a highly-detailed review of medieval agricultural practices, outlines the optimal layouts of crops, fields and farms based on either the open-field system or the two-field crop rotation system – depending, naturally, on the climate of the region where builder is constructing the farm and its proximity to larger cities.
Another guide, titled the WesterosCraft Guide to Authentic Canon Ship Building, breaks down the categories and uses of various ships, the proper types of sails and appropriate features for interior layouts (yes, you can go inside many of them). “Under no circumstances should a ship have 4 masts,” the guide reads. “Four masted sailing ships are modern sailing vessels that did not come about until the 18th century.”
Warp to the city of Pyke in the Iron Islands – the home of the most feared fleet in the Seven Kingdoms – and you find a harbor full of ships, their giant, blocky sails frozen in an imaginary breeze — and always attached to three masts or less.
The idea of attributing an accomplishment this vast to one person – or even a few people – seems absurd; to their credit Blew and Granberry are quick to redirect praise to their community and thank their moderators and builders for making WesterosCraft what it is.
What you see when you sign on to the server is a crowdsourced monument not only to Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, but to its fandom: a world constructed by of thousands of hours of labor and the collective imagination of hundreds of people, all striving to build something that has become much more than its source material or the sum of its parts. WesterosCraft is, undeniably, a tremendous accomplishment, but not simply as a vast, intricate model or simulacrum of someone else’s world. Rather, it is an immense act of creativity in its own right, a story built upon a story that the WesterosCraft community is telling together, block by block.
Ultimately, Blew and Granberry hope to turn WesterosCraft into a free RPG, although Granberry said there’s still a lot of debate about exactly how the gaming elements would work, or how the building process that has become such an integral part of the community would factor in. Currently, they’re planning to craft new storylines for the game – potentially with the help of fanfiction writers – to take players on more original and less copyright-infringing adventures in Martin’s world.
“We’ll be able to transform Minecraft into a completely different game. The idea is you’ll be able to choose your character, what part of the world he’s from: the North, the South, Lannister or Stark, and set out on an open world quest. There’d be a main storyline you can follow, and a ton of side quests,” said Granberry. “You’d be able to go anywhere in the world whenever you want and do any quest, kinda like Skyrim.”
And of course, once they’re done building Westeros there’s always Essos, the significantly larger continent that lies to the east across the Narrow Sea, best known as the setting for the adventures of Daenerys, the mother of dragons. Granberry currently estimates that Westeros is 65 to 70 percent complete, though hundreds of small projects still remain.
“I’m hoping by the fall we can have every group build done and hopefully the majority of the smaller projects done too so we can move on to Essos and our RPG aspect. It’ll probably be late this year, or early next year,” he said. “But I don’t even want to set deadlines because they never happen. We were supposed to be done by last December.”
One imagines that George R. R. Martin would understand – and be as impressed with WesterosCraft as the rest of us.
Lenticular and wave clouds are cool, but they don’t hold a candle to the undulatus asperatus clouds. Not new, but new to science, its Latin name means “undulating wave”. it’s like staring up from under the sea, or from beneath an undulating ice formation, except we are seeing a cloud rather than a solid or liquid.
They look ominous, but are rarely stormy. Why they form and what their pattern means? I haven’t been able to find anything. Can you?