February 15, 2010
@ 02:59 PM

From the Google Wave Federation architecture white paper 

Google Wave is a new communication and collaboration platform based on hosted documents (called waves) supporting concurrent modifications and low-latency updates. This platform enables people to communicate and work together in new, convenient and effective ways. We will offer these benefits to users of wave.google.com and we also want to share them with everyone else by making waves an open platform that everybody can share. We welcome others to run wave servers and become wave providers, for themselves or as services for their users, and to "federate" waves, that is, to share waves with each other and with wave.google.com. In this way users from different wave providers can communicate and collaborate using shared waves. We are introducing the Google Wave Federation Protocol for federating waves between wave providers on the Internet.

From a Buzz post by Dewitt Clinton, a Google employee

The best way to get a sense of where the Buzz API is heading is to take a look at http://code.google.com/apis/buzz/. You'll notice that the "coming soon" section mentions a ton of protocols—Activity Streams, Atom, AtomPub, MediaRSS, WebFinger, PubSubHubbub, Salmon, OAuth, XFN, etc.

What it doesn't talk much about is Google. That's because the goal isn't Google specific at all. The idea is that someday, any host on the web should be able to implement these open protocols and send messages back and forth in real time with users from any network, without any one company in the middle. The web contains the social graph, the protocols are standard web protocols, the messages can contain whatever crazy stuff people think to put in them. Google Buzz will be just another node (a very good node, I hope) among many peers. Users of any two systems should be able to send updates back and forth, federate comments, share photos, send @replies, etc., without needing Google in the middle and without using a Google-specific protocol or format.

From Mark Sigal’s post Google Buzz: Is it Project, Product or Platform?

I think that it's great that Google is iterating Gmail (read Tim O'Reilly's excellent write-up on it here), and actually improving an existing product, versus rolling out a knock-off of something that is already in the market.

Nonetheless. I am confused. I thought that Google Wave was destined to be the new Gmail, but after yesterday's announcement, I am left wondering if Gmail is, instead, the new Google Wave.

Since the saying goes that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, I won’t make any comment besides sharing these links with you.

Note Now Playing: 50 Cent - Crime Wave Note


Alex Payne has a great criticism of both Web and desktop email application in his post The Problem With Email Clients which accurately captures some of the frustrations I've had with both classes of email clients. The entire post is a must read if you've ever thought about how email can be improved. Some key passages from his post are 

Anyone who’s given Gmail a fair shake will quickly find conversations indispensable. Going back to any other email client is agonizing and disorienting, like being knocked around and dumped out of the back of a pickup on the outskirts of a strange town. In desktop email clients, new messages arrive completely bereft of context. The only way to orient yourself is to either remember what the conversation was about or read through the mess of quoted text that may or may not be present at the bottom of the message, depending on what kind of email client or prefences the sender has. You could try searching to re-orient yourself, but good luck with that in Outlook or Mail.app.

With conversations, Google has offered the only advancement in the information architecture of email clients in decades. Apple, on the other hand, has given us basically bupkiss, rendering Neven’s defense a bit silly.

This is probably heresy coming from a web application developer, but I think web applications are mostly ghastly. I hate using them. When I’m faced with a computing problem, I want to solve it with a polished, stable, native application for my operating system that looks and feels like it belongs on my computer. I don’t believe in Rich Internet Applications — they’re a boogeyman that I keep hoping will disappear.

The problem with Gmail is that it could be a “real” application. While its conversations and search-that-actually-works are (sadly) innovative, they’re not impossible to implement as part of a platform-native email client. I enjoy using Gmail, but I’d enjoy it even more if it obeyed the rules of my operating system, not the rules of the web. The web has a lot to offer certain types of problems, but I’m not convinced that email is one of them.

The problem with desktop email clients is that they’re not webmail. The problem with webmail is that it’s not a desktop email client.

I think Alex is on to something here. I prefer to read read my Hotmail account in Outlook via the Microsoft Outlook Connector because I'd rather read my email in a desktop app than in a Web app trying to look like a desktop app. On the other hand, I read my RSS feeds in RSS Bandit even though Outlook is an extremely popular RSS reader because I'm dissatisfied with how Outlook presents messages and feel an app I wrote myself does it more effectively.

Clearly there is room for a revolution here.

Note Now Playing: R.E.M. - Everybody Hurts Note


Scott Watermasysk has a great high-level comparison of the cloud computing offerings from Amazon, Google and Microsoft in his post Cloud Options - Amazon, Google, & Microsoft. Below are some excerpts from his review

Amazon (AWS)
  • Most mature offering of the three.
Google (AppEngine)
  • I get the sense that Google is trying to appeal to a small and focused audience (well, as small as Google can). There is nothing wrong with this approach, but I think long term I would feel handcuffed on their platform.
Microsoft (Windows Azure)
  • Microsoft still has a lot of "execution" to complete, but overall I am thoroughly impressed with the total breadth of their offering.

If you are interested in this space you should read Scott's entire post. I was thinking of doing a similar comparison but Scott's post hits the highs and lows of each service. I completely agree with his analysis, Amazon provides a mature offering but I balk at the complexity of managing and deploying my own VM images. Google's offering seems incomplete and it is bothersome that they do not provide any Web services (SOAP or REST). Microsoft has an ambitious offering which combines the ease of use of Google's offering with a more complete set of services but the proof will be in the pudding since it isn't yet broadly available.

This is an excellent review by Scott Watermasysk and is definitely worth sharing.

Note Now Playing: Trey Songz - Can't Help But Wait (Remix) feat. Jay Read Note


jQuery is an Open Source Javascript framework that is very popular among Web developers. John Resig, lead developer of the project has a blog post with some interesting news with regards to Microsoft and jQuery where he writes

Microsoft is looking to make jQuery part of their official development platform. Their JavaScript offering today includes the ASP.NET Ajax Framework and they’re looking to expand it with the use of jQuery. This means that jQuery will be distributed with Visual Studio (which will include jQuery intellisense, snippets, examples, and documentation).

Additionally Microsoft will be developing additional controls, or widgets, to run on top of jQuery that will be easily deployable within your .NET applications. jQuery helpers will also be included in the server-side portion of .NET development (in addition to the existing helpers) providing complementary functions to existing ASP.NET AJAX capabilities.

John's announcement has been followed up by a blog post from Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET developer division at Microsoft, entitled jQuery and Microsoft where he writes

I'm excited today to announce that Microsoft will be shipping jQuery with Visual Studio going forward.  We will distribute the jQuery JavaScript library as-is, and will not be forking or changing the source from the main jQuery branch.  The files will continue to use and ship under the existing jQuery MIT license.

We will also distribute intellisense-annotated versions that provide great Visual Studio intellisense and help-integration at design-time.  For example:

and with a chained command:

The jQuery intellisense annotation support will be available as a free web-download in a few weeks (and will work great with VS 2008 SP1 and the free Visual Web Developer 2008 Express SP1).  The new ASP.NET MVC download will also distribute it, and add the jQuery library by default to all new projects.

We will also extend Microsoft product support to jQuery beginning later this year, which will enable developers and enterprises to call and open jQuery support cases 24x7 with Microsoft PSS.

This is great news for Web developers everywhere. Kudos to everyone involved in making this happen.

Note Now Playing: T.I. - Swagga Like Us (Ft. Kanye West, Jay Z & Lil Wayne) Note 


September 22, 2008
@ 03:20 PM

Someone at Microsoft forwarded me a link to danah boyd's announcement, I will be joining Microsoft Research in January where she writes

Guess who has a post-dissertation job? [Yes, that implies I'm actually going to finish this *#$@! dissertation.] ::bounce:: In January, I will be joining the newly minted Microsoft Research New England in Boston, MA. w00000t!!!!! I couldn't be more ecstatic.

It all began with Dopplr. Linda Stone noticed that I was swinging through Seattle and she called me up and told me that I had to do dinner with her. Linda's plots are always tremendous so of course I said yes. When I arrived, she introduced me to Jennifer Chayes and Christian Borgs, the physicists who were starting the new MSR lab. Jennifer immediately began interrogating me about my research and about social science more broadly. To say Jennifer & I clicked is a bit of an understatement. Like me, Jennifer is loud, crazy, and intense. We got along like peas in a pod and spent the night chattering away. When she told me that I should come work for her, I laughed it off and didn't think much about it. But I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Jennifer and Christian's vision for the lab aligned with my view of research. They believe in interdisciplinary work, believe in the ways that new ideas can come from unexpected collaborations. While I know a lot of social scientists who curl their nose at the idea of a lab full of physicists, mathematicians, and economists, I find that quite appealing. I love the idea of such a diverse group thinking about how the world works from different angles. Plus, meeting the folks at the new lab - Henry Cohn, Yael Kalai, Adam Kalai, and Butler Lampson - only made me more intrigued by it. Everyone was so ridiculously nice and even though we didn't work on the same problems we found funny intersections.

The more that I talked with folks at MSR, the more I fell in love with the possibility of going there. And then I started meeting with execs and realized that what MSR researchers were telling me fit with broader strategy. I met with Rick Rashid, the head of MSR, who explained why he started MSR and how he saw it fit into the company. I met with Ray Ozzie (who I've known and adored for quite some time) and he confirmed the importance of research for the future of Microsoft. Both of them made me feel fully confident that my approach to research would not only be tolerated but welcomed. Plus, there's a broad desire to understand the intersections between computing and all things social which is straight up my alley.

Congratulations to danah, I've always loved her research and I'm glad to see that she will continue contributing to the industry as a part of Microsoft Research. She is one of the few people out there doing real research into how social software is changing the lives of people on the Web and I'm glad Microsoft can be a part of that effort.

Besides her research papers, danah also have some interesting insights into the current goings on in the world of social networking sites like her post Facebook and Techcrunch: the costs of technological determinism and configuring users on Facebook's continued determination to delete user accounts that don't conform to the company's beliefs about how the site should be used. Her post knol: content w/out context, collaboration, capital, or coruscation which points out some of the shortcomings of Google's Knol when compared to Wikipedia is also another great recent post of note.

Good luck with the new job, danah.

Now Playing: Rascal Flatts - My Wish


June 1, 2008
@ 01:46 PM

A coworker forwarded me a story from a Nigerian newspaper about a cat turning into a woman in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The story is excerpted below

This woman was reported to have earlier been seen as a cat before she reportedly turned into a woman in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Thursday. Photo: Bolaji Ogundele. WHAT could be described as a fairy tale turned real on Wednesday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as a cat allegedly turned into a middle-aged woman after being hit by a commercial motorcycle (Okada) on Aba/Port Harcourt Expressway.

Nigerian Tribune learnt that three cats were crossing the busy road when the okada ran over one of them which immediately turned into a woman. This strange occurrence quickly attracted people around who descended on the animals. One of them, it was learnt, was able to escape while the third one was beaten to death, still as a cat though.

Another witness, who gave his name as James, said the woman started faking when she saw that many people were gathering around her. “I have never seen anything like this in my life. I saw a woman lying on the road instead of a cat. Blood did not come out of her body at that time. When people gathered and started asking her questions, she pretended that she did not know what had happened," he said.

Reading this reminds me how commonplace it was to read about the kind of mind boggling supernatural stories that you'd expect to see in the Weekly World News in regular newspapers alongside sports, political and stock market news in Nigeria.  Unlike the stories of alien abduction you find in the U.S., the newspaper stories of supernatural events often had witnesses and signed confessions from the alleged perpetrators of supernatural acts. Nobody doubted these stories, everyone knew they were true. Witches who would confess to being behind the run of bad luck of their friends & family or who'd confess that they key to their riches was offering their family members or children as blood sacrifices to ancient gods. It was all stuff I read in the daily papers as a kid as I would be flipping through looking for the comics. 

The current issue of Harper's Bazaar talks about the penis snatching hysteria from my adolescent years. The story is summarized in Slate magazine shown below

Harper's, June 2008
An essay reflects on the widespread reports of "magical penis loss" in Nigeria and Benin, in which sufferers claim their genitals were snatched or shrunken by thieves. Crowds have lynched accused penis thieves in the street. During one 1990 outbreak, "[m]en could be seen in the streets of Lagos holding on to their genitalia either openly or discreetly with their hand in their pockets." Social scientists have yet to identify what causes this mass fear but suspect it is what is referred to as a "culture-bound syndrome," a catchall term for a psychological affliction that affects people within certain ethnic groups.

I remember that time fairly well. I can understand that this sounds like the kind of boogie man stories that fill every culture. In rural America, it is aliens in flying saucers kidnapping people for anal probes and mutilating cows. In Japan, it's the shape changing foxes (Kitsune). In Nigeria, we had witches who snatched penises and could change shape at will.

In the cold light of day it sounds like mass hysteria but I wonder which is easier to believe sometimes. That a bunch of strangers on the street had a mass hallucination that a cat transformed into a woman or that there really are supernatural things beyond modern science's understanding out there? 

Now Playing: Dr. Dre - Natural Born Killaz (feat. Ice Cube)


February 27, 2008
@ 03:51 PM


Now playing: Supremes - Where Did Our Love Go?


As I'm getting ready to miss the first Super Bowl weekend of my married life to attend the the O'Reilly Social Graph FOO Camp, I'm reminded that I should be careful about using wireless at the conference by this informative yet clueless post by Larry Dignan on ZDNet entitled Even SSL Gmail can get sidejacked which states

Sidejacking is a term Graham uses to describe his session hijacking hack that can compromise nearly all Web 2.0 applications that rely on saved cookie information to seamlessly log people back in to an account without the need to reenter the password.  By listening to and storing radio signals from the airwaves with any laptop, an attacker can harvest cookies from multiple users and go in to their Web 2.0 application.  Even though the password wasn’t actually cracked or stolen, possession of the cookies acts as a temporary key to gain access to Web 2.0 applications such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo.  The attacker can even find out what books you ordered on Amazon, where you live from Google maps, acquire digital certificates with your email account in the subject line, and much more.

Gmail in SSL https mode was thought to be safe because it encrypted everything, but it turns out that Gmail’s JavaScript code will fall back to non-encrypted http mode if https isn’t available.  This is actually a very common scenario anytime a laptop connects to a hotspot before the user signs in where the laptop will attempt to connect to Gmail if the application is opened but it won’t be able to connect to anything.  At that point in time Gmail’s JavaScripts will attempt to communicate via unencrypted http mode and it’s game over if someone is capturing the data.

What’s really sad is the fact that Google Gmail is one of the “better” Web 2.0 applications out there and it still can’t get security right even when a user actually chooses to use SSL mode. 

Although the blog post is about a valid concern,  the increased likelihood of man-in-the-middle attacks when using unsecured or shared wireless networks, it presents it in the most ridiculous way possible. Man-in-the-middle attacks are a problem related to using computer networks, not something that is limited to the Web let alone Web 2.0 (whatever that means).

Now Playing: 50 Cent - Touch The Sky (Feat. Tony Yayo) (Prod by K Lassik)


In his blog post entitled Joining Microsoft Live Labs Greg Linden writes

I am starting at Microsoft Live Labs next week.

Live Labs is an applied research group affiliated with Microsoft Research and MSN. The group has the enjoyable goal of not only trying to solve hard problems with broad impact, but also getting useful research work out the door and into products so it can help as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

Live Labs is lead by
Gary Flake, the former head of Yahoo Research. It is a fairly new group, formed only two years ago. Gary wrote a manifesto that has more information about Live Labs.

when I found out Greg was shutting down Findory I thought myself that he’d be a great hire for Microsoft especially since he already lived in the area. It seems someone else though the same thing and now Greg has been assimilated. Congratulations, Greg.

I seem to be bumping into more and more people who are either working for or with Live Labs. Besides Justin Rudd who I just referred to the team, there’s Mike Deem and Erik Meijer, two people I know from my days on the XML team. I wonder what Gary Flake is cooking up in those swanky offices in Bellevue that has so many smart folks gravitating to his group?

Now playing: Kool & The Gang - Celebration


October 2, 2007
@ 04:00 AM

I don’t really have anything to say about this that hasn’t already been said but I did find the following article in the New York Times entitled  EBay’s $4 Billion Lesson in the Value of Hype worth sharing. Juicy bits excerpted below

As Microsoft mulls putting up to $500 million into Facebook at a $10-billion-plus valuation, it may want to consider the fate of eBay’s adventure with the Internet phone service Skype.

When eBay bought Skype in 2005, it boasted that Skype had 52 million users and was adding 150,000 new ones a day. Even though Skype only had $60 million in revenue that year, eBay figured that with so many users it would be able to profit somehow — both by charging fees for communication services and through links to its auction and payments services. Today, eBay admitted this was a whopper of a mistake, and is taking a $1.4 billion charge to reflect the gap between what it paid for Skype and what it turns out to be worth. EBay paid $2.6 billion in cash two years ago for Skype and said it would pay up to an additional $1.5 billion based on how the company performed.


  1. Just because a company has a huge and growing audience doesn’t mean it can find a huge revenue source. Skype’s appeal is that it offers services free or very cheap. That limits its ability to raise prices. And it turns out that there are limited opportunities for advertising or add-on services.
  2. It’s almost impossible to pay for a deal through “synergies.” EBay executives talked about how Skype would be useful to connect buyers and sellers in its marketplace. This always seemed to be hooey. The eBay market is already full of chatter, mainly by e-mail, and sometimes by phone. Sure, some of that might well be handled by Internet phone, but how much and what value was created by eBay owning its own voice chat system? Not much, it turns out.

I can't imagine any metric under which it made sense for eBay to pay over $2 billion for Skype, let alone the $4 billion which was the potential final price. This deserves to go straight to the top of the  List of the Worst Billion Dollar Internet Acquisitions of all time.

Now playing: DJ Green Lantern - D12/50 Cent - Rap Game


Today some guy in the hallway mistook me for the other black guy that works in our building. Like we all look alike. Or there can only be one black guy that works in a building at Microsoft. Must be a quota. :)

Then I find this video in my RSS feeds and surprisingly I find my name mentioned in the comment threads.

Too bad it wasn't funny.


Marc Andreessen (whose blog is on fire!) has a rather lengthy but excellent blog post entitled The Pmarca Guide to Big Companies, part 2: Retaining great people which has some good advice on how big companies can retain their best employees. The most interesting aspects of his post were some of the accurate observations he had about obviously bad ideas that big companies implement which are intended to retain their best employees but end up backfiring. I thought these insights were valuable enough that they are worth repeating.

Marc writes

Don't create a new group or organization within your company whose job is "innovation". This takes various forms, but it happens reasonably often when a big company gets into product trouble, and it's hugely damaging.

Here's why:

First, you send the terrible message to the rest of the organization that they're not supposed to innovate.

Second, you send the terrible message to the rest of the organization that you think they're the B team.

That's a one-two punch that will seriously screw things up.

This so true. Every time I've seen some executive or management higher up create an incubation or innovation team within a specific product group, it has lead to demoralization of the people who have been relegated as the "B team" and bad blood between both teams which eventually leads to in-fighting. All of this might be worth it if these efforts are successful but as Clayton Christensen pointed out in his interview in Business Week on the tenth anniversary of "The Innovator's Dilemma"

People come up with lots of new ideas, but nothing happens. They get very disillusioned. Never does an idea pop out of a person's head as a completely fleshed-out business plan. It has to go through a process that will get approved and funded. You're not two weeks into the process until you realize, "gosh, the sales force is not going to sell this thing," and you change the economics. Then two weeks later, marketing says they won't support it because it doesn't fit the brand, so we've got to change the whole concept.

All those forces act to make the idea conform to the company's existing business model, not to the marketplace. And that's the rub. So the senior managers today, thirsty for innovation, stand at the outlet of this pipe, see the dribbling out of me-too innovation after me-too innovation, and they scream up to the back end, "Hey, you guys, get more innovative! We need more and better innovative ideas!" But that's not the problem. The problem is this shaping process that conforms all these innovative ideas to the current business model of the company.

This is something I've seen happen time after time. There are times when incubation/innovation teams produce worthwhile results but they are few and far between especially compared to the number of them that exist. In addition, even in those cases both of Marc's observations were still correct and they led to in-fighting between the teams which damaged the overall health of the product, the people and the organization. 

Marc also wrote

Don't do arbitrary large spot bonuses or restricted stock grants to try to give a small number of people huge financial upside.

An example is the Google Founders' Awards program, which Google has largely stopped, and which didn't work anyway.

It sounds like a great idea at the time, but it causes a severe backlash among both the normal people who don't get it (who feel like they're the B team) and the great people who don't get it (who feel like they've been screwed).

Significantly differentiated financial rewards for your "best employees"  are a seductive idea for executives but they rarely work as planned for several reasons. One reason is based on an observation I first saw in Paul Graham's essay Hiring is Obsolete; big companies don't know how to value the contributions of individual employees. Robert Scoble often used to complain in the comments to his blog that he made less than six figures at Microsoft. I personally think he did more for the company's image than the millions we've spent on high priced public relations and advertising firms. Yet it is incredibly difficult to prove this and even if one could the process wouldn't scale to every single employee. Then there's all the research from various corporations that have used social network analysis to find out that their most valuable employees are rarely the ones that are high up in the org chart (see How Org Charts Lie published by the Harvard Business School). The second reason significantly financially rewarding your "best employees" ends up being problematic is well described in Joel Spolsky's article Incentive Pay Considered Harmful where he points out

Most people think that they do pretty good work (even if they don't). It's just a little trick our minds play on us to keep life bearable. So if everybody thinks they do good work, and the reviews are merely correct (which is not very easy to achieve), then most people will be disappointed by their reviews

When you combine the above observation with the act if rewarding does that get good reviews disproportionately from those that just did OK, it can lead to problems. For example, what happens when a company decides that it will give millions of dollars in bonuses to its employees if they "add the most value" to the company? Hey, isn't that what the Google Founder's Awards were supposed to be about...how did that turn out?

The company has continually tinkered with its incentives for people to stay. Early on Page and Brin gave "Founders' Awards" in cash to people who made significant contributions. The handful of employees who pulled off the unusual Dutch auction public offering in August 2004 shared $10 million. The idea was to replicate the windfall rewards of a startup, but it backfired because those who didn't get them felt overlooked. "It ended up pissing way more people off," says one veteran.

Google rarely gives Founders' Awards now, preferring to dole out smaller executive awards, often augmented by in- person visits by Page and Brin. "We are still trying to capture the energy of a startup," says Bock.

Another seductive idea that sounds good on paper which falls apart when you actually add human beings to the equation.


None of these was worth an entire post.

  1. Universal Music Group Refuses to Renew Apple's Annual License to Sell Their Music on iTunes: So this is what it looks like when an industry that has existed for decades begins to die. I wonder who's going to lose out more? Apple because people some people stop buying iPods because they can't buy music from Jay-Z and Eminem on iTunes or Universal Music Group for closing itself out of the biggest digital music marketplace in the world in the midst of declining CD sales worldwide. It's as if the record labels are determined to make themselves irrelevant by any means necessary. 

  2. Standard URLs - Proposal for a Web with Less Search: Wouldn't it be cool if every website in the world used the exact same URL structure based on some ghetto reimplementation of the Dewey Decimal System? That way I could always type http://www.amazon.com/books/j-k-rowling/harry-potter-and-the-goblet-of-fire or http://www.bn.com/books/j-k-rowling/harry-potter-and-the-goblet-of-fire  to find the Harry Potter book on whatever book website I was on instead of typing "harry potter goblet of fire" into a search box. Seriously.

    This is the kind of idea that makes sense when you are kicking it with your homeboys late at night drinking 40s and smokin' blunts but ends up making you scratch your head in the morning when you sober up, wondering how you could have ever come up with such a ludicrous idea.

  3. Facebook has 'thrown the entire startup world for a loop': This post is by a startup developer complaining that Facebook has placed limits on usage of their APIs which prevent Facebook widgets from spamming a user's friends when the user adds the widget to their profile. What does he expect? That Facebook should make it easier for applications to spam their users? WTF? Go read Mike Torres's post Facebook weirdness then come back and explain to me why the folks at Facebook should be making it easier for applications to send spam on a user's behalf in the name of encouraging the "viral growth of apps".

  4. Does negative press make you Sicko? Google ad sales rep makes impassioned pitch to big Pharmaceutical companies and HMOs to counter the negative attention from Michael Moore's Sicko by buying Google search ads and getting Google to create "Get the Facts" campaigns for them. I guess all that stuff Adam Bosworth said about Google wanting to help create better educated patients doesn't count since patients don't buy ads. ;) Talk about making your employer look like an unscrupulous, money grubbing whore. Especially 

    Do no evil. It's now Search, Ads and Apps

  5. People Who Got in Line for an iPhone: I was at the AT&T store on the day of the iPhone launch to pick up a USB cable for my fianc´e. It took me less than ten minutes to deal with the line at around 8:00PM and they still had lots of iPhones. It seems people had waited hours in line that day and I could have picked one up with just ten minutes of waiting on launch day if I wanted one. I bet if you came on Saturday the lines were even shorter and by today you could walk in. Of course, this is assuming you are crazy enough to buy a v1 iPhone in the first place.


  1. XKCD: Pickup Lines: "If I could rearrange the alphabet..."

  2. Chart: Chances of a Man Winning an Argument plotted over Time: I'm in the middle period. :)

  3. Fake Steve Jobs: Microsoft Goes Pussy: "We've integrated search into our OS too. It makes sense. And Microsoft's search stuff in Vista is really good (God I just threw up in my mouth when I wrote that)..."

  4. Chris Kelly: Das Capital One: "Back before Capital One, there were just two kinds of consumers: People who could afford credit cards and people who couldn't afford credit cards...The guy who started Capital One imagined a third kind of person - someone who could almost afford a credit card. A virtual credit card holder. Something between a good risk and a social parasite."

  5. I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?: OH HAI GOOGLZ: Google Street View + lolcats = Comedic Gold

  6. Bileblog: Google Code - Ugliness is not just skin deep: "The administrative menu is, to put it as kindly as possible, whimsical.Menu items and options are scattered about like goat pebbleturds on amountain. The only option under ‘Advanced’ is ‘Delete this project’.How is that advanced functionality?"

  7. Wikipedia: Pokémon test: "Each of the 493 Pokémon has its own page, all of which are bigger than stubs. While it would be expected that Pikachu would have its own page, some might be surprised to find out that Stantler has its own page, as well. Some people perceive Pokémon as something 'for little kids' and argue that if that gets an article, so should their favorite hobby/band/made-up word/whatever."

  8. YouTube: A Cialis Ad With Cuba Gooding Jr.: From the folks at NationalBanana, lots of funny content on their site.

  9. Bumper Sticker: Hell Was Full: Saw this on my way to work.

  10. YouTube: Microsoft Surface Parody - "The future is here and it's not an iPhone. It's a big @$$ table. Take that Apple"


Via Todd Bishop I found the following spoof of Back to the Future starring Christopher Lloyd (from the actual movie) and Bob Muglia, Microsoft's senior vice president of the Server and Tools Business. The spoof takes pot shots at various failed Microsoft "big visions" like WinFS and Hailstorm in a humorous way. It's good to see our execs being able to make light of our mistakes in this manner. The full video of the keynote is here. Embedded below is the first five minutes of the Back to the Future spoof.

Video: Microsoft Back to the Future Parody


The good folks on the Microsoft Experimentation Platform team have published a paper which gives a great introduction to how and why one can go about using controlled experiments (i.e. A/B testing) to improve the usability of a website. The paper is titled Practical Guide to Controlled Experiments on the Web: Listen to Your Customers not to the HiPPO and will be published as part of the Thirteenth ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining. The paper begins

In the 1700s, a British ship’s captain observed the lack of scurvy among sailors serving on the naval ships of Mediterranean countries, where citrus fruit was part of their rations. He then gave half his crew limes (the Treatment group) while the other half (the Control group) continued with their regular diet. Despite much grumbling among the crew in the Treatment group, the experiment was a success, showing that consuming limes prevented scurvy. While the captain did not realize that scurvy is a consequence of vitamin C deficiency, and that limes are rich in vitamin C, the intervention worked. British sailors eventually were compelled to consume citrus fruit regularly, a practice that gave rise to the still-popular label limeys.

Some 300 years later, Greg Linden at Amazon created a prototype to show personalized recommendations based on items in the shopping cart (2). You add an item, recommendations show up; add another item, different recommendations show up. Linden notes that while the prototype looked promising, ―a marketing senior vice-president was dead set against it, claiming it will distract people from checking out. Greg was ―forbidden to work on this any further. Nonetheless, Greg ran a controlled experiment, and the ―feature won by such a wide margin that not having it live was costing Amazon a noticeable chunk of change. With new urgency, shopping cart recommendations launched. Since then, multiple sites have copied cart recommendations.

The authors of this paper were involved in many experiments at Amazon, Microsoft, Dupont, and NASA. The culture of experimentation at Amazon, where data trumps intuition (3), and a system that made running experiments easy, allowed Amazon to innovate quickly and effectively. At Microsoft, there are multiple systems for running controlled experiments. We describe several architectures in this paper with their advantages and disadvantages. A unifying theme is that controlled experiments have great return-on-investment (ROI) and that building the appropriate infrastructure can accelerate innovation.

I learned quite a bit from reading the paper although I did somewhat skip over some of the parts that involved math. It's pretty interesting when you realize how huge the impact of changing the layout of a page or moving links can be on the bottom line of a Web company. Were talking millions of dollars for the most popular sites. That's pretty crazy.

Anyway, Ronny Kohavi from the team mentioned that they will be giving a talk related to the paper at eBay research labs tomorrow at 11AM. The talk will be in Building 0 (Toys) in room 0158F. The address is 2145 Hamilton Avenue, San Jose, CA. If you are in the silicon valley area, this might be a nice bring your own lunch event to attend.


Every couple of months I like to give a shout out to the blogs I'm currently reading and think are worth recommending. Below is my current list of top five blogs.

  1. Jeff Atwood: Every modern developer worth their salt should have read Mythical Man-Month, should know the common refactorings by heart, and should be reading Jeff Atwood's blog. It's that good. He covers a broad range of topics which are always of interest to developers from interesting glimpses into our shared computing history in posts such as Meet The Inventor of the Mouse Wheel and EA's Software Artists to excellent advice on designing applications for non-programmers such as his post Reducing User Interface Friction as well as a the occasional rant on pet peeves that a lot of developers share such as when he pointed out C# and the Compilation Tax.

  2. The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs : This is the best fake celebrity blog I've ever seen. The author is definitely up on his knowledge of Steve Jobs and Apple. The funniest posts are the ones where he gives an [evil] Steve Jobs perspective on current Apple affairs in posts such as So, you leaked an email to Engadget?, They call me Mr. Integrity and . Congratulations, Jon Ive

  3. Pat Helland: An old school Microsoft architect from Developer Division who recently came back to Microsoft after a two year stint at Amazon. Before leaving Microsoft two years ago, Pat wrote some well respected articles on building distributed systems such as Metropolis & Data on the Outside vs. Data on the Inside. He has now come back to the company with some practical experience from working on one of the largest Web sites on the planet. His most recent post, SOA and Newton's Universe, introduced me to the CAP Conjecture. Consistency, Availability, and Partition-tolerance. Pick two. Specifically, trying to maintain data consistency in a distributed system is in direct opposition to having high availability. I'd observed anecdotally while working on services in Windows Live but it was still interesting to read papers explaining this complete with mathematical proofs of why this is the case.

  4. Uncov: This site picks up where Dead 2.0 left off as the anti-TechCrunch by attempting to inject some snarky reality in the face of all the overhyped, me too, built to flip, "Web 2.0" startups we keep hearing about these days. Some of the more amusing recent posts are Meebo: Yahoo Chat was awesome in 1997, Mpire: Liked It Better When It Was Called Pricewatch and of course Web 2.0: So great you can't define it.

  5. Casey Serin: Since I recently became a homeowner, I've become interested in all this talk of real estate collapses and subprime loan crises. The USA Today article 10 mistakes that made flipping a flop describes Casey Serin as a poster child for everything that went wrong in the real estate boom. In under a year, the 24-year-old website-designer-turned-real estate-flipper bought eight homes in four states — and in every case but one, he put no money down. Over half of the homes have been foreclosed and he now has over $140,000 in debt. His blog documents his trials and tribulations trying to get out of debt. The comments are the best part, it seems his audience is split down the middle between people who cheer him for trying to get out of debt and others who attack him for seemingly getting away with abusing the system.

Do you have any similar recommendations?


From Mike Arrington's post $100 Million Payday For Feedburner - This Deal Is Confirmed we learn

Rumors about Google acquiring RSS management company Feedburner from last week, started by ex-TechCrunch UK editor Sam Sethi, are accurate and are now confirmed according to a source close to the deal. Feedburner is in the closing stages of being acquired by Google for around $100 million. The deal is all cash and mostly upfront, according to our source, although the founders will be locked in for a couple of years.

I use FeedBurner to track stats for my blog and RSS feed so this is great news because it means the service is here to stay. I've exchanged mail with Eric Lunt a bunch of times about issues I've had with the service and he was always quick to respond with a solution or an ETA for a fix. Google has landed some great folks who built a killer service.

I hope now that they have Google level resources at their disposal users of the service can now get historical statistics for their blogs and feeds instead of being limited to only the last 30 days. I'm curious about what my most popular posts of all time are not just the most popular in the last 30 days. 


April 11, 2007
@ 11:53 AM

This morning I was flipping through last Friday's issue of the The Daily Sun: Nigeria's King of Tabloids and came across some of the personals in the section of the paper called Muslim Matrimonials. It was a bit of culture shock for me to see how different they were from personals on U.S. sites like Craig's List, Yahoo! Personals and Match. Here are a few of them

Profile 496: Muslim male, 49, 1.7m tall, genotype AA, from Oyo state, an engineer holder of a Master's degree, married for long without children wants for marriage a practicing Muslim female from any part of the country, honest, tolerant, neat, slim and moderately attractive with at least a minimum of diploma, gainfully employed or employable, aged between 23 and 33 and ready to start a successful family

Profile 502: Muslim male, 43, 1.73 meters tall, Hausa from Bauchi in Bauchi state, Master's degree holder in English, lecturer in higher institution, married and blessed with five daughters, needs a new wife who is loving, hardworking, caring, prepared to share the ups and downs of life with hubby and above all understanding. She may be from any part of Nigeria, any tribe or social class. She must be light-complexioned, exceptionally tall and not be above 25.  

Quite different from the usual fare in the Men Seeking Women section of Craig's List isn't it? The glimpse that online personals give into the culture and social fabric of society is quite revealing.


April 4, 2007
@ 06:56 PM

Paul Bryant has a blog post entitled How Microsoft could crush Google in one easy step. Seriously. where he writes

Henry Blodget has a post up on "One way for Microsoft to Kill Google" It's interesting, but I think there's a much easier and faster method that Microsoft could use to more effectively “kill” Google tomorrow if they so chose.

It’s more than a little bit evil - - but on the other hand, I never heard Microsoft promise that they wouldn’t be:

So what is it?

The height of simplicity. Introduce an integrated ad-blocker to Windows (purely as a customer service, of course) that blocks all Google ads in both IE and Firefox.

Allow users to temporarily or permanently turn off the blocker if they choose. (Knowing full well that 95% of users use just the default settings.)

MSFT would probably need to block their own ads too, in order to make the effort legitimate, but how big a loss would that be for them really, on a relative basis?

For G, on the other hand, it would literally eliminate their entire revenue stream. Overnight. And Microsoft could push this out via a Windows Update in a few weeks time, at most. Buy the very excellent AdMuncher and bundle it if it’s too time consuming to build.

Part of me hesitates to point this out (in fact, I first thought of it a couple of years ago, and didn’t say anything for that very reason) but I can’t possibly be the only person who has thought of this, right? What am I missing?

Usually when I see a post like this, I just post a comment pointing all the ways the idea is stupid problematic. However given that the Paul Bryant's blog doesn't allow comments and I'm supposed to be on vacation, I'll just let the merits of this idea stand on their own without further comment.


I just arrived at London Heathrow and can look forward to another 9 hours or so until my flight to Nigeria. In the meantime, I've found complimentary Web access in the business class lounge so it looks like I won't be bored. I am a little worried about keyloggers and spyware on this computer given how easy it was for me to install Firefox on it. Here are a couple of quick thoughts I had on the way related to links I've seen over the past 24 hours

I'm hungry and need to get back to my book. Holla at y'all later.

danah boyd wrote two really interesting posts this weekend that gave an interesting perspective on a couple of headlines I've seen in blogs and mainstream news. Her post on narcissism gave an interesting perspective on stories such as CNN's Study: Vanity on the rise among college students which had me curious for more details when I read it originally. The post on Twitter gives a practical perspective I hadn't considered or seen mentioned in all the blogosphere ravings about the service since the hype storm started after the SXSW conference.

Interesting excerpts from danah boyd's post entitled fame, narcissism and MySpace

For those who are into pop science coverage of academic work, i'd encourage you to start with Jake Halpern's "Fame Junkies" (tx Anastasia). For simplicity sake, let's list a few of the key findings that have emerged over the years concerning narcissism.

  • While many personality traits stay stable across time, it appears as though levels of narcissism (as tested by the NPI) decrease as people grow older. In other words, while adolescents are more narcissistic than adults, you were also more narcissistic when you were younger than you are now.
  • The scores of adolescents on the NPI continue to rise. In other words, it appears as though young people today are more narcissistic than older people were when they were younger.
My view is that we have trained our children to be narcissistic and that this is having all sorts of terrifying repercussions; to deal with this, we're blaming the manifestations instead of addressing the root causes and the mythmaking that we do to maintain social hierarchies. Let's unpack that for a moment.

American individualism (and self-esteem education) have allowed us to uphold a myth of meritocracy. We sell young people the idea that anyone can succeed, anyone can be president. We ignore the fact that working class kids get working class jobs. This, of course, has been exacerbated in recent years. There used to be meaningful working class labor that young people were excited to be a part of. It was primarily masculine labor and it was rewarded through set hierarchies and unions helped maintain that structure. The unions crumpled in the 1980s and by the time the 1987 recession hit, there was a teenage wasteland No longer were young people being socialized into meaningful working class labor; the only path out was the "lottery" (aka becoming a famous rock star, athlete, etc.).

Interesting excerpts from danah boyd's post entitled Tweet Tweet (some thoughts on Twitter)

Of course, the population whose social world is most like the tech geeks is the teens. This is why they have no problems with MySpace bulletins (which are quite similar to Twitter in many ways). The biggest challenge with teens is that they do not have all-you-can-eat phone plans. Over and over, the topic of number of text messages in one's plan comes up. And my favorite pissed off bullying act that teens do involves ganging up to collectively spam someone so that they'll go over their limit and get into trouble with their parents (phone companies don't seem to let you block texts from particular numbers and of course you have to pay 10c per text you receive). This is particularly common when a nasty breakup occurs and i was surprised when i found out that switching phone numbers is the only real solution to this. Because most teens are not permanently attached to a computer and because they typically share their computers with other members of the family, Twitterific-like apps wouldn't really work so well. And Twitter is not a strong enough app to replace IM time.

Read both posts, they are really good. And if you aren't subscribed to her blog, you should be.


February 19, 2007
@ 07:36 PM

I should be on my way to the airport but this was just too good to share. Below are the opening paragraphs of a LiveJournal post by chalain entitled So Beautiful, So Disturbing

I wake. For a moment, I stare at the ceiling trying to remember something. Something important. Something important happened last night, but the details escape me. Something fascinating yet sinister, like touring the CIA offices. Something exotic yet somehow familiar, like putting hot sauce on meatloaf. I wonder if I have a hangover. I wonder why I am thinking about the CIA and meatloaf. I roll onto my side.

There is a strange woman in bed with me.

A lot of things happen at once. First, I realize that this is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and I am a lucky, lucky man. Second, I realize that this is not my wife, and I panic. Third, I realize that she's awake, has been watching me sleep. Fourth, before I can really react to thoughts 1 and 2, she smiles at me and speaks with a lovely accent I can't quite place: "So. You like new wife, yes? Yes. Up now, I make breakfast."

She gets out of bed and stretches, perfect curves sliding under silky lingerie and momentarily making me forget about breakfast, meatloaf, and whoever it was I was married to before last night. She seems to know this, and smiles at me again, but apparently she's serious about making breakfast. She turns and strides confidently from the room. As she does, I see for the first time the large Microsoft logo splayed across her back. My stomach lurches as I suddenly remember everything.

Windows Vista. I bought a new computer yesterday... and it came with Windows Vista.

Read the entire thing here. It's pretty good stuff and is kinda cool that software can invoke such positive and negative emotions from its users.


February 15, 2007
@ 03:15 AM

I've been using Live Search for Mobile for the past 24 hours and it is hot, hot, hot. I was in the car just now and wanted to call the Metropolitan Grill to confirm our dinner reservations. Usually this involves calling 411, talking to some lame voice recognition system and then repeating myself to a human while getting charged mucho dinero for this "service". With Live Search for Mobile, it was dead easy to select "Seattle, Washington" from the canned list of metropolitan areas, type my search term ("metropolitan grill") and then call the number in the search results.

I thought this was cool but was going to criticize the product for only supporting major metropolitan areas but it seems I was mistaken. There is a comprehensive list of the major cities in every U.S. state. For Washington state they have local listings from Aberdeen to Yakima. Crazy.

Seriously, if you have a Windows Mobile or J2ME phone, you should go to http://wls.live.com. This is the coolest download I've gotten from my phone since Smartphlow. Kudos to team for creating such a useful product. It's rare for me to blog about one of our product announcements and follow it up with another blog post so soon afterwards but this product is that good.  


February 13, 2007
@ 10:25 PM
Vista Ad

Mac OS X Ad

Which do you prefer and why?


It looks like another collection of links have piled up in my "to blog" list which I don't have enough thoughts on to warrant an entire blog post.

  • Help Find Jim Gray - Jim Gray has been missing for about a week and the efforts to find him by various technology companies has been impressive. From the post "Through a major effort by many people [ed - from NASA, Digital Globe, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, Amazon and others] we were able to have the Digital Globe satellite make a run over the area on Thursday morning and have the data made available publicly. We have split these images into smaller tiles that can be easily scanned visually and stored into the Amazon S3 storage service. We then created tasks for reviewing these images and loaded then into the Amazon Mechanical Turk Service.".

    This is a rather powerful use of Amazon's technology platform and the wisdom of the crowds to try to save a life. If you'd like to help in reviewing sattellite images on the Amazon Mechanical Turk service to help locate Jim Gray go here.

  • The Limits of Democracy - I read this article at the gym last week and the following excerpt stung like a body blow, "Bush's arrogance has turned people off the idea of democracy," says Larry Diamond, co-editor of the Journal of Democracy.But he goes on: "There's a lot more to it than that. We need to face up to the fact that in many developing countries democracy is not working very well." Diamond points to several countries where elections have been followed by governmental paralysis, corruption and ethnic warfare. The poster child for this decline has to be Nigeria, a country often lauded for its democracy. In fact, the place is in free fall—an oil-rich country with per capita GDP down to $390 (from $1,000 20 years ago), a ranking below Bangladesh on the United Nations Human Development Index, and with a third of the country having placed itself under Sharia."

    I've wrote a blog post in response to this article but decided against posting it for obvious reasons. The only observation I'll make in public is that it is unfortunate that the problems with Bush's [lack of a] strategy in Iraq has now moved the Overton Window to a place where people talk wistfully about when the United States supported brutal dictatorships which supported its policies instead of trying to encourage democracy in developing countries. Especially since a lot of the current ethnic woes facing many emerging democracies trace their roots back to meddling by colonial powers.

  • Position Paper For the Workshop on Web of Services for Enterprise Computing - The problem summary for the paper is "Web Services based on SOAP and WSDL are 'Web' in name only. In fact, they are a hostile overlay of the Web based on traditional enterprise middleware architectural styles that has fallen far short of expectations over the past decade". Wow, a VP at Gartner submitting a position paper with the above summary must be a sign of the end times.

  • Here, women propose marriage and men can't refuse. From the story highlights "Woman presents special plate of fish to man; he takes a bite and is engaged. Matriarchal society exists in archipelago of 50 islands off Guinea-Bissau. Missionaries bring new concept of men proposing, causing strife in families".

    I thought the days of missionaries coming to Africa and destroying centuries of African culture converting the heathens to the ways of Christianity ended in the 19th century. Are we in a time warp here?

  • In wake of 2 fatal shootings, some question police tactics - Undercover cops pretending to be drug dealers end up shooting an 80 year old man who confused them for actual drug dealers selling drugs on his property. The statement from the police makes it seem like they consider this the equivalent of a bureaucratic foul up. Sad.


I just found the post Mr. Gosling - why did you make URL equals suck?!? on programming.reddit.com and just had to share

Okay, I’m totally hacked! java.net.URL class officially sucks! The equals method on this shining example of the JDK API mess actually does a blocking DNS lookup on the host string to resolve to an IP address and then compares the IP addresses rather than the host string. What freakin’ sense does that make?

Simple example:

URL url1 = new URL("http://foo.example.com");
URL url2 = new URL("http://example.com");

Let’s say these map to these IP addresses:

http://foo.example.com =>
http://example.com =>

Here’s the scary part:

url1.equals(url2) => true!

That's definitely the best example of code that deserves to be on The Daily WTF I've seen from a standard library. Just thinking about all the code I have in RSS Bandit that tests URLs for equality, it boggles my mind to think a standard library could have such a craptacular implementation of the equals() method.

Anyone have similar examples from other standard libraries (C++, .NET, JDK, Ruby, etc)? I need some bad code to cheer me up after a day that's already had too many meetings. :)


I noticed that the top headline on Techmeme this afternoon is a couple of posts from Robert Scoble complaining that not enough people link to his blog. at first, I was scratching my head at this given that Robert's blog still manages to rank in the top 50 most linked blogs according to the Technorati Top 100 then I saw a post by Jeff Sandquist that made things clearer.

In his post entitled Scoble Intel LinkGate 2007 - Bootstrapping a new business via blogs Jeff Sandquist writes

I can empathize with Robert to a point on this.  I am well aware of how damn hard it is to build an audience.   Robert is tasked with doing this for PodTech a relatively new business and the stakes are high.   Exclusive content like Robert's Intel piece took time and money to produce (flight to Portland, cameras, bandwidth, a crew and more) and needs to show a return.  I can imagine that PodTech looked at a piece like this as a bootstrap for their network.  The hope being that the exclusive piece will get Slashdotted, Digged or high profile tech blogs (Engagdget / Gizmodo) will also follow suit.   The hope is that a few of those viewers will stick around, view other PodTech content and maybe others will subscribe to the feed to return another day.  Building an audience, inch by incch is hard work.  This all takes persistance and time all while you are justifying to your sponsors and leaders your content style and tone.  So when the Intel piece doesn't result in a lot of flow (guess we're still in the eyeball game <img alt=" src="http://www.jeffsandquist.com/smilies/wink.gif">) from the big sites Robert flew off the handle in frustration. 

I believe as this business grows, it is going to get even harder to bootstrap the businesses soley through traditional grass roots/link based marketing.  With the number of blogs and media sites continuing to grow, it will get harder and harder to get links to even exclusive the most content.

From that perspective it now makes sense to me. PodTech hired an A-list blogger in the hopes that he'd bring in lots of traffic due to the popularity of his blog but it looks like that isn't working as much as they like and now Robert is beginning to feel the pressure. I tend to agree with Jeff that perhaps PodTech should look to more than the blog of their A-list blogging employee as their primary source of traffic and buzz. 

This also explains why Robert felt obligated to give a shout out to PodTech when he got listed as one of the Web's Top 25 celebrities instead of basking in the glow of getting such props from the mainstream media. There's probably a lesson here for folks who plan to parlay their blog fame into an endeavor that requires driving eyeballs and capturing an audience.


I like the concept of online Q&A sites and I have to say that I've been quite impressed at how successful Yahoo! has been with Yahoo! Answers. Not only did they build a good end user experience but they followed up with heavy cross promotion on their other services, TV ads and getting lots of real-world celebrities to use the service. My favorite questions asked by real-world celebrities thus far

Based on your own family's experience, what do you think we should do to improve health care in America? asked by Hillary Clinton (U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate)

What should we do to free our planet from terrorism? asked by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam (President of India)

That's pretty freaking cool. Kudos to the Yahoo! Answers for being able to pull off such a great promotion and build such a successful service in such a short time. 


January 18, 2007
@ 02:59 PM

I've been spending my free time putting the finishing touches on the next beta of the Jubilee release of RSS Bandit so I've been remiss at blogging and have accumulated a bunch of things to blog about which I never got around to posting. Here is an outpouring of links from my 'to blog' list

  • 20Q.net: The classic game of twenty questions powered by a neural network. It is uncanny how good this game was at guessing what I was thinking about. This is the closest to magic I've seen on the Web.

  • programming.reddit.com: If you are the kind of geek who find Jeff Atwood's blog to be a fun read then this is the meme tracker for you. Light on fluffy A-list geek wankery over the latest from Apple & Google and heavy on programming culture from the trenches.

  • The Story of XMLHTTP: The most complete account of the creation one of the cornerstones of AJAX, I've seen online. I 've actually worked with some of the people mentioned in the story.

  • Zeichick's Take: Remember CUA Compliance? Microsoft Doesn't: The most amusing rant about the new ribbon in Microsoft Office 2007 I've seen yet. My favorite quote, "Microsoft says that the problem was that users couldn't find and use the more obscure features of Word, Excel and the other Office tools. No, that wasn't the problem. The problem was that there were too many features". I guess his solution would have been for Microsoft to cut a bunch of features from Office instead of redesigning the UI. Yeah, right.

  • To DTD or not to DTD: It looks like Netscape is getting ready to break all of the RSS 0.91 feeds on the Web which reference their DTD which is practically all of them. I need to ensure that this doesn't cause problems in RSS Bandit. I like how the Netscape guy tries to blame RSS reader developers for using XML as designed. Another example of how XML schemas in general and DTDs in particular were one of the worst concepts foisted on XML. We should have been trying to make our programming languages as dynamic as XML not make XML as rigid as our programming languages. Maybe we'll have better luck in the JSON era.

PS: If you are an RSS Bandit user then check back this weekend for the final beta. We are now feature complete and should now work just fine on Windows Vista. However some of the podcast-related features had to be scaled back for this release.


December 19, 2006
@ 02:45 PM

My girlfriend recently purchased an iDog for one of her kids and I thought that was the silliest iPod accessory imaginable. It seems I was wrong. Podcasting News has an article entitled The Ten Worst iPod-Related Christmas Presents Ever which has gems such as

iPod Toilet Paper Dispenser

Here’s something that we thought we should flush out of our system right away - the iCarta toilet paper dispenser/iPod player. The last thing we want anyone doing in the Podcasting News bathroom is making a #$#@ playlist for using the toilet.
icarta pod toilet potty
The one that really takes the cake is the iBuzz. You'll have to read the article to see what that accessory does.

December 15, 2006
@ 03:09 AM

Moishe Lettvin: Large companies and 'A' talent

But then I got an offer from Google and after a little bit of waffling (I was having much fun with the hackers) I started there back in January. And holy shit I hope I can convey to you what sort of geek heaven I'm in now.

Above I talked about NT4 being the "new hotness" back in '94 -- the guys who made it that way sit right next to me. In the same office. And that sort of expertise is everywhere here... it seems like every office is occupied by at least a couple of industry leaders, guys whose names you'd recognize if you're even a casual observer of geek culture.

Google's culture values independence and transparency of communication in ways I didn't think were possible at a large company. We've of course got our 20% time, but beyond that there's a sense that everyone here is competent enough and trustworthy enough to be clued in to many parts of the business -- not just engineering -- which would typically be hidden. That trust nets huge gains in loyalty and excitement.

There aren't many places in the world where you could can come up with the idea for a feature or product, implement it, and launch it to an audience of millions, with the infrastructure to support it. Yes, you can do it at a startup or on your own, but getting eyeballs and servers is non-trivial. For every YouTube there are hundreds of sites nobody's heard of.

Aaron Swartz: The Goog Life: how Google keeps employees by treating them like kids

The dinosaurs and spaceships certainly fit in with the infantilizing theme, as does the hot tub-sized ball pit that Googlers can jump into and throw ball fights. Everyone I know who works there either acts childish (the army of programmers), enthusiastically adolescent (their managers and overseers), or else is deeply cynical (the hot-shot programmers). But as much as they may want to leave Google, the infantilizing tactics have worked: they're afraid they wouldn't be able to survive anywhere else.

Google hires programmers straight out of college and tempts them with all the benefits of college life. Indeed, as the hiring brochures stress, the place was explicitly modeled upon college. At one point, I wondered why Google didn't just go all the way and build their own dormitories. After all, weren't the late-night dorm-room conversations with others who were smart like you one of the best parts of college life? But as the gleam wears off the Google, I can see why it's no place anyone would want to hang around for that long. Even the suburban desert of Mountain View is better.

Google's famed secrecy doesn't really do a very good job of keeping information from competitors. Those who are truly curious can pick up enough leaks and read enough articles to figure out how mostly everything works. But what it does do is create an aura of impossibility around the place. People read the airbrushed versions of Google technologies in talks and academic papers and think that Google has some amazingly large computer lab with amazingly powerful technology. But hang around a Googler long enough and you'll hear them complain about the unreliability of GFS and how they don't really have enough computers to keep up with the load.

"It's always frightening when you see how the sausage actually gets made," explains a product manager. And that's exactly what the secrecy is supposed to prevent. The rest of the world sees Google as this impenetrable edifice with all the mysteries of the world inside ("I hear once you've worked there for 256 days they teach you the secret levitation," explains xkcd) while the select few inside the walls know the truth -- there is no there there -- and are bound together by this burden.

The truth is always somewhere in between.


December 13, 2006
@ 03:05 AM

Six Months Ago: 10 people who don't matter

Mark Zuckerberg
Founder, Facebook
In entrepreneurship, timing is everything. So we'll give Zuckerberg credit for launching his online social directory for college students just as the social-networking craze was getting underway. He also built it right, quickly making Facebook one of the most popular social-networking sites on the Net. But there's also something to be said for knowing when to take the money and run. Last spring, Facebook reportedly turned down a $750 million buyout offer, holding out instead for as much as $2 billion. Bad move. After selling itself to Rupert Murdoch's Fox for $580 million last year, MySpace is now the Web's second most popular website. Facebook is growing too - but given that MySpace has quickly grown into the industry's 80-million-user gorilla, it's hard to imagine who would pay billions for an also-ran.

Today: Yahoo’s “Project Fraternity” Docs Leaked

At Yahoo, the long running courtship has lasted at least as long as this year, and is internally referred to as “Project Fraternity.” Leaked documents in our possession state that an early offer was $37.5 million for 5% of the company (a $750 million valuation) back in Q1 2006. This was rejected by Facebook.

Things really heated up mid year. Yahoo proposed a $1 billion flat out acquisition price based on a model they created where they projected $608 million in Facebook revenue by 2009, growing to $969 million in 2010. By 2015 Yahoo projects that Facebook would generate nearly $1 billion in annual profit. The actual 2006 number appears to be around $50 million in revenue, or nearly $1 million per week.

These revenue projections are based on robust user growth. By 2010, Yahoo assumes Facebook would hit 48 million users, out of a total combined highschool and young adult population of 83 million.

Our sources say that Facebook flatly rejected the $1 billion offer, looking for far more. Yahoo was prepared to pay up to $1.62 billion, but negotiations broke off before the offer could be made.


If you are a reggular reader of Slashdot you probably stumbled on a link to the Groklaw article Novell "Forking" OpenOffice.org by Pamela Jones. In the article, she berates Novell for daring to provide support for the Office Open XML formats in their version of OpenOffice.

Miguel De Icaza, a Novell employee, has posted a response entitled OpenOffice Forks? where he writes

Facts barely matter when they get in the way of a good smear. The comments over at Groklaw are interesting, in that they explore new levels of ignorance.

Let me explain.

We have been working on OpenOffice.Org for longer than anyone else has. We were some of the earliest contributors to OpenOffice, and we are the largest external contributor to actual code to OpenOffice than anyone else.
Today we ship modified versions of OpenOffice to integrate GStreamer, 64-bit fixes, integrate with the GNOME and KDE file choosers, add SVG importing support, add OpenDMA support, add VBA support, integrate Mono, integrate fontconfig, fix bugs, improve performance and a myriad of others. The above url contains some of the patches that are pending, but like every other open source project, we have published all of those patches as part of the src.rpm files that we shipped, and those patches have eventually ended up in every distribution under the sun.

But the problem of course is not improving OpenOffice, the problem is improving OpenOffice in ways that PJ disapproves of. Improving OpenOffice to support an XML format created by Microsoft is tantamount to treason.

And of course, the code that we write to interop with Office XML is covered by the Microsoft Open Specification Promise (Update: this is a public patent agreement, this has nothing to do with the Microsoft/Novell agreement, and is available to anyone; If you still want to email me, read the previous link, and read it twice before hitting the send button).

I would reply to each individual point from PJ, but she either has not grasped how open source is actually delivered to people or she is using this as a rallying cry to advance her own ideological position on ODF vs OfficeXML.

Debating the technical merits of one of those might be interesting, but they are both standards that are here to stay, so from an adoption and support standpoint they are a no-brainer to me. The ideological argument on the other hand is a discussion as interesting as watching water boil. Am myself surprised at the spasms and epileptic seizures that folks are having over this.

I've been a fan of Miguel ever since I was a good lil' Slashbot in college. I've always admired his belief in "Free" [as in speech] Software and the impact it has on people's lives as well as the fact that he doesn't let geeky religious battles get in the way of shipping code. When Miguel saw good ideas in Microsoft's technologies, he incorporated the ideas into Bonobo and Mono as a way to improve the Linux software landscape instead of resorting to Not Invented Here syndrome.

Unfortunately, we don't have enough of that in the software industry today.


Categories: Mindless Link Propagation | XML

November 27, 2006
@ 05:02 PM

Every once in a while I read something in a blog I find so ridiculously empty of content and contradictory that it makes me question the entire human race. Most of the time it's usually someone spouting their opinion on politics which sends me into this pit of despair. Today, it is Kathy Sierra and her post Why Web 2.0 is more than a buzzword where she writes

But to say it means nothing (or WORSE--to say it's just a marketing label) is to mistake jargon (good) for buzzwords (bad). Where buzzwords are used to impress or mislead, jargon is used to communicate more efficiently and interestingly with others who share a similar level of knowledge and skills in a specific area.
So... back to "Web 2.0"--I'll admit that this one's trickier than most domain-specific phrases because it wraps many different--and big and ill-defined--concepts. But when Tim O'Reilly and Dale Dougherty (the guy who first coined the term) talk about Web 2.0, it represents something real and specific and meaningful. Over time, a lot of other people (especially those who've spent time around them, including me) have come to understand at least a part of what they've encapsulated in that one small phrase. "Web 2.0" may be the least understood phrase in the history of the world, but that still doesn't make it meaningless.
A problem with blogs is that it encourages people to not proof read what they write. On the one hand Kathy argues that jargon allows us to communicate more efficiently then in the same breath points out that "Web 2.0" wraps many different and ill-defined concepts together. That seems pretty contradictory to me. How is it communicating more efficiently if I say "Web 2.0" to Bob and he thinks AJAX and widgets while Jane thinks  I'm talking about social networking and tagging while I actually meant RSS and open APIs? We may be communicating with less words but since we are guaranteed to have a miscommunication, this efficiency in words exchanged is small compared to the amount of time we waste talking past each other.

I've made my peace with the idea that "Web 2.0" is here to stay and that it is such a wide umbrella term that it is effectively meaningless other than a catch all to describe Web trends have become popular over the past two years. However that doesn't make it worthy of being elevated to "professional jargon" unless your profession is slinging bullshit to VCs or trying to wade through which bullshit knockoffs of YouTube and del.icio.us you want to be investing in.


I just stumbled upon a hilarious post by Pete Lacey entitled The S stands for Simple. It's one of those "It's funny because it is true" posts. Below is an excerpt

SG: Oh, there is no spec. This is just what Microsoft seems to be doing. Looked like a good idea, so now all the cool kids are doing it. However, there is this new thing. I think you’re gonna like it. It’s called the Web Services Interoperability Group, or the WS-I. What they’re doing is trying to remove a lot of the ambiguity in the SOAP and WSDL specs. I know how you like specs.

Dev: So, in other words, the specs were so bad you need a standards body to standardize the standards. Lord. Well, will this solve my interoperability problems?

SG: Oh, yeah. So long as you use a WS-I compliant SOAP stack, avoid using 8/10ths of XML Schema, don’t use any unusual data types, and don’t count on working with WebSphere and Apache Axis.

Dev: And is wrapped-doc/lit explained in there?

SG: Ermm, no. But that’s okay, you’re tools understand it. Most of them, anyway.

[Found via Mark Baker]

Go read the whole thing, it is funny as heck.


November 16, 2006
@ 08:05 PM


November 5, 2006
@ 04:10 PM

I'll be attending a number of conferences over the next few months and thought it'd be a good idea to post about them here just in case there are some folks who read my blog who'd like to meet up for a chat while we're in the same vicinity. The conferences are

  • Widgets Live: November 6, 2006 (San Francisco, CA)

  • CES: January 8 - 11, 2007 (Las Vegas, NV)

  • ETech: March 26 - 29, 2007 (San Diego, CA)

  • MIX '07: TBD, (Las Vegas, NV)

If you'll be at Widgets Live tomorrow, see you there.

Mark Cuban just posted an interesting take on the recent purchase of YouTube by Google by a media industry insider. Below are some excerpts from the post Some intimate details on the Google YouTube Deal, it is interesting reading and gives some insight on how business is conducted in Corporate America today.

> I'm an experienced veteran in the digital media business and thought
> I'd share my version of events that happened at Youtube. Some of this
> is based on talks with people involved and some is speculation based
> on my experience working in the industry, negotiating settlements and
> battling in court.
> In the months preceding the sale of YouTube the complaints from
> copyright owners began to mount at a ferocious pace. Small content
> owners and big were lodging official takedown notices only to see
> their works almost immediately reappear. These issues had to be
> disclosed to the suitors who were sniffing around like Google but
> Yahoo was deep in the process as well. (News Corp inquired but since
> Myspace knew they were a big source of Youtube's traffic they quickly
> choked on the 9 digit price tag.) While the search giants had serious
> interest, the suitors kept stumbling over the potential enormous
> copyright infringement claims that were mounting.
> So the parties (including venture capital
> firm Sequoia Capital) agreed to earmark a portion of the purchase
> price to pay for settlements and/or hire attorneys to fight claims.
> Nearly 500 million of the 1.65 billion purchase price is not being
> disbursed to shareholders but instead held in escrow.
> While this seemed good on paper Google attorneys were still
> uncomfortable with the enormous possible legal claims and speculated
> that maybe even 500 million may not be enough -
> Google wasn't worried about
> the small guys, but the big guys were a significant impediment to a
> sale. They could swing settlement numbers widely in one direction or
> another. So the decision was made to negotiate settlements with some
> of the largest music and film companies. If they could get to a good
> place with these companies they could get confidence from attorneys
> and the ever important "fairness opinion" from the bankers involved
> that this was a sane purchase.
> Armed with this kitty of money Youtube approached the media companies
> with an open checkbook to buy peace.
> The media companies had their typical challenges. Specifically, how to
> get money from Youtube without being required to give any to the
> talent (musicians and actors)?
> It was decided the media companies would receive an equity
> position as an investor in Youtube which Google would buy from them.
> This shelters all the up front monies from any royalty demands by
> allowing them to classify it as gains from an investment position.
> Since everyone was reaching into Google's wallet, the big G wants to
> make sure the Youtube purchase was a wise one.
> The media companies had 50 million reasons to want to help.
> Google needed a two pronged strategy which you see unfolding now.
> The first request was a simple one and that was an agreement to look
> the other way for the next 6 months or so while copyright infringement
> continues to flourish. This standstill is cloaked in language about
> building tools to help manage the content and track royalties,
> The second request was to pile some lawsuits on competitors to slow
> them down and lock in Youtube's position. As Google looked at it they
> bought a 6 month exclusive on widespread video copyright infringement.
> Universal obliged and sued two capable Youtube clones Bolt and
> Grouper. This has several effects. First, it puts enormous pressure on
> all the other video sites to clamp down on the laissez-faire content
> posting that is prevalent. If Google is agreeing to remove
> unauthorized content they want the rest of the industry doing the same
> thing. Secondly it shuts off the flow of venture capital investments
> into video firms. Without capital these firms can't build the data
> centers and pay for the bandwidth required for these upside down
> businesses.

This is very interesting reading and has a ring of truth to it. It definitely explains a lot that has happened with regards to the YouTube sale to Google for such a high price, the announcements of deals between YouTube and major copyright holders at the same time, as well as the fact that a number of video sharing sites got sued but not YouTube.

PS: This latest finaly convinced me to take the plunge and subscribe to Mark Cuban's blog. Great stuff.


Jeffrey Zeldman has a blog post entitled Web 2.0 Thinking Game where he writes

A few weeks back, The Economist was calling “Web 2.0″ a trend. Their phrase was, “hot Web 2.0 trend.” The magazine now intends “Web 2.0″ to be understood as a sort of second edition:

This week’s pairing of Google and YouTube may come to be remembered as the moment “Web 2.0″—ie, the web, version two—came of age.

Clearly “Web 2.0″ means different things to different journalists on different days. Mostly it means nothing—except a bigger paycheck. But let’s simplify what The Economist is saying:

Web 1.0: AOL buys Time Warner.
Web 2.0: Google buys YouTube.

Put another way:

Web 1.0: New media company buys old media company.
Web 2.0: New media company buys new media company.

If we’re stuck with this meaningless Web 2.0 label, let’s at least have some fun with it. Here’s my new game. I’ll start, you finish:
Web 1.0: Users create the content (Slashdot).
Web 2.0: Users create the content (Flickr).

Web 1.0: Crap sites on Geocities.
Web 2.0: Crap sites on MySpace.
Web 1.0: Karma Points.
Web 2.0: Diggs.

Web 1.0: Cool Site of the Day.
Web 2.0: Technorati.com.
Now you try it!

There are a lot of funny ones in the comments as well such as

Web 1.0: Old folks have no clue.
Web 2.0: My parents just left a comment on my blog. - Charlie

Web 1.0: Rational Unified Process implementing J2EE
Web 2.0: “Getting Real” using RoR - Kevan Emmot

Web 1.0: 20,000 Hits on my webpage!
Web 2.0: Ive been dugg 1000 times on Digg! - Regnard Raquedan

Web 1.0: Pamela Anderson
Web 2.0: Paris Hilton - Chase

Here're a couple of my own, let's see what you guys come up with

  1. Web 1.0: Netscape IPO
    Web 2.0: Google IPO

  2. Web 1.0: My startup just IPOed, I'm gonna be rich
    Web 2.0: My startup just got bought by Google, I'm gonna be rich

  3. Web 1.0: Napster
    Web 2.0: YouTube

  4. Web 1.0: Yahoo! Bookmarks
    Web 2.0: del.icio.us

  5. Web 1.0: Java applets
    Web 2.0: Widgets

  6. Web 1.0: Beth Goza
    Web 2.0: Niniane Wang


From a tech support article on the Apple website entitled Small Number of Video iPods Shipped With Windows Virus we learn

We recently discovered that a small number - less than 1% - of the Video iPods available for purchase after September 12, 2006, left our contract manufacturer carrying the Windows RavMonE.exe virus. This known virus affects only Windows computers, and up to date anti-virus software which is included with most Windows computers should detect and remove it. So far we have seen less than 25 reports concerning this problem. The iPod nano, iPod shuffle and Mac OS X are not affected, and all Video iPods now shipping are virus free. As you might imagine, we are upset at Windows for not being more hardy against such viruses, and even more upset with ourselves for not catching it.

If all else fails, Blame Microsoft!

PS: Found on the Channel 9 forums.


October 18, 2006
@ 01:30 AM

From the ACLU press release President Bush Signs Un-American Military Commissions Act, ACLU Says New Law Undermines Due Process and the Rule of Law we learn

WASHINGTON - As President Bush signed S. 3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed outrage and called the new law one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history.
"The president can now - with the approval of Congress - indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions.  Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act."

It's a good thing the American media is keeping on top of all the important issues like which gay Republicans were having inappropriate relations with heir male interns instead of mundane bits of legal mumbo jumbo like the death of Habeus Corpus.


September 26, 2006
@ 06:44 PM
A: Very. If you've upgraded to iTunes 7 and now have regular problems with the application such as dIsTORted soUnD, you should read the article Apple Support docs address some iTunes 7 bugs which shows how to get around some of the more egregious bugs in this release.

September 7, 2006
@ 05:33 PM

From Omar Shahine's blog post entitled Inline Search for Internet Explorer we learn

This is simply a must have add-in for IE. For those of us that used the FireFox Find feature and were like "OMG", you can now have the same thing in IE. 

You can see in the screen shot below how this works:

[Source: Paul Thurrott's Internet Nexus]

As an Emacs user, I've grown used to having inline search as a feature and often get frustrated when the application I'm using doesn't support its. It's great to see this feature added to Internet Explorer. I just downloaded it and it works great with the most recent beta of Internet Explorer 7. Give it a shot.

By the way, Jeremy Epling and Joshua Allen who both work on the IE team also told me to check out http://www.ieaddons.com if I'm interested in tricking out my Internet Explorer install. I've added the site to my bookmark list and will check it out later today to see if there any other interesting IE extensions I've been missing out on.


August 4, 2006
@ 07:55 PM

Jason Fried over at the Signal vs. Noise blog has an entry entitled Don’t believe BusinessWeek’s bubble-math where he writes

This week’s BusinessWeek cover story features a beaming Kevin Rose from Digg. Across his chest it says “How this kid made $60 million in 18 months.” Wow, now that sounds like a great success story.

Too bad it’s a blatent lie. BusinessWeek knows it. They prove it themselves in the article:

So far, Digg is breaking even on an estimated $3 million annually in revenues. Nonetheless, people in the know say Digg is easily worth $200 million.

$3 million in revenues and they’re breaking even. That means no meaningful profits. That’s the first hint no one has made $60,000,000. Their gross revenues aren’t even anywhere close to that number. And let’s leave out the “people in the know say it’s easily worth” fantasy numbers. And certainly don’t use those numbers to do the math that makes the cover (we’ll get to that in a minute).

I can't believe BusinessWeek ran such a misleading cover story. I guess sensational, fact-less headlines aren't just for the supermarket tabloids these days.


Greg Linden has a blog post entitled Yahoo building a Google FS clone? where he writes

The Hadoop open source project is building a clone of the powerful Google cluster tools Google File System and MapReduce.

I was curious to see how much Yahoo appears to be involved in Hadoop. Doug Cutting, the primary developer of Lucene, Nutch, and Hadoop, is now working for Yahoo but, at the time, that hiring was described as supporting an independent open source project.

Digging further, it seems Yahoo's role is more complicated. Browsing through the Hadoop developers mailing list, I can see that more than a dozen people from Yahoo appear to be involved in Hadoop. In some cases, the involvement is deep. One of the Yahoo developers, Konstantin Shvachko, produced a detailed requirement document for Hadoop. The document appears to lay out what Yahoo needs from Hadoop, including such tidbits as handling 10k+ nodes, 100k simultaneous clients, and 10 petabytes in a cluster.

Also noteworthy is Eric Baldeschwieler, a director of software development at Yahoo, who recently talked about direct support from Yahoo for Hadoop. Eric said, "How we are going to establish a testing / validation regime that will support innovation ... We'll be happy to help staff / fund such a testing policy."

I find this effort by Yahoo! to be rather interesting given that platform pieces like GFS, BigTable, MapReduce and Sawzall give Google quite the edge in building mega-scale services and in Greg Linden's words are 'major force multipliers' that enable them to pump out new online services at a rapid pace. I'd expect Google's competitors to build similar systems and keep them close to their chest not give them away. I suspect that the reason Yahoo! is going this route is that they don't have enough folks to build this in-house and have thus collaborated with Hadoop project to get some help. This could potentially backfire since there is nothing stopping small or large competitors from reusing their efforts especially if it uses a traditional Open Source license.

On a related note, Greg also posted a link to an article by David F. Carr entitled How Google Works which has the following interesting quote

Google has a split personality when it comes to questions about its back-end systems. To the media, its answer is, "Sorry, we don't talk about our infrastructure."

Yet, Google engineers crack the door open wider when addressing computer science audiences, such as rooms full of graduate students whom it is interested in recruiting.

As a result, sources for this story included technical presentations available from the University of Washington Web site, as well as other technical conference presentations, and papers published by Google's research arm, Google Labs.

I do think it is cool that Google developers publish so much about the stuff they are working on. One of the things I miss from being on the XML team at Microsoft is being around people with a culture of publishing research like Erik Meijer and Michael Rys. I even got a research paper on XML query languages published while on the team. I'd definitely would like to publish research quality papers on some of the stuff I'm working on now. I've done MSDN articles and a ThinkWeek paper in the past few years, it's probably about time I start thinking about writing a research paper again. 

PS: If you work on online services and you don't read Greg Linden's blog, you are missing out. Subscribed. 


Cory Doctorow has a blog post up on Boing Boing entitled Mark Pilgrim's list of Ubuntu essentials for ex-Mac users where he writes

Mac guru and software developer Mark Pilgrim recently switched to Ubuntu Linux after becoming fed up with proprietary Mac file-formats and the increasing use of DRM technologies in the MacOS. I've been a Mac user since 1984, and have a Mac tattooed on my right bicep. I've probably personally owned 50 Macs, and I've purchased several hundred while working as an IT manager over the years. I'm about to make the same switch, for much the same reasons.

You could probably write an entire Ph.D dissertation on what would motivate someone to tattoo a corporate logo on their arm. Maybe I should buy a Mac just so I can figure out what all the hype is about.


Tim Berners-Lee has a blog post entitled Net Neutrality: This is serious where he writes

When I invented the Web, I didn't have to ask anyone's permission. Now, hundreds of millions of people are using it freely. I am worried that that is going end in the USA.

I blogged on net neutrality before, and so did a lot of other people. (see e.g. Danny Weitzner, SaveTheInternet.com, etc.) Since then, some telecommunications companies spent a lot of money on public relations and TV ads, and the US House seems to have wavered from the path of preserving net neutrality. There has been some misinformation spread about. So here are some clarifications. ( real video Mpegs to come)

Net neutrality is this:

If I pay to connect to the Net with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or greater quality of service, then we can communicate at that level.
That's all. Its up to the ISPs to make sure they interoperate so that that happens.

Net Neutrality is NOT asking for the internet for free.

Net Neutrality is NOT saying that one shouldn't pay more money for high quality of service. We always have, and we always will.

I've been depressed by the what has been happening in Washington with regards to Net Neutrality but have hesitated to blog about it since I am clearly biased, I work for a company that is likely to financially benefit if Net Neutrality is the status quo. However that doesn't change the fact that what the telcos are striving would eventually turn the Web into a very different place from what it has been. Read all of Tim Berners-Lee's post and after that  you should read what Lawrence Lessig had to say about this topic in his article for the Washington Post; No Tolls on the Internet.


June 20, 2006
@ 06:16 PM

Joe Gregorio has a blog post simply titled Hire Me where he writes

As of 10 O'Clock this morning I am no longer employed; being laid off tends to do that to you. The good news is that I can catch up on all those projects around the house, my backlog of XML.com articles, my editing of the next draft of the Atom Publishing Protocol, etc. I can even start blogging about the industry I was working in and the company I was working for, but only after I fulfill the requirements of my severance package.

As positive as that all sounds I do have a mortgage and a family, and they like to eat, so I need to find gainful employment.

Please hire me.

If you are unable to hire me please do me a favor and link to this entry.

My resume in PDF format. An HTML version will appear shortly.

I'm not a hiring manager which means I can't hire Joe,  so I'm doing the next best thing and linking to his entry and resume. If you work at Microsoft and are interested in a guy who is quite knowlegable about building RESTful services, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone better qualified than Joe Gregorio.


June 2, 2006
@ 03:41 PM

Mark Cuban has blog post entitled Why I think ClickFraud is far greater than imagined where he lays out some anecdotal reasons why he thinks the sky is falling for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising due to click fraud. He writes

Now i have no idea how much money is being lost to click fraud. All i know is that when the black hat hackers see easy money, they take it. I also know that they are greedy and a jealous bunch. The more they see the more they take, so you can pretty well bet that the amount of click fraud is going up by the minute.

And no amount of IP repetition algorithms are going to stop them.

Again, this is all opinion. No investigative reporting going on. Yet.

I have no hard numbers on how much is being "lost" to click fraud but there are a number of reasons why I'm skeptical about how much attention people pay to scare mongering about click fraud and it's effects on companies like Google when 'the market corrects'.

Reason number one is that despite how much people may complain about PPC advertising, it works a lot better than the alternatives. Mark Cuban actually just wrote a blog post a few days ago entitled A quick letter to the Newspaper and Magazine Industries where he complains about how expensive traditional advertising is compared to the returns. If you were trying to drive traffic to your website and had a million dollars to spend would you spend it on newspaper ads, television ads or AdSense/Adwords ads? As long as the return on investment (ROI) for PPC ads is higher than other forms of advertising, I suspect advertisers will consider the money lost to click fraud as acceptable losses. This is no different from retail stores which have to accept a certain amount of loss from shop lifting and customer returns yet still remain profitable.

Another reason I'm skeptical about fear mongering around click fraud is that this isn't the first time technology has made it easy to subvert a market yet those markets still exist. My employer (Microsoft) has built one of the most profitable businesses in the world selling products that can be copied by anyone with a CD burner and a computer. In college, I don't think I knew many people who paid for their copies of Microsoft Office yet that business still manages to bring in billions of dollars in profit a year. Then there are other more recent markets like ring tones. This has emerged as a multi-billion dollar industry in the past few years even though it is quite possible for people to get ringtones for free on their cell phones without much hassle. And then there's the iTunes Music Store

I'd be unsurprised if there is a larger than commonly assumed amount of click fraud going on out there. No more surprised than I'd be to find out that software/music piracy rings exist, insurance fraud is about 15 %- 30% of insurance claims or that shoplifting costs retailers billions of dollars every year. I don't see people ringing the death knell of WalMart or Safeco because of these grim statistics. So the next time you see someone claiming that the sky is falling because of click fraud, remember that fraud exists in every aspect of human commerce and the Web isn't going to change that. 


May 24, 2006
@ 01:27 AM

As someone who was raised in the third world, I can't help but shake my head at articles like Study: Obesity rises faster in poor teens which begins

Older American teenagers living in poverty have grown fatter at a higher rate than their peers, according to research that seems to underscore the unequal burden of obesity on the nation's poor.

"Today the percentage of adolescents age 15-17 who are overweight is about 50 percent higher in poor as compared to non-poor families, a difference that has emerged recently," said Johns Hopkins' sociologist Richard Miech, the study's lead author.

Being poor and being overweight seems like an oxymoron to me. Or at least it was when I was growing up. You gotta love America, where the poor are overweight and people go hunting on a full stomach. :)

One of the reasons I like providing APIs to online services is that it gives users more control of their data. Alex Boyko, who's one of the testers on our team wrote a tool for migrating his blog from one blog service to the other using the APIs they provide. In his blog post Blog Content Transfer he wrote

Apparently, my old blogging site (Blogger) and the new one (MSN Spaces) expose some APIs that can be used to play with your content (Metaweblog API for Space and Atom API for Blogger). I spent some time over the weekend and wrote a tool that helped me to transfer my data between two sites.

In case if somebody else is excited about gleams as much as I am ;] I've decided to share a copy of BCTransfer (Blog Content Transfer).


Please let me know if it works and especially if it does not work for your. I’ll be more than glad to help.

Please read this first. It tells your how to get a login for your space.

At this moment, it is a command-line tool written using .NET 2.0. So you need to have it installed (the easiest option for that is Windows Update). Here’s how you run it in the most basic scenario:

bctransfer -bu <old-username> -bp <old-password> -su <new-username> -sp <new-password>

Yet another reason why providing APIs for online services is a good for regular users as well as developers. Nice.


I found the following comments by Om Malik and Mike Arrington to be quite telling.

In his blog post entitled The Myth, Reality & Future of Web 2.0 Om Malik writes

The Myth of Web 2.0 is the investment opportunities. The reality of Web 2.0 is too little original thinking. Web 2.0, simply put, is a set of technologies and a new kind of thinking, which companies like Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and AOL are incorporating in their products. That’s the reality and the future of Web 2.0.

In the blog post entitled AOL To Release YouTube Clone Mike Arrington writes

Prepare for the launch of AOL UnCut (currently in open beta), a near perfect clone of YouTube...This is right on the heels of the launch of AIM Pages, which is directly targeting Myspace and other social networks...I am seeing an increasing trend of the big guys simply copying what successful startups are doing. AOL with this product and AIM Spaces. Google with Google Notepad and a flurry of other projects, etc. The only large company that is even experimenting with unproven concepts at this point is Microsoft with its various Live.com ideas. I’d like to see more experimenting at the big company level.

I guess the criticism has now grown from 'building a new Windows app is just doing research for Microsoft' to 'building a new Web application is just doing research for Google/Yahoo/AOL/Microsoft'. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

On the positive side, it is good to see Microsoft being called innovative in comparison to Google by a technology pundit.


May 12, 2006
@ 03:55 PM

One of the cool things about my day job is that I get to work with over a dozen teams all over Microsoft who are interested in consuming our Web services. This means that sometimes I get juicy scoops which I have to sit on for months before I can talk about them. One example, is the feature described in Joe Friend's blog post Blogging from Word 2007 where he writes

We've been working late into the nights and very late into our development schedule for Word 2007 and we have a special goody for all you bloggers in Beta 2 of Office 2007. That's right blog post authoring from Word. This is a very late breaking feature and is definitely beta software.
This is pretty standard stuff if you've ever used one of the many blog post authoring applications. In Beta 2 we support MSN Spaces, SharePoint 2007 (of course), Blogger, and Community Server (which is used for blogs.msdn.com). You can also set up a custom account with services that support the metaweblog API or the ATOM API. All the blog providers seems to interpret these APIs a bit different so there kinks we're still working out. But the basics should work in Beta 2. We hope to add a few more services to the list before we ship. The Word blog authoring feature is extensible and we will publish information so that blog providers can insure that their systems work with Word.

I met with Joe's team a few months ago and was pleased to hear they were going to add this feature to Word 2007. I've been working with them on this feature for a while and now that we actually have an official blog posting tool coming out of Microsoft, it's time for me to start investing more time in looking at exposing more of our blog-related features via an API.

This is definitely cool news. If you are a blogger that uses Microsoft Word, you definitely need to give it a try. They've gone out of their way to build a product that is easy to use and doesn't stomp on your expectations of a blogging tool (i.e. no nasty HTML for one). Mad props to Krista, Joe Friend and all the other folks who worked on getting this out the door.


Danny Sullivan of the Search Engine Watch journal has a blog post entitled Google Worried About Microsoft's Browser Advantage? What Advantage? where he writes

I am nauseatingly exhausted by idea that Microsoft will conjure up some magical method of yanking people into its MSN Windows Live Whatever You Want To Call It search service via the Windows operating system or the Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft has failed for years to be successful in this, which is why it's amazing anyone would still believe it.

In the longer version of this post for Search Engine Watch members, I revisit the tired facts in more depth:

  • How search has been integrated into Windows and Internet Explorer since 1996 but failed to help Microsoft.
  • How even when MSN Search was made the default choice by 2001, Google still rose in traffic share.
  • How putting the search box into the "chrome" of the browser doesn't necessarily mean Microsoft will have a major win this time.
  • How search via toolbars still remain the minority of the way searches happen.

Meanwhile, skip past the business aspects. What about the consumer issue of choice? The New York Times writes of Google's preferred solution:

The best way to handle the search box, Google asserts, would be to give users a choice when they first start up Internet Explorer 7. It says that could be done by asking the user to either type in the name of their favorite search engine or choose from a handful of the most popular services, using a simple drop-down menu next to the search box. The Firefox and Opera browsers come with Google set as the default, but Ms. Mayer said Google would support unfettered choice on those as well.

Sure, I can get behind the "give people a choice from the beginning" idea. But if Google wants Microsoft to do that, then Google should make it happen right now in Firefox, which pretty much is Google's surrogate browser. If this is the best way for a browser to behave, then Google should be putting its weight on Firefox to make it happen. And Google should also ensure it does the same with Dell, where it has a partnership that I believe makes it the default search engine on new Dell computers.

There definitely has been a bunch of interesting commentary on this topic. Check it out on tech.memeorandum.

I'm going on vacation to Las Vegas in the next few days so I'm going to be heads down trying to wrap up some work before I leave. Expect blogging to be light over the next week or so. In the meantime, here are some links I found interesting which folks can chew over while I'm gone

  1. MSN: Another Quarter Closer To Irrelevant:  My favorite quote "why any one company wants to have $50 billion in revenue and compete with IBM and Oracle on one end and Google, Time Warner, and Sony on the other is beyond me".

  2. New Microsoft browser raises Google's hackles: Microsoft talking about spending billions "Winning the Web", Google talking antitrust because of browser defaults. I guess Bugs Bunny was right...this means war. Pass the popcorn.

  3. How it works: FAQ on reviews, promotions, job changes, and surviving re-orgs: If you are a new hire interested in climbing the corporate ladder at Microsoft [or any other big company] you should print out that comment. I am surprised by how many of my peers still haven't figured a bunch of this stuff out.

  4. Steve Rider Moving On: Steve Rider, original developer for start.com/live.com, has left to join a startup founded by Hadi Partovi who was the original manager who greenlighted and incubated the start.com project. At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised if Sanaz dipped before the year was up.

  5. Google's GData, MySQL, and the Future of on-line Databases: I think GData is hot. I'd like us to use this as a building block for some of the developer platform stuff we are doing for Windows Live. Unfortunately, I'll likely have to contend with NIH. I'll worry about this when I get back from Vegas.


April 20, 2006
@ 05:38 PM

For some reason, the following story on Slashdot had me cracking up

Microsoft Plans Gdrive Competitor

Posted by samzenpus on Wednesday April 19, @09:13PM
from the personal-virtual-bill dept.

gambit3 writes "From Microsoft Watch: The MSN team is working on a new Windows Live service, code-named Live Drive, that will provide users with a virtual hard drive for storing hosted personal data. From early accounts, it sounds an awful lot like Gdrive, the still-as-yet-publicly-unannounced storage service from Google."

I have to agree with Mike Torres, 2006 is really 1998 in disguise. With the release of Google Page Creator, Google Finance, Google Calendar and the upcoming GDrive (aka Yahoo! GeoCities, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Calendar and Yahoo! Briefcase knockoffs) it is now clear to me that Google's master plan is to become Yahoo! 2.0. On the other hand, with some of the recent Windows Live announcements we seem to be giving the impression that we are chasing Google's tail lights who in turn is chasing Yahoo! tail lights who in turn is chasing the tail lights of various 'Web 2.0' startups. Crazy.

I wonder what Google will do when they run out of Yahoo! services to copy?


April 18, 2006
@ 06:25 PM

I was saddened when I found out that Gretchen Ledgard was leaving Microsoft. We go back a bit given that her husband and I interned at the same company back in 1999 which is when we first met. Once I found out what she was going to be doing next, I was quite happy to see her take this step.

From the blog post on the JobSyntax blog entitled And so it begins ...

Well, hey there. Gretchen here.  After a long hiatus :), I am back in the blogosphere. Did you miss me?

Let me be the first to officially welcome you to our new home, the JobSyntax Blog.  I’ve got so much to write, but I’ll need to save all the juicy news and advice for future blog entries. So I’ll use this first entry to tell you a little bit about how we got here. It’s been a long, crazy journey.

As long-time readers know, until a few days ago,  I was a Microsoft recruiter.  About 2 ½ years ago, I was hand-picked to join a start-up team within the company’s recruiting organization. Also chosen for that team was Zoe Goldring.  We were tasked with building a community and pipeline of qualified and interested software developers for the company’s openings. (Is this starting to sound like the pilot for a cheesy sitcom yet?) :)

Two years ago, Zoe and I founded the Technical Careers @ Microsoft weblog (JobsBlog) as a way to connect with the developers who were latching onto the blogging phenomenon. Quite honestly, we had no idea what were doing and definitely not what we were getting ourselves into.

Being the public faces for Microsoft’s technical recruiting effort was both extremely exhilarating and challenging at the same time. Personally, I loved that I had such a positive impact on so many applicants. I joined the recruiting industry because I wanted to improve the candidate experience, and each day, I saw tangible results of my efforts. I impacted so many more candidates via our blog than I ever could as regular recruiter
Time moved along, and many things changed in our lives – yet we still held onto our promise to each other. Finally, we decided the time was right … Personally, we were both ready for new and different challenges in our careers. Professionally, it seemed that our collective passion for technical recruiting, a positive customer and client experience, and strong jobseeker and employer education coupled with, well, the returned rise of the tech market meant it was time to strike out on our own.  The time was right. The time is now.

So here we are. Welcome to JobSyntax, and we look forward to all the good times ahead.  Let the games begin!

It's great to see Zoe and Gretchen convert their skills and blog cred into their own company. There are a number of folks who toil in the B0rg cube who I've wondered why they don't strike out on their own, Robert Scoble for one. Whenever I decide to hang my hat up at the B0rg cube and go wage slave for someone else, I'll be sure to give the Moongals at JobSyntax a call.

Good luck with your new venture Zoe and Gretchen


David Sifry has posted another one of his State of the Blogosphere blog entries. He writes

In summary:

  • Technorati now tracks over 35.3 Million blogs
  • The blogosphere is doubling in size every 6 months
  • It is now over 60 times bigger than it was 3 years ago
  • On average, a new weblog is created every second of every day
  • 19.4 million bloggers (55%) are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created
  • Technorati tracks about 1.2 Million new blog posts each day, about 50,000 per hour

As usual for this series of posts, Dave Sifry plays fast and lose with language by interchangeably using blogosphere and number of blogs Technorati is tracking. There is a big difference between the two but unfortunately many people seem to fail at critical thinking and repeat Technorati's numbers as gospel. It's now general knowledge that services like MySpace and MSN Spaces have more blogs/users than Technorati tracks overall.

I find this irritating because I've seen lots of press reports underreport the estimated size of the blogosphere by quoting the Technorati numbers. I suspect that the number of blogs out there is closer to 100 million (you can get that just by adding up the number of blogs on the 3 or 4 most popular blogging services) and not hovering around 35 million. One interesting question for me is whether private blogs/journals/spaces count as part of the blogosphere or not? Then again for most people the blogosphere is limited to their limited set of interests (technology blogs, mommy blogs, politics blogs, etc) so that is probably a moot question.

PS: For a good rant about another example of Technorati playing fast and lose language, see Shelley Powers's Technology is neither good nor evil which riffs on how Technorati equates number of links to a weblog with authority.


April 10, 2006
@ 02:53 PM

Via Shelley Powers I found out that Mark Pilgrim has restarted his blog with a new post entitled After the Bath. Ironically, I didn't find this out from my favorite RSS reader because it correctly supports the HTTP 410(GONE) status code which Mark's feed has been returning for over a year.

Mark Pilgrim's feed being resurrected from the dead is another example of why simply implementing support for Web specifications as written sometimes bites you on the butt. :)


April 5, 2006
@ 06:11 PM

Recently, someone commented in a meeting that we were playing "schedule chicken". I hadn't heard the term before so I looked it up. That's where I found the excellent post Schedule Chicken by Jim Carson which is excerpted below

Schedule Chicken
Given the above setup, it's difficult, if not impossible to accurately estimate project delivery dates. Even when you're brutally honest, spelling out
all the things that must occur for you to meet a date, the dependencies get lost in the footnotes in the appendices at the end of the book. Management "pulls in the date" to something ridiculous that they can sell to their bosses. Their bosses do the same. And so on.

Since everyone is using largely fictitious dates as part of a mass delusion, you would think no one expects to make them, no one will make them, no harm. This is sorta true. Each technical lead assumes that the other leads are lying even more about how long it will take them to deliver.

The ruse continues past insignificant milestones until just before something is actually due. The more seasoned managers will delay admitting to the obvious for as long as humanly possible, waiting for someone else (more junior) to "turn" first. The one who does is the "chicken," and is subsequently eviscerated by their boss and made a public example of all the incompetentcies in the universe.

After this "chicken" has been identified, and summarily punished, all the other teams update their schedules with slipped dates that are slightly less than the "chicken's." The process may repeat itself a few times. Key point: You don't want to slip first. Or last.

The question I have for my readers is simple, what do you do once you realize you're a player in a game of schedule chicken?


April 5, 2006
@ 06:01 PM

From the New York Times article Software Out There by John Markoff we get choice quotes like

The new economics of software development poses a fresh challenge to the dominant players in the industry. In 1995, when Microsoft realized that the Netscape Internet browser created a threat to its Windows operating system business, it responded by introducing its own free browser, Internet Explorer. By doing so, Microsoft, which already held a monopoly on desktop software, blunted Netscape's momentum.

Last November, Microsoft introduced a Web services portal called Windows Live and Office Live.
Mr. Ozzie, who used the Firefox browser (an open-source rival to Internet Explorer) during his demonstration, said, "I'm pretty pumped up with the potential for R.S.S. to be the DNA for wiring the Web."

He was referring to Really Simple Syndication, an increasingly popular, free standard used for Internet publishing. Mr. Ozzie's statement was remarkable for a chief technical officer whose company has just spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars investing in a proprietary alternative referred to as .Net.

I've heard that it's hard to take newspapers seriously because when they write about things you are knowledgeable about they get it wrong. John Markoff does an excellent job of proving that old saw right.


Alex Russell has a blog post entitled ajaxWrong where he writes

Apparently a new XUL app called “ajaxWrite” was just launched. I think this thing is going to be my poster child for what’s wrong with single-renderer markup languages from now on. It might be a fine app, I haven’t used it long enough to have a strong opinion, but its marketing is truly reprehensible. I’m sure someone assured Michael Robertson that they couldn’t launch a web-ish app without tacking the word “ajax” in the title and the folks with sense were shouted down. A pity.

This thing is appropriating the necessarily amorphous terminology of “Ajax” for an implementation that is directly at odds with why Ajax is an important technology. A XUL app being billed as “Ajax” is just as laughable as a Flex or XAML app suddenly growing the same moniker. That it’s Mozilla’s walled-garden language doesn’t really excuse the gaffe.

I find this quite hilarious. I would have never thought of sprinkling technology buzzwords in the name of my product even though my product didn't use said technology. I guess that's why I'm not in marketing.


March 17, 2006
@ 03:11 PM

Omar Shahine has a post entitled The iPod which summarizes his attempt to find a better music player than the Apple iPod only to come back to it after he couldn't find anything better. He writes

I am now reunited with the iPod. I feel happy and enjoy using it. My wife is EXTREMLEY jealous so I’ll have to get her one too. I really don’t feel bad about this. You see I now had a reason to go to the Apple store rather than be a bystander. I’m part of that cult of the Mac again, but this time it’s the cult of the iPod. As I was walking to the store, I heard a bunch of people say, "lets go to the iPod store". That’s right, they don’t even call it the Apple store.

When I entered the store I was greeted by a dizzying array of accessories for my iPod. All of them beautifully packaged and presented. Even the non-Apple accessories are made and presented as well. Apple sets a very high bar, and if you don’t meet that bar in any way, customers will not purchase the product (this is also true of Mac software).

Laynyard headphonesThis is the iPod Economy, the iPod Culture, the iPod Ecosystem. The realities are that my music is now unlocked and can be plugged into all sorts of cars, cases, docks, chargers, in a manner that is seamless. Since I lost my headphones I decided to treat myself to this amazing headphone + laynyard combo. I can also buy accessories in almost any store or airport in the country. Accessories made by companies that are constantly finding new ways to get me to experience my music and hand them some money for the privilege.
What have I learned on my quest?

Designing a good user experience across hardware and software is hard. There are very few companies which are capable of making the necessary level of investment to make something that’s arguably a work of art, but also a functional music player.

I have learned that in a commodity business, you will never find a company that will make that level of investment unless they own the entire value chain (Macintosh, XBOX, PlayStation etc).

Music is an incredibly personal thing, and people have high expectations of what that experience is like on their computer, in their hands, on the plane, in a car and everywhere in between.

If you have to think to operate a portable music device then your interface sucks. If you repeatedly make the same mistakes, press the wrong buttons, or accidentally press skip or skip to many songs when interfacing with the device then you’ve also failed.

Creating an open ecosystem where anyone can sell music or create a music business does not matter if 1) the devices that are required to play that content are hard to use, hard to charge, or require a firmware update to function correctly 2) you don’t have the content, 3) cannot interoperate with the world’s most successful portable music device.

When I was chatting with Omar and some coworkers last week, I remember someone pointing out that when a product has gotten so much market share that hotels have a "free iPod charger" service for people who've forgotten theirs then it's game over. I got an even better example a few days later. My mom is visiting from Nigeria next week and the only thing she's asked me to have waiting for her when she arrives is a video iPod. I tried to talk her out of it by arguing that she wouldn't be able to easily purchase music or videos from the iTunes store from Nigeria and she responded that there are people in Nigeria who provide services related to getting content on your iPod. 



March 4, 2006
@ 02:16 AM

In the past I've mentioned that I don't like the phrase Web 2.0 because it is vacuous and ill-defined making people who use it poor communicators. However, some of the neologisms used by computer geeks are much worse because they just plain dumb. One such neologisms is blogosphere which started off as a joke but is now taken seriously by various pundits.

The blog post that has gotten my goat is Steve Ruble's post The Center of Gravity is Shifting where he writes

One of the themes I kept hitting over and over is that the blogosphere is not where all the action is going to be in the months ahead. Yes, you read that right. Don't adjust your set.

For sure the b'sphere will continue to remain the largest galaxy in the social media universe in the short term. It's a major center of gravity that pulls people toward it. However, over the last few months a number other social media galaxies have rapidly risen to prominence. Take YouTube, digg and MySpace. These are just three examples, but they are drawing huge audiences. Richard Edelman is gushing over a fourth - StupidVideos.com.

The first thing that confuses me about this post is that it implies MySpace isn't part of the blogosphere. Why not? Is it because Technorati's coverage of MySpace is sorely lacking as Steve Rubel claims? Do the media talking heads really think that Technorati covers all the blogs in the world? After all services like MySpace, MSN Spaces and Xanga each have more than the 30 million blogs that Technorati claims to cover. This isn't the first time I've seen someone assume Technorati's numbers actually measure the total number of blogs out there.

The thought that one can lump all the blogs in the world into a lump category called the blogosphere and generalize about them seems pretty silly to me. We don't make similar generalizations about people who use other social applications like email (the mailosphere), instant messaging (the IM-osphere) or photo sharing sites (the photosphere). So what is it about blogs that makes such a ridiculous word continue to be widely used?


From the Techdirt post Google's Moves Chinese Search Records So They Can Be Subpoenaed By The US we learn

With Yahoo getting slammed for giving up info to the Chinese government, leading to the arrest of some political dissidents, it would appear that Google has begun to rethink where they should keep their Chinese search engine data. It looks like Google has gone with a compromise route, and is moving all of its Chinese search data out of China and into the US -- which still raises some questions. After all, it was just this week that the US Department of Justice claimed that no one should worry when it subpoenas search terms from Google here in the US -- something Google has fought vehemently. Perhaps the next suggestion would be for them to move the US data into China. Then everyone can subpoena whoever they want, and Google can claim the data is out of the country and they can't do anything about it.



Last week I saw links to Jason Calcanis's post YouTube is not a real business which I didn't read at the time because I wasn't that familiar with YouTube. However, over the past few days I've been watching a ton of videos on the site including the MySpace movie. I have to say I totally agree with what Jason Calcanis wrote below

4. YouTube is not a real business (or an innovative business). This is my main point. Let's not look at YouTube's page views and claim they are some amazing business. Napster and Kazaa had a ton of traffic too--it just wasn't web-based. If you could do an Alexa graph of Kazaa, BitTorrent, Usenet, and the old Napster they would be number one through four on Alexa!

Watching DIGG, Engadget, and MySpace climb in the rankings? Those are real businesses. If those sites added the ability to distribute stolen video in two clicks they would shoot up to the top 10 sites!

Let me break it down: YouTube and other video hosting sites have made it easy to pirate stuff on the web (which is where piracy started), but they shouldn't be positioned as some revolutionary business.

Like the original Napster, YouTube seems to be primarily about making money off of copyright infringement. A lot of the most popular videos don't seem to be have been uploaded by copyright holders unlike other video services like MSN Video or Google Video.

What I wonder is whether copyright infringement lawsuits will eventually shut them down or they'll end up getting both by a major player before that happens. They definitely have become a good brand and they do have some skills when it comes to scaling a popular service [although the server seems to be giving me HTTP 500 errors this morning]. It would be a shame for them to end up like Napster did.


Today while browsing the Seattle Post Intelligencer, I saw an article with the headline Google agrees to censor results in China which began

SAN FRANCISCO -- Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country's free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet's fastest growing market.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company planned to roll out a new version of its search engine bearing China's Web suffix ".cn," on Wednesday. A Chinese-language version of Google's search engine has previously been available through the company's dot-com address in the United States. By creating a unique address for China, Google hopes to make its search engine more widely available and easier to use in the world's most populous country.
To obtain the Chinese license, Google agreed to omit Web content that the country's government finds objectionable. Google will base its censorship decisons on guidance provided by Chinese government officials.

Although China has loosened some of its controls in recent years, some topics, such as Taiwan's independence and 1989's Tiananmen Square massacre, remain forbidden subjects.

Google officials characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that adopted "don't be evil" as a motto. But management believes it's a worthwhile sacrifice.

"We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China," said Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel.

Google's decision rankled Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog group that has sharply criticized Internet companies including Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN.com for submitting to China's censorship regime.

No comment.


Brian Jones has a blog post entitled Corel to support Microsoft Office Open XML Formats which begins

Corel has stated that they will support the new XML formats in Wordperfect once we release Office '12'. We've already seen other applications like OpenOffice and Apple's TextEdit support the XML formats that we built in Office 2003. Now as we start providing the documentation around the new formats and move through Ecma we'll see more and more people come on board and support these new formats. Here is a quote from Jason Larock of Corel talking about the formats they are looking to support in coming versions (http://labs.pcw.co.uk/2006/01/new_wordperfect_1.html):

Larock said no product could match Wordperfect's support for a wide variety of formats and Corel would include OpenXML when Office 12 is released. "We work with Microsoft now and we will continue to work with Microsoft, which owns 90 percent of the market. We would basically cut ouirselves off if you didn't support the format."

But he admitted that X3 does not support the Open Document Format (ODF), which is being proposed as a rival standard, "because no customer that we are currently dealing with as asked us to do so."

X3 does however allow the import and export of portable document format (pdf) files, something Microsoft has promised for Office 12.

I mention this article because I wanted to again stress that even our competitors will now have clear documentation that allows them to read and write our formats. That isn't really as big of a deal though as the fact that any solution provider can do this. It means that the documents can now be easily accessed 100 years from now, and start to play a more meaningful role in business processes.

Again I want to extend my kudos to Brian and the rest of the folks on the Office team who have been instrumental in the transition of the Microsoft Office file formats from proprietary binary formats to open XML formats.


Categories: Mindless Link Propagation | XML

January 23, 2006
@ 10:42 PM

I don't usually spam folks with links to amusing video clips that are making the rounds in email inboxes, but the video of Aussie comedy group Tripod performing their song "Make You Happy Tonight" struck a chord with me because I did what the song talks about this weekend.

The game in question was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. :)


Web usability guru, Jakob Nielsen, has written an article entitled Search Engines as Leeches on the Web which begins

Summary: Search engines extract too much of the Web's value, leaving too little for the websites that actually create the content. Liberation from search dependency is a strategic imperative for both websites and software vendors.

I worry that search engines are sucking out too much of the Web's value, acting as leeches on companies that create the very source materials the search engines index.We've known since AltaVista's launch in 1995 that search is one of the Web’s most important services. Users rely on search to find what they want among the teeming masses of pages. Recently, however, people have begun using search engines as answer engines to directly access what they want -- often without truly engaging with the websites that provide (and pay for) the services..

I've seen some people claim that "Google is Evil" is the new meme among web geeks and this looks like a manifestation of this trend. It looks like the more money Google makes, the more people resent them. Alas, that is the price of success.


January 4, 2006
@ 10:10 PM

From the E! Online article Back to the "Futurama"? we learn

Following the hugely successful resurrection of Family Guy, Fox execs are reportedly in talks to bring Futurama back from the dead.

The studio has begun talks to revive the Emmy-winning animated series and produce a limited number of new episodes, thanks to a resurgence in the show's popularity on DVD and in reruns, Variety reports.

Reps for 20th Century Fox have declined to comment on the news, but Variety says initial negotiations have begun.

If revived, it's unclear exactly which network would air the new episodes. While Fox housed the original series, the show found new life once reruns began showing on the Cartoon Network. Comedy Central subsequently snapped up the off-air rights and will exclusively air the repeats beginning in 2008.

The brainchild of Simpsons mastermind Matt Groening and writer David X. Cohen, Futurama debuted on Fox in March 1999. The series revolved around Fry, a pizza delivery boy, who is accidentally frozen for a thousand years. He wakes up in the year 3000 and befriends sassy one-eyed pilot Leela and the cranky robot Bender, who both work for an intergalactic delivery service run by a distant nephew of Fry's.

After five seasons and three Emmys, including the 2002 prize for Best Animated Series, Futurama was shuttered in August 2003.

Should the show make its way back to the airwaves, it would follow in the footsteps of another Fox cult 'toon, Family Guy.

The latter show was brought back in 2004 thanks to robust rerun ratings and staggeringly high DVD sales--the show ranks as the fourth-biggest TV series seller ever. Since its comeback, Fox has produced two more seasons and the direct-to-DVD movie Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story.

First Family Guy, now Futurama. I can only hope that Cartoon Network borrows a leaf from Fox and brings back Samurai Jack.

A number of people have written posts about Microsoft's poor stock performance over the past week but there are two posts I thought were interesting enough to share on my blog.

In his post 7 years ago Omar Shahine writes

I started working at Microsoft. Just as a data point, the “strike price” for my first option grant was $31.7250. Today, the stock is trading around $26. At 7 years, there are two notable events:

  • You start to accrue 4 weeks of vacation per year
  • Your first stock option grant expires

So long option grant #1, I barely knew you :-). What are the chances the stock will shoot up 5 bucks in the next few hours so I can sell my grant?

On a more serious note, has the company really done so little in the last 7 years that the stock price warrants being down 19%? Will 2006 be the year MSFT rebounds? I sure hope so.

Anyway, it’s been a great 7 years. I look forward to the next few! Microsoft has been great to me over the years.

From a response by Andrew Leckey in the letters page of the Orlando Sentinel we get the item Shift to Internet impacts Microsoft stock which states

Q: I really expected more from my shares of Microsoft Corp. Has tech left it behind?

K.T., via the Internet

A: Microsoft rolled out its hot-selling Xbox 360 video-game console worldwide months ahead of rival Sony's next-generation PlayStation 3.

It is developing an online classified ad service to compete with the popular Craigslist. And it is entering the high-end supercomputer market with a version of Windows that ties together computers in a high-speed network.

But even though Chairman Bill Gates is the world's richest man and the firm has an unparalleled financial record and a mountain of cash, Microsoft gets no respect.

It is now frequently considered a value stock rather than a growth stock, a lumbering tech giant attracting investors with a relatively modest share price.

Microsoft stock fell 2 percent in 2005, following a drop of 2 percent in 2004 and a gain of 6 percent in 2003. Compare that to skyrocketing Google Inc. or Microsoft's own track record for 1996 through 2002, when its shares jumped nearly 400 percent.

Its highly profitable, industry-dominant Windows and Office software account for about 60 percent of its revenue, with an additional 25 percent coming from software for enterprise servers. New software products are continually being introduced.

The corporate vision is to expand beyond all that via the Xbox, Windows Mobile, Windows Media Center and IPTV platform to become the center of the digital home.

Because Microsoft shares look inexpensive in light of the potential to accomplish that, the Wall Street consensus recommendation is midway between "strong buy" and "buy," according to Thomson Financial. That consists of 14 "strong buys," 16 "buys," four "holds" and one "strong sell."

The biggest challenge, termed a "sea change" by Gates, is an industrywide shift to Internet-based software and services for everything from word processing to photo storage. This could make its conventional software packages less relevant.

Earnings are expected to increase 14 percent in fiscal 2006, which ends in June, the same estimate as for the application software industry.

I feel the same way as Omar does. You don't have to do the math and figure out my option grant from when I was hired four years ago to tell that it is underwater. However working at Microsoft has been great this past four years (wow, that long?) and I look forward to the next few years building social software for MSN Windows Live. It is interesting that Andrew Leckey feels that our biggest challenge Web-based software, it's definitely going to be an interesting year. 


December 13, 2005
@ 06:27 PM

Nicholas Carr has a post entitled Sun and the data center meltdown which has an insightful excerpt on the kind of problems that sites facing scalability issues have to deal with. He writes

a recent paper on electricity use by Google engineer Luiz André Barroso. Barroso's paper, which appeared in September in ACM Queue, is well worth reading. He shows that while Google has been able to achieve great leaps in server performance with each successive generation of technology it's rolled out, it has not been able to achieve similar gains in energy effiiciency: "Performance per watt has remained roughly flat over time, even after significant efforts to design for power efficiency. In other words, every gain in performance has been accompanied by a proportional inflation in overall platform power consumption. The result of these trends is that power-related costs are an increasing fraction of the TCO [total cost of ownership]."

He then gets more specific:

A typical low-end x86-based server today can cost about $3,000 and consume an average of 200 watts (peak consumption can reach over 300 watts). Typical power delivery inefficiencies and cooling overheads will easily double that energy budget. If we assume a base energy cost of nine cents per kilowatt hour and a four-year server lifecycle, the energy costs of that system today would already be more than 40 percent of the hardware costs.

And it gets worse. If performance per watt is to remain constant over the next few years, power costs could easily overtake hardware costs, possibly by a large margin ... For the most aggressive scenario (50 percent annual growth rates), power costs by the end of the decade would dwarf server prices (note that this doesn’t account for the likely increases in energy costs over the next few years). In this extreme situation, in which keeping machines powered up costs significantly more than the machines themselves, one could envision bizarre business models in which the power company will provide you with free hardware if you sign a long-term power contract.

The possibility of computer equipment power consumption spiraling out of control could have serious consequences for the overall affordability of computing, not to mention the overall health of the planet.

If energy consumption is a problem for Google, arguably the most sophisticated builder of data centers in the world today, imagine where that leaves your run-of-the-mill company. As businesses move to more densely packed computing infrastructures, incorporating racks of energy-gobbling blade servers, cooling and electricity become ever greater problems. In fact, many companies' existing data centers simply can't deliver the kind of power and cooling necessary to run modern systems. That's led to a shortage of quality data-center space, which in turn (I hear) is pushing up per-square-foot prices for hosting facilities dramatically. It costs so much to retrofit old space to the required specifications, or to build new space to those specs, that this shortage is not going to go away any time soon.

When you are providing a service that becomes popular enough to attract millions of users, your worries begin to multiply. Instead of just worrying about efficient code and optimal database schemas, things like power consumption of your servers and data center capacity become just as important.

Building online services requires more than the ability to sling code and hack databases. Lots of stuff gets written about the more trivial aspects of building an online service (e.g. switch to sexy, new platforms like Ruby on Rails) but the real hard work is often unheralded and rarely discussed.


Jeff Jarvis has a post entitled A principle: I have a right to know when I am read which is somewhat charming in its naivaté. He writes

How about this as a fundamental principle of content and conversation on the internet:

I have a right to know when what I create is read, heard, viewed, or used if I wish to know that.

That is my followup to the whine about RSS — and content — caching below.

If this simple principle were built into applications — not the internet, per se, but in how readers and viewers work — then caching and P2P, which both serve creators by reducing bandwidth demand, would not be issues. This also would help those who want to make use of advertising (though actually serving ads is a different matter).

I’d like to see this as a technical add-on to Creative Commons: Distribute my content freely, please, on the condition that you allow applications to report traffic back to me. And applications designers should build such reporting in. The creator is still free not to require this and the end user is still free not to consume those things that require ping-backs. But simple traffic reporting is at least common courtesy.

I  can understand where Jeff is coming from with this post. However that doesn't change the fact that it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Web has worked for over a decade. The results of Web requests being cached by intermediates between the user and target web server is a fundamental aspect of the design of the World Wide Web. From intermediate proxy servers at your ISP or your corporate network right down to your Web browser, caching Web requests is a fundamental feature. This reduces the load on target Web servers and leads to a better user experience due to increased page loads.  A consequence of this is that web site owners most often have an inaccurate view of how many people are actually reading their web site. All of this is explained in several writings from last decade such as Why web usage statistics are (worse than) meaningless and Understanding web log statistics and metrics.

Not being able to tell how many people are really reading your web site is a consequence of how the Web works. The only difference now is that instead of HTML, the discussion is about RSS feeds.  It's cool that some Web-based RSS readers provide readership numbers to website owners as part of their HTTP request. However this is a courtesy that they provide. Secondly, even if all Web-based RSS readers provide readership stats there is still the fact that traditional HTTP proxy servers don't. Is my ISPs proxy server sending back how many times its served cached requests for Jeff's feed back to him? I doubt it. I also am pretty sure that the proxy servers at my employer's don't either.

As for technical add-on to Creative Commons license? I'd be interested to see what kind of lawyering would produce a license that gives Jeff what he wants without requiring changes in every proxy server on the planet. 


November 23, 2005
@ 05:44 PM

I recently got a demo of Orb.com from Mike Torres and I was quite impressed. Mike talks about the capabilities of the service in his post Orb.com & "placeshifting" where he wrote

I now have unlimited storage for videos, television, music, and photos in my pocket for $399 less than an iPod video.

How is that possible?  www.Orb.com.

A free service designed for cell phones, PCs, Macs, and PDAs that gives me access to my computer at home to get at all of my digital media.  All of it.  I don’t have to worry about cradling or synchronizing anything every day... and I don’t have to carry a 250GB hard drive in my coat pocket either.  Beautiful.
From my phone or from my laptop at work (or anywhere else with a net connection):

I can listen to all of my WMA Lossless music on my PC at home; over 700 albums collected over the last 15 years.  I can play by genre, playlist, album, artist, or even do a search across all my music.  Of course, it doesn’t stream at lossless quality, but for walking around downtown Seattle, the quality is fine (128kbps – same as iTunes actually).

I can watch LIVE television – including cable – from wherever I am.  I can change the channel remotely – if I’m watching MSNBC and want to switch over to MTV, it takes about 5-7 seconds to do so.  If I like what I’m watching, I can click the record button and catch up with the program when I get home.  This blows people away when they see it ;)

I can view (and even download) my digital photos.  Whenever someone asks about some random event we attended together, I can pull up photos from that event within a few seconds.  With over 10,000 of my digital photos available to me from anywhere, I’ll never again say “Argh.  I have that on my computer at home.”

I can watch recorded television.  Meaning I can setup my Media Center PC to record shows to my hard drive and can click Play from anywhere to catch up with the show.  Before now, I didn’t have any time to watch Sportscenter... now I can listen to it on the way to work.

I can turn on my webcam and watch my cats.  Remember, I’m doing this from my freakin' PHONE.

I am so amazed by this service that I considered not even blogging about it.  I didn’t think I could do it justice.  I still don’t.
Overall this is the perfect example of combining software with online services to enable great scenarios for everyday people. It just works for me.

These guys have built a killer service. I'm quite surprised that they haven't been snapped up by one of the big web companies already.


After the long wait, the list of Original Xbox Games Playable on Xbox 360 is now available. I'm glad to see the following games on the list

  • Grand Theft Auto 3
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas™
  • Halo® 2
  • Ninja Gaiden®
  • Star Wars® Knights of the Old Republic® II: The Sith Lords™
  • The Incredible Hulk™: Ultimate Destruction

Check out the list and see if your favorite XBox games will be playable on the XBox 360. Mad props to Michael Brundage and all the others who've worked on XBox Backward compatibility.


One of the most eye opening observations I heard recently was a comment by Terry Semel, CEO of Yahoo!, where he pointed out that only 5% of page views on the Web are from search yet the account for about 40% of the revenue generated on the Web. To make this even clearer, consider this recent post on Om Malik's blog entitled Bigger Than Google, MySpace is different which states

Like all community sites that rely mostly on their users to author content, MySpace has had a very difficult time trying to secure high advertising rates. Historically, advertisers have held little trust in content that is not tightly controlled editorially and, therefore, the value they are willing to attach for ads placed next to such uncontrollable content has been very low. The result is clear… MySpace ranks higher than Google in terms of pageviews, but Google will gross $6 billion in revenues this year, while MySpace will generate about $30 million. The delta, which can be measured in orders of magnitude, is almost unbelievable. I realize the comparison is not directly apples to apples, but even so!

I bring this up because this is where Murdoch’s strategic opportunity lies… in eliminating that gap. Put another way, MySpace has a multi-billion dollar opportunity to exploit, which promises to break News Corp out of the media stock depression that it and all its fellow conglomerates have been suffering. Success on this front will demonstrate that News Corp can tap into the fastest growing segment of the advertising industry in a manner that befits Google and Yahoo!

This disparity in ad revenue is quite stunning. I agree with Terry Semel and others that this represents a significant opportunity. I wonder who'll sieze it first...


October 20, 2005
@ 02:55 PM

A couple of recent stories in the news remind me that there still a ways to go for race relations in America.

From the story A Polling Free-Fall Among Blacks in the Washington Post

In what may turn out to be one of the biggest free-falls in the history of presidential polling, President Bush's job-approval rating among African Americans has dropped to 2 percent, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

The drop among blacks drove Bush's overall job approval ratings to an all-time low of 39 percent in this poll. By comparison, 45 percent of whites and 36 percent of Hispanics approve of the job Bush is doing.

Thanks to Jonathan Marsh for that link. This reminds me of a skit on the Dave Chappelle show where a game show host asks a black guy, "Why didn't black people trust Ronald Reagan?" and he responded "I didn't know we were supposed to trust him in the first place". Of course, it was the right answer.

From the story NBA's dress code blasted in the Miami Herald

The NBA has announced that a dress code will go into effect at the start of the season. Players will be required to wear business-casual attire when involved in team or league business. They can't wear visible chains, pendants or medallions over their clothes.

Jackson, who is black, said the NBA's new rule about jewelry targets young black males because chains are associated with hip-hop culture, and he said the league is afraid of becoming ''too hip-hop.'' In protest, he wore four chains to the Pacers' exhibition game against San Antonio on Tuesday.

Philadelphia's Allen Iverson also was critical of the new rule, which the NBA enacted Monday.

''I feel like if they want us to dress a certain way, they should pay for our clothes,'' he said. "It's just tough, man, knowing that all of a sudden you have to have a dress code out of nowhere.''

Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce agreed that the new rule targeted young, black players.

''When I saw the part about chains, hip hop and throwback jerseys, I think that's part of our culture,'' Pierce said. "The NBA is young black males.''

I guess it's OK for the NBA rosters to be dominated by blacks as long as they don't dress or act "too black". 

October 10, 2005
@ 03:16 PM
From the post "Darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death. " on the Making Light blog

The nine Senators who voted against the anti-torture amendment:

  1. Sen. Wayne Allard [R-Colorado]
  2. Sen. Kit Bond [R-Missouri]
  3. Sen. Tom Coburn [R-Oklahoma]
  4. Sen. Thad Cochran [R-Mississippi]
  5. Sen. John Cornyn [R-Texas]
  6. Sen. James Inhofe [R-Oklahoma]
  7. Sen. Pat Roberts [R-Kansas]
  8. Sen. Jeff Sessions [R-Alabama]
  9. Sen. Ted Stevens [R-Alaska]
Henceforth to be known as the Nazgul.

(Meme via Jim Henley.)

If you haven't been following this story you can catch up on it in the Telegraph news article entitled Bush will veto anti-torture law after Senate revolt.


October 2, 2005
@ 12:47 AM

Brian Jones has a post entitled Native PDF support in Office "12" where he writes

Today's another exciting day as we move closer to Beta 1. We are just wrapping up the MVP summit here in Redmond and we've finally announced another piece of functionality I've wanted to talk about for a long time now. This afternoon Steven Sinofsky announced to our MVPs that we will build in native support for the PDF format in Office "12".  I constantly get asked by customers if we can build in this support for publishing documents as PDF files, and now I can thankfully say "yes!" It's something we've been hearing about for years, and earlier in this project we decided that while there were already existing third party tools for doing this, we should do the work to build the functionality natively into the product.

The PDF support will be built into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, OneNote, Visio, and InfoPath! I love how well this new functionality will work in combination with the new Open XML formats in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. We've really heard the feedback that sharing documents across multiple platforms and long term archiving are really important. People now have a couple options here, with the existing support for HTML and RTF, and now the new support for Open XML formats and PDF!

This is a very welcome surprise. The Office team is one of the few groups on main campus who seem to consistently get it. Of course, the first thought that crossed my mind was the one asked in the second comment in response to Brian's post.


September 22, 2005
@ 03:46 PM

Feeding poor people is useful tech, but it's not very sexy and it won't get you on the cover of Wired. Talk about it too much and you sound like an earnest hippie. So nobody wants to do that.

They want to make cell phones that can scan your personal measurements and send them real-time to potential sex partners. Because, you know, the fucking Japanese teenagers love it, and Japanese teenagers are clearly the smartest people on the planet.

The upshot of all of this is that the Future gets divided; the cute, insulated future that Joi Ito and Cory Doctorow and you and I inhabit, and the grim meathook future that most of the world is facing, in which they watch their squats and under-developed fields get turned into a giant game of Counterstrike between crazy faith-ridden jihadist motherfuckers and crazy faith-ridden American redneck motherfuckers, each doing their best to turn the entire world into one type of fascist nightmare or another.

Of course, nobody really wants to talk about that future, because it's depressing and not fun and doesn't have Fischerspooner doing the soundtrack. So everybody pretends they don't know what the future holds, when the unfortunate fact is that -- unless we start paying very serious attention -- it holds what the past holds: a great deal of extreme boredom punctuated by occasional horror and the odd moment of grace.

By Joshua Ellis, found via Jamie Zawinski.


Recently, Sam Ruby announced that the Atom 0.3 syndication format would be deprecated by the Feed Validator. When I first read his post I half wondered what would happen if someone complained about being told their previously valid feed was no longer valid simply because it was now using an "old" format. This afternoon I found an  email from Donald Knuth (yes, that one) to the www-validator@w3.org mailing list complaining about just that. In his mail note from Prof Knuth, he writes

Dear Validators,

I've been happily using your service for many years --- even before w3c
took it over. I've had a collection of web pages at Stanford since
1995 or so; it now amounts to hundreds of pages, dozens of which have
tens of thousands of hits, several of which have hits in the millions.

Every time I make a nontrivial change, I've been asking the validator
to approve it. And every time, I've won the right to display the
"HaL HTML Netscape checked" logo.

Until today. Alluva sudden you guys have jerked the rug out from
under my feet.

I protest! I feel like screaming! Unfair!

I'm not accustomed to flaming, but I have to warn you that I am just
now more than a little hot under the collar and trying not to explode.

For years and years, I have started each webpage with the formula
I found in the book from which I learned HTML many years ago, namely
  <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//Netscape Comm. Corp.//DTD HTML//EN">

Today when I tried to validate a simple edit of one page, I found
that your system no longer is happy --- indeed, it hates every
one of my webpages. (If you need a URL, Google for "don" and take
the topmost page, unless you are in France.)

For example, it now finds 19 errors on my home page, which was 100%
valid earlier this month. The first error is "unknown parse mode!".
Apparently Stanford's Apache server is sending the page out as text/html.
You are saying text/html is ambiguous, but that you are going to continue
as if it were SGML mode. Fine; but if I get the Stanford folks to
change the MIME type to SGML mode, I'll still have 18 more errors.

The next error is "no DOCTYPE found". But guys, it is there as
plain as day. Henceforth you default to HTML 4.01 Transitional.

Then you complain that I don't give "alt" specifications with
any of the images. But the Netscape DTD I have used for more
than 3000 days does not require it.

Then you don't allow align="absmiddle" in an image.

I went to your help page trying to find another DTD that might
suit. Version 2.0 seemed promising; but no, it failed in other
ways --- like it doesn't know the bgcolor and text color attributes
in the <body> of my page.

Look folks, I know that software rot (sometimes called "progress")
keeps growing, and backwards compatibility is not always possible.
At one point I changed my TeX78 system to TeX82 and refused to
support the older conventions.

But in this case I see absolutely no reason why system people who
are supposedly committed to helping the world's users from all
the various cultures are suddenly blasting me in the face and
telling me that you no longer support things that every decent
browser understands perfectly well.

To change all these pages will cost me a week's time. I don't
want to delay The Art of Computer Programming by an unnecessary week;
I've been working on it for 43 years and I have 20 more years of work
to do, and who knows what illnesses and other tragedies are in store.
Every week is precious, especially when it seems to me that there
is no valid validation reason for a competent computer system person
to be so fascistic. For all I know, you'll be making me spend
another week on this next year, and another the year after that.

So, my former friends, please tell me either (i) when you are
going to fix the problem, or (ii) who is your boss so that I
can complain at a higher level.

Excuse me, that was a bit flamey wasn't it, and certainly egocentric.
But I think you understand why I might be upset.

Sincerely, Don Knuth


BusinessWeek has a cover story titled Troubling Exits at Microsoft which contains some excerpts from my blog. The relevant excerpt is

While Microsoft's internal reformers don't directly criticize Gates, they're frustrated with the sluggish pace of product development. As the company's chief software architect, Gates bears that responsibility. He's the author of a strategy called "integrated innovation." The idea is to get Microsoft's vast product groups to work closely together to take advantage of the Windows and Office monopolies and bolster them at the same time. But with so much more effort placed on cross-group collaboration, workers spend an immense amount of time in meetings making sure products are in sync. It "translates to more dependencies among shipping products, less control of one's product destiny, and longer ship cycles," writes Dare Obasanjo, a program manager in Microsoft's MSN division, on his blog.

To shake Microsoft out of its malaise, radical surgery may be in order.

Wow. Almost every month I am reminded that the stuff I write here can and is read by journalists. At the very least Jon Udell and Steve Gillmor seem to be somewhat regular readers given the number of times I've been quoted by them. This does make it hard for my blog to be as 'personal' as I want it to be.

This is the second time this year my blog has been quoted in a major business paper. The first was the mention in the Wall Street Journal over a back and forth blog discussion between myself, Adam Bosworth and Krzysztof Kowalczyk about Google's contributions to Open Source. Since then Google has launched efforts like the Summer of Code contest and the Google Code website as ways to contribute back to the Open Source movement which has benefitted them so much.

I hope we'll see as much positive change within Microsoft in the future. It seems that we are already trying to move in the right direction with the recent stories about Microsoft's plans to overhaul its development strategy.


Today I stumbled on the post "Sign up for Gmail"on the Google blog and I was stunned by the following excerpt

For the last 16 months, a lot of people have been asking us how they can sign up for Gmail, and today we're happy to be able to say, "Just go to gmail.com." From there, you can get an invitation code sent to your mobile phone, and with this code, you can create a Gmail account. Once you have Gmail, you can try out our brand new IM and voice service, Google Talk.

Why use mobile phones? It's a way to help us verify that an account is being created by a real person, and that one person isn't creating thousands of accounts. We want to keep our system as spam-free as possible, and making sure accounts are used by real people is one way to do that.

The privacy implications of having a company collect people's verified mobile phone numbers just for free email accounts boggles the mind. It is common knowledge that web surfers often give websites information they consider private thus I'm sure lots of people will take them up on their offer.  Looking at the GMail SMS mail sign up page it boldly states they plan to store the phone number indefinitely and then points to a privacy policy that doesn't say anything about what they plan to do with our phone numbers. Is their legal team asleep at the wheel or something?

I guess once they ship whatever mobile services that emerge from their purchase of Dodgeball and Android, they'll have a ready pool of phone numbers to launch the service with. That's just genius. Almost evil genius.


There were two instant messaging releases shipped yesterday from two of the major online players.

  1. Google Talk Beta: Google has finally shipped an instant messaging application as we all expected. You can get the scoop from Joe Beda's post Welcome To Google Talk. It seems Joe is one of the folks at Google who helped ship this. From his post we learn they provide
    • Instant messaging server based on the XMPP/Jabber protocol.  This is an IETF approved protocol.  Check out www.xmpp.org for more info.
    • Out of the box support for many third party clients.  Choose iChat, Gaim, Trillian or a host of others.  We support them from day one.
    • Our own client available for download from talk.google.com.  We've concentrated on a simple to use and clean interface.  We've tried to strip IM down to its essence.
    • Support for voice calls between clients that just work.  We've worked hard to support all sorts of network topologies.  We are also using first class industry leading audio codecs.
    • A commitment to openness moving forward.  Choose your platform (Window, Mac, Linux, etc), choose your client (ours or others) and choose your service provider (we are commited to federation).  We want to make IM as open as the web or email.
  2. MSN Messenger 7.5: MSN shipped to its instant messaging client yesterday. You can get the scoop in Leah Pearlman's post MSN Messenger 7.5 - I can't believe It's Not Beta. From her post we learn that some of the new features are
    • Dynamic Backgrounds: Backgrounds that subtly animate in cool ways.

    • Voice Clip: Press and hold the Voice Clip button (or F2) and record up to 15 seconds of your voice or anything. When you release, it goes to your buddies just like an IM, and they can hear it instantly upon receipt.
    • Freaking Awesome Audio Quality Improvements: Yes, that’s the technical name. Our new audio technology makes free Voice (Voip) calls super-clear. Mostly thanks to much improved echo-cancellation. It’s now just like using a phone except: "Look ma! No hands!"
    • Patching: Due to the plethora of features in the Messenger client the download size has grown. In the future, instead of having to download the entire client each time an particular release is updated, we can download a small patch, on the order of 100K on to the user’s machine instead.

Google's entrance into the instant messaging landscape is interesting although unsurprising. As usual Google has entered the space with a disruptive move but instead of the move being the feature set of its IM client it is by not treating their IM network as a walled garden as AOL, MSN and Yahoo! have done. People aren't restricted to the Google Talk client and anyone can write a client application to connect people within their network. I'm not sure this is a smart move but it definitely is a disruptive one.


August 21, 2005
@ 12:56 AM

The good folks at Google, Yahoo and MSN announced some sweet stuff for Web search aficionados this week.

  1. MSN: From the MSN Search blog post entitled Extending the MSN Search Toolbar we learn that the first of many add ins for the MSN Search toolbar is now available. The weather add in for MSN Toolbar is something I've wanted in a browser toolbar for a while. There is also information for developers interested in building their own add ins.

  2. Google: From the Google Weblog post entitled The linguasphere at large we learn that Google has launched the Google Search engine in 11 more languages bringing to total number of languages supported to 116. The coolest part of this announcement is that I can now search Google in Yoruba which is my dad's native tongue. Not bad at all.

  3. Yahoo: The last but not the least is the recent announcement about the Next Generation of Yahoo! Local on the Yahoo! Search blog. The launch showcases the integration of ratings and reviews by Yahoo! users with mapping and local information. This kind of like Yahoo! Maps meets CitySearch. Freaking awesome. Yahoo! continues to impress.



August 20, 2005
@ 11:32 PM
I've posted in the past about not understanding why people continue to use Technorati.com. It seems more people have realized that the service has been in bad shape for months and are moving on. Jason Kottke has a blog post entitled So Long, Technorati where he writes

That's it. I've had it. No more Technorati. I've used the site for, what, a couple of years now to keep track of what people were saying about posts on kottke.org and searching blogs for keywords or current events. During that time, it's been down at least a quarter of the time (although it's been better recently), results are often unavailable for queries with large result sets (i.e. this is only going to become a bigger problem as time goes on), and most of the rest of the time it's slow as molasses.

When it does return results in a timely fashion for links to kottke.org, the results often include old links that I've seen before in the results set, sometimes from months ago. And that's to say nothing of the links Technorati doesn't even display. The "kottke.org" smart list in my newsreader picks up stuff that Technorati never seems to get, and that's only pulling results from the ~200 blogs I read, most of which are not what you'd call obscure. What good is keeping track of 14 million blogs if you're missing 200 well-known ones? (And trackbacks perform even better...this post got 159 trackbacks but only 93 sites linking to it on Technorati.)

Over the past few months, I've been comparing the results from PubSub to those of Technorati and PS is kicking ass. Technorati currently says that 19 sites have linked to me in the past 6 days (and at least four of those are old and/or repeats...one is from last September, fer chrissakes) while PubSub has returned 38 fresh, unrepeated results during that same time. (Not that PubSub is all roses and sunshine either...the overlap between the result sets is surprisingly small.)

While their search of the live web (the site's primary goal) has been desperately in need of a serious overhaul, Technorati has branched out into all sorts of PR-getting endeavors, including soundbiting the DNC on CNN, tags (careful, don't burn yourself on the hot buzzword), and all sorts of XML-ish stuff for developers. Which is all great, but get the fricking search working first! As Jason Fried says, better to build half a product than a half-assed product. I know it's a terrifically hard problem, but Figure. It. Out.

Jason Kottke recommends IceRocket's blog search at the end of his post. I've been using the Bloglines Citations feature for the past couple of months and love it. That in combination with RSS feeds of search results via PubSub have replaced Technorati for all my ego searching needs.


Since leaving the XML team last year I haven't paid much attention to the various betas and CTPs of Visual Studio.NET 2005 that have been made available over the past year. Thus I don't have a position on the article Developers seek third beta release for Visual Studio 2005 from InfoWorld which states

After having been stalled several times already, it would seem that the last thing developers would want for the Visual Studio 2005 toolset is another delay. Nonetheless, a request from some developers for a new beta release would, if granted, potentially hold back the product set yet again.
In launching an effort for a third beta release, developers are citing bugs and performance issues with existing prereleases. A suggestion posted on the MSDN Product Feedback Center seeks support for a third beta release of Visual Studio 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 Team System in late September.

"Push back RTM (release to manufacturing) if you have to," the online suggestion states. "RTM December 31st or push it to 2006 (just keep the 2005 name then, no big deal)."

The release-to-manufacturing date signifies the product’s impending general availability for customers.

"There are still way too many bugs and performance issues. Too many issues get resolved as 'postponed,'" the online request continued. "Developers won't care about when the RTM date was a few months after RTM if the product is full of bugs."

Seventy-two people had voted on the suggestion as of Friday afternoon.

"I would much rather that Microsoft push this release back and get things right," according to one person who commented.

"A Beta 3 is absolutely required," stated another person who signed the petition. "There are so many outstanding bugs and issues that a Beta 3 is required to ensure stability of the final release."

Microsoft released a prepared statement via e-mail Friday noting the planned November 7 release date.

"Microsoft appreciates feedback from all users. For this version of Visual Studio, Microsoft has continually solicited product feedback by issuing multiple betas and Community Technology Previews (CTPs) and encouraging the community to provide feedback via the MSDN Product Feedback Center. The community of 6 million Visual Studio developers and more than 240 Visual Studio Industry Partners (VSIP) have been providing a great deal of valuable feedback and telling Microsoft that they are very excited [about] the November 7 launch."

Interesting feedback. The number of votes on the issue have doubled to about 143 votes as at a few minutes ago when I checked on the issue entitled Suggestion Details: Release .Net 2.0 Beta 3 on the MSDN Product Feedback Center.

Despite how negative this seems, it is great that customers can give such direct feedback to Microsoft product teams in such a transparent manner. The developer division faces a tough challenge if the claims being made by the commenters are valid.  I wish them luck.


In recent weeks there have been a number of blog postings critical of the Technorai Top 100 List of popular web logs. The criticisms have primarily been of two flavors; some posts have been critical of the idea of blogging as popularity contests which such lists encourage and others have criticized the actual mechanism of calculating popularity used by Technorati. I agree with both criticisms especially the former. There have been a number of excellent posts arguing both points which I have think are worth sharing.

Mary Hodder, in her post Link Love Lost or How Social Gestures within Topic Groups are More Interesting Than Link, argues that more metrics besides link count should be used for calculating popularity and influence. Some of the additional metrics she suggests include comment counts and number of subscribers to the site's RSS feed. She also suggests creating topic specific lists instead of one ber list for the entire blogosphere. It seems a primary motivation for encouraging this approach is to increase the pool of bloggers that are targetted by PR agencies and the like. Specifically Mary writes

However, I'm beginning to see many reports prepared by PR people, communications consultants etc. that make assessments of 'influential bloggers' for particular clients. These reports 'score' bloggers by some random number based on something: maybe inbound links or the number of bloglines subscribers or some such single figure called out next to each blog's name.

Shelley Powers has a different perspective in her post Technology is neither good nor evil. In arguing against the popularity contests inherent in creating competing A-lists or even just B-lists to complement the A-lists she writes 

Even if we tried to analyze a persons links to another, we cant derive from this anything other than person A has linked to person B several times. If we use these to define a community to which we belong, and then seek to rank ourselves within these communities, all weve done is create a bunch of little Technorati 100s and communities that are going to form barriers to entry. We see this communal behavior all too often: a small group of people who know each other link to each other frequently and to outsiders infrequently; basically shutting down the discussion outside of the community.
I think Mary should stop with I hate rankism. I understand the motivations behind this work, but ultimately, whatever algorithm is derived will eventually end up replicating the existing patterns of authority rather than replacing them. This pattern repeated itself within the links to Jay Rosens post; it repeated itself within the speaker list that Mary started for women ("where are the women speakers"), but had its first man within a few hours, and whose purpose was redefined within a day to include both men and women.

Rankings are based on competition. Those who seek to compete will always dominate within a ranking, no matter how carefully we try to 'route' around their own particular form of 'damage'. What we need to challenge is the pattern, not the tools, or the tool results. 

I agree with Shelley that attempts to right the so called "imbalance" created by lists such as the Technorati Top 100 will encourage competition and stratification within certain blogging circles. I also agree that despite whatever algorithms are used, a lot of the same names will still end up on the lists for a variety of reasons. A major one being that a number of the so-called A-list blogs actually work very hard to be "popular" and changing the metrics by which their popularity is judged won't change this fact.

So Shelley has given us some of the social arguments while popularity lists such as the Technorati Top 100 aren't a good idea. But are the technical flaws in Technorati's approach to calculating weblog popularity so bad? Yes, they are.

Danah Boyd has a post entitled The biases of links where she did some research to show exactly how flawed simply counting links on web pages isn't an accurate way to calculate popularity or influence. There are a lot of excellent points in Danah's post and the entire post is worth reading multiple times. Below are some key excerpts from Danah's post

I decided to do the same for non-group blogs in the Technorati Top 100. I hadn't looked at the Top 100 in a while and was floored to realize that most of those blogs are group blogs and/or professional blogs (with "editors" and clear financial backing). Most are covered in advertisements and other things meant to make them money. It's very clear that their creators have worked hard to reach many eyes (for fame, power or money?).

  • All MSNSpaces users have a list of "Updated Spaces" that looks like a blogroll. It's not. It's a random list of 10 blogs on MSNSpaces that have been recently updated. As a result, without special code (like in Technorati), search engines get to see MSNSpace bloggers as connecting to lots of other blogs. This would create the impression of high network density between MSNSpaces which is inaccurate.
  • Few LiveJournals have a blogroll but almost all have a list of friends one click away. This is not considered by search tools that look only at the front page.
  • Blogrolls seem to be very common on politically-oriented blogs and always connect to blogs with similar political views (or to mainstream media).
  • Blogrolls by group blogging companies (like Weblogs, Inc.) always link to other blogs in the domain, using collective link power to help all.
  • Male bloggers who write about technology (particularly social software) seem to be the most likely to keep blogrolls. Their blogrolls tend be be dominantly male, even when few of the blogs they link to are about technology. I haven't found one with >25% female bloggers (and most seem to be closer to 10%).
  • On LJ (even though it doesn't count) and Xanga, there's a gender division in blogrolls whereby female bloggers have mostly female "friends" and vice versa.
  • I was also fascinated that most of the mommy bloggers that i met at Blogher link to Dooce (in Top 100) but Dooce links to no one. This seems to be true of a lot of topical sites - there's a consensus on who is in the "top" and everyone links to them but they link to no one.

Linking patterns:

  • The Top 100 tend to link to mainstream media, companies or websites (like Wikipedia, IMDB) more than to other blogs (Boing Boing is an exception).
  • Blogs on blogging services rarely link to blogs in the posts (even when they are talking about other friends who are in their blogroll or friends' list). It looks like there's a gender split in tool use; Mena said that LJ is like 75% female, while Typepad and Moveable Type have far fewer women.
  • Bloggers often talk about other people without linking to their blog (as though the audience would know the blog based on the person). For example, a blogger might talk about Halley Suitt's presence or comments at Blogher but never link to her. This is much rarer in the Top 100 who tend to link to people when they reference them.
  • Content type is correlated with link structure (personal blogs contain few links, politics blogs contain lots of links). There's a gender split in content type.
  • When bloggers link to another blog, it is more likely to be same gender.

I began this investigation curious about gender differences. There are a few things that we know in social networks. First, our social networks are frequently split by gender (from childhood on). Second, men tend to have large numbers of weak ties and women tend to have fewer, but stronger ties. This means that in traditional social networks, men tend to know far more people but not nearly as intimately as those women know. (This is a huge advantage for men in professional spheres but tends to wreak havoc when social support becomes more necessary and is often attributed to depression later in life.)

While blog linking tends to be gender-dependent, the number of links seems to be primarily correlated with content type and service. Of course, since content type and service are correlated by gender, gender is likely a secondary effect.
These services are definitely measuring something but what they're measuring is what their algorithms are designed to do, not necessarily influence or prestige or anything else. They're very effectively measuring the available link structure. The difficulty is that there is nothing consistent whatsoever with that link structure. There are disparate norms, varied uses of links and linking artifacts controlled by external sources (like the hosting company). There is power in defining the norms, but one should question whether or companies or collectives should define them. By squishing everyone into the same rule set so that something can be measured, the people behind an algorithm are exerting authority and power, not of the collective, but of their biased view of what should be. This is inherently why there's nothing neutral about an algorithm.

There is a lot of good stuff in the excerpts above and it would take an entire post or maybe a full article to go over all the gems in Danah's entry. One random but interesting point is that LiveJournal bloggers are penalized by systems such as the Technorati Top 100. For example, Jamie Zawinski has over 1900 people who link to him from their Friend's page in LiveJournal but he somehow doesn't make the cut for the Technorati Top 100. Maybe the fact that most of his popularity is within the LiveJournal community makes his "authority" less valid than others with less incoming links that are in the Technorati Top 100 list.

Yeah, right.


Yesterday while browsing comments on Slashdot I found a link to an article at LinuxToday on Tim O'Reilly's Open Letter: Rethinking the One-Click Patent which contains the following excerpt from a posting by Tim O'Reilly on the Amazon 1-Click patent controversy

People in many areas of commerce, not just on the Web but also TV and radio (as evidenced by some of our prior art submissions), have put a lot of thought into making the shopping experience quicker and easier. And yet none of these folks really managed to simplify it to the same degree that Amazon did with 1-Click. In the end, we did not have a winner, and it doesn't look as if the prior art submitted can "knock out" the 1-Click patent...So I want to offer Jeff something of an apology. At the same time, at the risk of appearing a "sore loser," I want to reiterate that my fundamental issue with Amazon was never the specific claims of the 1-Click patent. Even if Amazon did create a genuine e-commerce innovation, I maintain that it was still a mistake for them to patent it.

I remember the hubbub on Slashdot about Amazon's 1-Click patent and Tim O'Reilly's bounty for prior art but don't remember this ever getting posted. So it seems that despite all the claims of "obviousness" from the Slashdot crowd, no prior art could be found. I guess it is true that all innovations look obvious in hindsight.

Another interesting data point is this post on Slashdot about the various patent lawsuits Amazon is currently fighting. Lots of people like to polarize the debate about software patents but in truth the situation isn't as cut and dried as folks on either side of the debate like to make it seem.


If you like World of Warcraft and cute asian girls, and cheesy commercials, you will love this World of Warcraft Coke commercial from China.

Via tokyo-genki.com.  


I stumbled upon a blog post on Wil Wheaton's blog via Penny Arcade yesterday that I found interesting. It seems there was a recent threat of a strike by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) on behalf of voice actors in video games which got them improved pay. This seems to have led to somewhat of a backlash from some video game developers. Wil writes

Since I wrote about voice actors the other day, I've been personally attacked, called names, and vilified all over the Internets, often by people whose work I respect and admire.
It seems like many developers are angry with SAG because SAG stood up for its members, which is what a union is supposed to do. It just doesn't make any sense to me that SAG is being viewed with such animosity, just for doing its job. Actors represent less than 3% of the total budget on games, so it's incredibly unlikely that if SAG were able to make some residual gains, it would even affect developers' pay. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt that producers are going to tell developers that they can't afford to pay them, because actors are now taking up 4.5% or 5% of the budget.
I don't understand what developers gain by spending energy attacking SAG, when SAG is just doing what its membership expects it to do. As far as I can tell, voice actors and developers have the same ultimate goal, and I just don't get why developers are so angry with SAG for trying to reach that goal. It seems like a lot of developers and gamers are pissed at SAG because SAG has the ability to stand up to our employers and ask for better wages, and from an Art of War standpoint, that is an awfully huge waste of energy. It makes much more sense to me for developers to take that energy and those resources, point it at producers, and take the fight to them. Because, ultimately, getting angry at SAG, or me, or other working actors, isn't going to get developers better contracts or profit-sharing. All it's going to do is take focus away from the people who can make those things happen.

Given that video games seem to have the same hit-centric characteristics of movies and music I can see why there is the school of thought that expects developers to get a percentage of the take if it is a hit. I doubt the status quo will ever change without some organized effort on the part of video game developers.

The comments in response to Wil's post also contain some interesting viewpoints for and against his position. I was actually surprised that there was anything in his post to take offence at but people have a way of surprising me.


DHTML LemmingsTM is a faithful recreation of the classic computer game, Lemmings. I remember having lots of fun playing this on my Amiga over a decade ago. This was one of the most innovative games of the '90s.

Too bad clever puzzlers like Lemmings don't seem to be made anymore.


I was supposed to post this a month and a half ago but somehow never got around to it. Jon Pincus who organized the session put up his notes on the 20% time session at CFP 2005. It was a pretty interesting discussion, some of which is excerpted below

Some examples that started as 20% projects at Google include GMail, Google Suggests , Firefox prefetching, and various technology pieces that are used throughout Google's code base. At Microsoft, many of the Windows Power Toys had a similar genesis, and attendees thought that Apple's iPod may have had similar origins in a "part-time, on-the-side" project.

One question that came up repeatedly (in various forms) is "how does the company know that people aren't just goofing off?" The short-term answer comes down to trust (that is, the assumption is that most employees will do their best to use this time in ways that give value to the company); in the longer term, contributions from 20% time projects are considered as part of reviews, and so if you've wasted the time, it will come out at that point. [It was pointed out that trust in general reduces "transaction costs", and so can increase efficiency -- so that even if (say) 10% of employees are accomplishing absolutely nothing with this time, it still could be a big win not to have any monitoring overhead which would slow down the other 90%.]

Another question that came up a couple of times was how to manage the impact on schedules -- does this mean that all dates wind up 20% further out than they would otherwise? I don't think there was an explicit answer to this in the meeting, but several people pointed out that a large chunk of many engineers' days at a lot of companies goes to various kinds of not-specifically-product-related tasks (e.g., reading Slashdot); if that "breakage" is diverted into time on a 20% project, then the actual hit is much smaller.

Most of the discussion was devoted to discussing the reasons that this approach appears to work well at Google.

I personally think that creating a framework that encourages developers at a company to work on side projects is very rewarding for both the employees and the company. I don't know how I'd have dealt with some of the issues I had with being a cog in a [relatively] slowly moving corporate wheel if I didn't have RSS Bandit to work on in my previous job.  Now that it is a mature project that has seen hundreds of thousands of downloads since it started, I often end up talking to product teams working with RSS at Microsoft in an adviser role. I got something out of it and Microsoft got something out of it.

One of the questions that kept coming up during the session was how one measured 20% time and made sure employees weren't goofing off. The answer was that it isn't really about taking a day off every week, its more about factoring in the time that the person will spend on their side project into their work schedule. After all, no one has 20% of their time free just before shipping and then there are times when weeks go by with not a lot of work to do. 20% time is more about allowing developer employees to reclaim some of that slack in ways that may or may not benefit the company but would make them more satisfied with their day jobs.

Joe Beda mentioned that the fact that Google was a web application built around web services enabled people to quickly write interesting applications utilizing the data and processing power of their back end. Now that I work on the back end of various services at MSN I can see his point. It would be very interesting to see the kind of applications built if we encouraged people to go wild with the APIs behind applications like MSN Search, MSN Spaces, MSN Messenger, Hotmail, MSN Groups, Start.com, MyMSN and see what they could build in their spare time.  In fact, I've already seen one cool hack built on top of MSN Virtual Earth by some internal folks and it isn't even out yet. This is one of those things I'll definitely be evangelizing at work. Wish me luck. :)


If you are a geek, you may have heard of the Firefox extension called GreaseMonkey which lets you to add bits of DHTML ("user scripts") to any web page to change its design or behavior. This basically enables you to remix the Web and either add features to your favorite web sites or fix broken UI design.

Over the Memorial day weekend, I got the hookup on where to obtain a similar application for Internet Explorer named Trixie. Below are some excerpts from the Trixie website

What is a Trixie script?

Any Greasemonkey script is a Trixie script.  Though, due to differences between Firefox and Internet Explorer, not all Greasemonkey scripts can be executed within IE.  Trixie makes no attempt to allow Greasemonkey scripts to run unaltered, since it is best to have the script author account for the differences and have the script run on both browsers if he/she so chooses.

Refer to the excellent Greasemonkey documentation to learn how to write Greasemonkey/Trixie scripts.  Note that some of the information there won't be applicable to Internet Explorer and Trixie.

Installing Trixie

Trixie requires the Microsoft .NET framework to be installed.

To install Trixie, download and run TrixieSetup  (latest version: 0.2.0).  You should ideally close all instances of Internet Explorer before doing this.  By default, TrixieSetup installs Trixie to your Program Files\Bhelpuri\Trixie directory (you can of course change this location).  It also installs a few scripts to the Program Files\Bhelpuri\Trixie\Scripts directory.

Restart IE after installing Trixie.  Once you have restarted, go to the Tools menu.  You should see a menu item called "Trixie Options".  Selecting that will show you the list of scripts installed and which one's are enabled or disabled.

Once you have installed Trixie, you browse the Web just like you always do.  Trixie works in the background executing the scripts on the designated pages and customizing them to your needs.

I've been using Trixie for the past few days and so far it rocks. I also looked at the code via Reflector and it taught me a thing or two about writing browser plugins with C#. So far my favorite Trixie Script is the one that adds site statistics to an MSN Spaces blog when you view your own space.

It looks like I need to spend some time reading Dive Into Greasemonkey so I can write my own user scripts to fix annoyances in web sites I use frequently. Remix the web, indeed.

Update: It took me a few minutes to figure out why the project was called Trixie. If you're a Speed Racer fan, you probably figured it out after reading the second paragraph of this post. :)


 From the Business Week article, The World According to Ballmer

Clearly alluding to Microsoft's key Internet search rival, Ballmer said: "The hottest company right now -- the one nobody thinks can do any wrong -- may just be a one-hit wonder."

Actually Google is already at least a two hit wonder; AdSense/Adwords and the Google search engine. Given that revenues from AdSense are growing to match those from the Google website, it seems inevitable that in a few years it'll be more important to Google that they are the #1 ad provider on the Web not whether they are the #1 search engine.




In his post Reconsidering blogrolls (and what the heck are "folks", anyway?) Uche Ogbuji writes

In Shelley Powers entries "Ms Pancake" and "Let’s keep the Blogroll and throw away the writing", I've learned that there is some controversy about blogrolls. When I threw together Copia I tossed in a blogroll, which was just a random list of blogs I read. I hardly worried that the list would grow too long because I have limited time for reading blogs.

Shelley's posts made me think about the matter more carefully. To draw the basic lesson out of the long and cantankerous points in her blog entries (and comments), a blog is about communication, and in most cases communication within a circle (if an open and, one hopes, expanding one). Based on that line of thinking, Chime and I had a discussion and thought it would be best if rather than having a "blogroll" list of blogs we read, we had a list of other Weblogs with which we have some more direct and reciprocal connection. This includes people with whom we've had personal and professional relationships, and also people who have taken the time to engage us here on Copia. There is still some arbitrariness to this approach, and there is some risk of turning such a listing into the manifestation of a mutual back-slapping club, but it does feel more rightly to me. We do plan to post an OPML as a link on the page template, so people can check out what feeds we read (if they care); this feels the right compromise to me.

I was going to write a lengthy counterargument to the various posts by Shelley Powers about blogrolls then wondered whether the reason I even cared about this was that her writing had convinced Uche Ogbuji to drop me from his blogroll? Wouldn't I then be justifying some of the arguments against blogrolls? It's all so confusing...

While I'm still trying to figure this out, you should read Shelley's original post, Steve Levy, Dave Sifry, and NZ Bear: You are Hurting Us and see whether you think the arguments against blogrolls are as wrong as I think they are.


Phil Haack, who has helped out quite a bit with developing RSS Bandit, recently posted on a new project he is starting in his post Announcing Subtext, A Fork Of .TEXT For Your Blogging Pleasure. Phil writes

What is .TEXT?

.TEXT is a popular (among .NET loving geeks), scalable, and feature rich blogging engine started by Scott Watermasysk and released as an open source project under a BSD license . Scott did a wonderful job with .TEXT as evidenced by its widespread use among bloggers and being the blogging engine for http://blogs.msdn.com/ among others.

Sounds great. So why fork it?

There are several reasons I think a fork is waranted.

.TEXT is dead as an open source product.

.TEXT is dead as a BSD licensed open source project. Out of its ashes has risen Community Server which integrates a new version of the .TEXT source code with Forums and Photo Galleries. Community Server is now a product being sold by Telligent Systems . There is a non-commercial license available, but it requires displaying the telligent logo and restricts usage to non-commercial purposes. I'd prefer to use a blogging engine with an OSI approved license , in particular the BSD license works well for me.

I wish Phil luck with his new project. While on IM with Phil I mentioned that my experience with Open Source projects is that things work best when you have working code before announcing your project. In a recent post entitled Finding Discord in Harmony Charles Miller pointed that working code attracts people who want to code. Design documents attract people who want to talk about coding. I have found this to be very true. Another thing I pointed out was that he shouldn't be fooled by offers for help. With RSS Bandit, for every 100 or so people who offers to help, there are about 10 or so who come through with actual code then of those maybe 1 person who comes through with a substantial change.

I'm also glad to see that the .TEXT codebase isn't going to die. I've used Community Server briefly and I disliked it quite a bit. The main reason I stopped updating http://blogs.msdn.com/dareobasanjo is because they switched the site from .TEXT to Community Server which led to a number of small annoyances that piled up. The annoyances ranged from removing the login link from the blog page to sporting Atom 0.3 feeds which I've mentioned before is a sign of incompetence.

Competition is always good for users.


Every once in a while I find myself still having to check a few websites directly instead of reading them in my favorite RSS reader. The top 5 sites I still check by hand which I'd love to see get RSS feeds are

  1. The Latest Editorial Cartoons of Clay Bennett 
  2. Paul Graham's Essays
  3. The Misanthropic Bitch
  4. The Tucker Max Stories
  5. Malcolm Gladwell's Articles

What are your list of sites that should have RSS feeds but don't? Maybe we can get together and sign a petition. :)


May 2, 2005
@ 06:40 PM

Happy 50th birthday to Dave Winer. He is one of the few people in our industry to say that he has changed the world with the work he has done. From being one of the co-authors of the SOAP 1.1 specification and the author of the XML-RPC specification to being a key evangelist of the power of weblogging and RSS, Dave's impact has been felt across the world.

Dave and I have had our differences in the past (and probably still do now) but there are few people who I can point to in the software industry whose existence has been as much of a net positive to us all.


April 28, 2005
@ 08:06 AM

Below is a grab bag of mildly interesting stuff that I happened to come across while browsing various blogs in the MSN Spaces universe

  • Today is Bloggers 101. I've already seen a bunch of Spaces blogs where folks have posted 101 facts about themselves. So far I've liked Deadites: My 101.

  • A couple of folks are trying to have an MSN Spaces block party. I don't know how successful it's going to be but this is the kind of thing folks used to use Meetup.com for. If they can't have a party I hope they at least get enough people to have a blogger dinner.

  • According to the PubSub linkcounts page for yesterday the most linked domains in the blogosphere where http://storage.msn.com (367,042 links links from 13,577 sites) and http://spaces.msn.com (30,727 links from 7,539 sites). Not only are we growing to be the biggest blog hosting service on the Web but it looks like we are becoming the most active community as well.


Categories: Mindless Link Propagation | MSN

I recently stumbled on a post entitled The end of the quest for the perfect RSS reader which made my day. The author wrote

RSS readers have lately been appearing all over the place, however, until recently I wasn’t able to find the perfect one. My needs are not huge. I want a reader which can synchronize feeds and read posts between several PCs, have a useful and selectable notification mechanism so I don’t miss important news, but still don’t get bothered with less important ones, display feeds in a tree without favicons, be robust and fairly fast, provide descent search functionality and saved searches, flag news items for easy follow up and review.

I have tried most of the existing Windows and web based aggregators, and each one had some of these missing. I recently checked the new version of RSS Bandit and my quest for the perfect RSS reader seems to have come to an end. RSS Bandit features all I need and provides even more nice goodies like integrated Feedster and Google searches.

If you are not completely satisfied with your reader, give RSS Bandit a spin. You won’t regret it.

It's really good to see people getting so much use of my favorite RSS reader. Of course, there is still a lot of interesting stuff we'd like to add to make it even better. Check out the roadmap for the Nightcrawler release to see where we plan to go in the next release.

If you currently aren't an RSS Bandit user but would like to try it out, download the latest version from here.


Exhibit A: From The Submarine by Paul Graham

PR people fear bloggers for the same reason readers like them. And that means there may be a struggle ahead. As this new kind of writing draws readers away from traditional media, we should be prepared for whatever PR mutates into to compensate. When I think how hard PR firms work to score press hits in the traditional media, I can't imagine they'll work any less hard to feed stories to bloggers, if they can figure out how.

Exhibit B: From My Dinner With Microsoft's Jim Allchin in Thomas Hawk's weblog

Last night I had a unique opportunity to sit down with Jim Allchin, Microsoft’s Group Vice President for Platforms, for dinner along with a group of other bloggers and technologists and discuss the future development of Longhorn as well as see an early demo of the Longhorn technology firsthand.

Exhibit C: From A comment on Slashdot by Thomas Hawk about the dinner

I do feel that there is room in the world of journalism for hard news, op/ed and yes, openly biased writing where the blogger places him or her self as a participant in the news itself.

Was I thrilled to be having dinner with Allchin? Of course. I'm a huge Microsoft enthusiast. I have been an advocate of the digital home for many years and I think that Microsoft may represent our best chance possible of making the digital home of the future a reality.

Was I really enthused about Longhorn? Absolutely. From what I saw it was really was amazing. I spend hundreds of hours every year organizing digital media in front of all five of my Windows PCs. The technology that I saw will save me hundreds of hours of work going forward. This is really exciting to me at a personal level.


My mom is a journalist so I tend to take the responsibilities of the media very seriously. Unfortunately, I live in the United States where it seems the American media does not. An excellent description of the malaise that has spread across the American media landscape can be found in Laurie Garrett's memo to Newsday colleagues upon her resignation. She wrote

The deterioration we experienced at Newsday was hardly unique. All across America news organizations have been devoured by massive corporations, and allegiance to stockholders, the drive for higher share prices, and push for larger dividend returns trumps everything that the grunts in the newsrooms consider their missions. Long gone are the days of fast-talking, whiskey-swilling Murray Kempton peers eloquently filling columns with daily dish on government scandals, mobsters and police corruption. The sort of in-your-face challenge that the Fourth Estate once posed for politicians has been replaced by mud-slinging, lies and, where it ought not be, timidity. When I started out in journalism the newsrooms were still full of old guys with blue collar backgrounds who got genuinely indignant when the Governor lied or somebody turned off the heat on a poor person's apartment in mid-January. They cussed and yelled their ways through the day, took an occasional sly snort from a bottle in the bottom drawer of their desk and bit into news stories like packs of wild dogs, never letting go until they'd found and told the truth. If they hadn't been reporters most of those guys would have been cops or firefighters. It was just that way.

Now the blue collar has been fully replaced by white ones in America's newsrooms, everybody has college degrees. The "His Girl Friday" romance of the newshound is gone. All too many journalists seem to mistake scandal mongering for tenacious investigation, and far too many aspire to make themselves the story. When I think back to the old fellows who were retiring when I first arrived at Newsday — guys (almost all of them were guys) who had cop brothers and fathers working union jobs — I suspect most of them would be disgusted by what passes today for journalism. Theirs was not a perfect world — too white, too male, seen through a haze of cigarette smoke and Scotch — but it was an honest one rooted in mid-20th Century American working class values.

Honesty and tenacity (and for that matter, the working class) seem to have taken backseats to the sort of "snappy news", sensationalism, scandal-for-the-sake of scandal crap that sells. This is not a uniquely Tribune or even newspaper industry problem: this is true from the Atlanta mixing rooms of CNN to Sulzberger's offices in Times Square. Profits: that's what it's all about now. But you just can't realize annual profit returns of more than 30 percent by methodically laying out the truth in a dignified, accessible manner. And it's damned tough to find that truth every day with a mere skeleton crew of reporters and editors.

This is terrible for democracy. I have been in 47 states of the USA since 9/11, and I can attest to the horrible impact the deterioration of journalism has had on the national psyche. I have found America a place of great and confused fearfulness, in which cynically placed bits of misinformation (e.g. Cheney's, "If John Kerry had been President during the Cold War we would have had thermonuclear war.") fall on ears that absorb all, without filtration or fact-checking. Leading journalists have tried to defend their mission, pointing to the paucity of accurate, edited coverage found in blogs, internet sites, Fox-TV and talk radio. They argue that good old-fashioned newspaper editing is the key to providing America with credible information, forming the basis for wise voting and enlightened governance. But their claims have been undermined by Jayson Blair's blatant fabrications, Judy Miller's bogus weapons of mass destruction coverage, the media's inaccurate and inappropriate convictions of Wen Ho Lee, Richard Jewell and Steven Hatfill, CBS' failure to smell a con job regarding Bush's Texas Air Guard career and, sadly, so on.

What does it mean when even journalists consider comedian John [sic] -- "This is a fake news show, People!" -- Stewart one of the most reliable sources of "news"?

I'm surprised I haven't seen this letter floating around the blogosphere. Then again I don't read political blogs so for all I know this is last month's news. I suggest reading the entire letter, it is quite sobbering.


One of the things I have found most interesting about watching MSN Spaces over the past few months is seeing various communities beginning to form and watching regular people use their space to communicate that their thoughts and experiences with others. As with all communities there are the negative elements, various trolls who go around criticizing people's posts or who go around impersonating others in various comments.

Another interesting trend I've seen in a couple of spaces is a some resentment from adults that there are so many teenagers using MSN Spaces. The most significant manifestation of this being the Space titled Are you looking for adults and their spaces? where one enterprising MSN Spaces user has begun cataloguing various spaces whose authors are 18 and over.

Among the spaces listed on that page are a couple of my favorites. A few of the hundreds of spaces I've found interesting since the beta launch are below

What I like most about these Spaces is that their content is [mostly] not what you find in the Technorati Top 100 list which is dominated by men talking about technology and politics or women talking about sex. The above spaces just have regular people sharing the interesting and the mundane in their lives which sometimes do involve technology, politics and sex.

Perhaps it's the rise of reality TV that's made me find such spaces so very interesting. Of course, if you want technical content you can always check out the spaces of John Kountz or Scott Issacs.


Categories: Mindless Link Propagation | MSN

Shelley Powers has written an amusing post about the Google AutoLink saga entitled Guys Dont Link which like all good satire is funny because it is true. Usually I'd provide an excerpt of the linked post but this post has to be read in its entirety to get the full effect.



For Her and For Him. Too bad I found about these after I got my gifts. I guess there's always next year.


February 10, 2005
@ 02:01 PM

Just saw Iran Promises 'Burning Hell' for Any Aggressor and N.Korea Says It Has Nuclear Arms, Spurns Talks. Looks like the world woke up on the wrong side of bed.


February 9, 2005
@ 12:27 PM

Abbie, who is one of the coolest MSN Spaces users around, has a posted a collection of links to various posts showing how to get extra mileage out of MSN Spaces. Check out her post MSN Spaces Tips, Tricks, Gods and More . Some of my favorite links from her page include

Alerts For Your Space - want to set up alerts are learn how they work? Read here!

Edit It! Button - Scott's trick for obtaining additional blog editing features.

Guide to Trackbacks - What are trackbacks and how do you use them?

Edit! Help for FireFox Users - Some editing perks for your FireFox users.

Understanding Layout Customization - Learn your way around customizing your Space.

Minimizing Content Spam - Great post by Mike regarding spam in your Space.

Podcasting Your Space - Great information on how to set up your own podcast of your Space

Deleting Your Space - What really happens when you delete your Space?

Take Too Long and Lose It - Did you know you could lose your post if you take too long to type it out?  Read and learn how to prevent it.

Add A GuestBook - a unique way to add a guestbook to your Space

Give Your FeedBack and Ideas for Spaces - Have an idea for Spaces? Get it heard here!

Who Owns Your Spaces Content - a small but great FYI post regarding your content

There is at least one neat trick that Abbie missed from her list. Jim Horne shows how to embed audio and video into a blog post on a Space. Excellent.


Categories: Mindless Link Propagation | MSN

C|Net News has an interview with Bill Gates entitled Gates taking a seat in your den. One of his most interesting answers from my perspective was his take on Microsoft and blogging. The question and his answer are excerpted below

One of the big phenomena of the year has been Web logging. Has the growth surprised you?

Well, actually I think the biggest blogging statistic I know, which really blew me away, is that we've got close to a million people setting up blogs with the Spaces capability that's connected up to Messenger.

Now, with blogs, you always have to be careful. The decay rate of "I started and I stopped" or "I started and nobody visited" is fairly high, but as RSS (Really Simple Syndication) has gotten more sophisticated and value-added search capabilities have come along, this thing is really maturing.

And we've done some things in Japan and Korea that are unique blog experiments. The Spaces thing is a worldwide effort. It's a great phenomena, and it's sort of built on e-mail, and so we need to integrate more blogging capability into the e-mail world--and as we do the next generation of Outlook, you'll see that. We need to integrate it more into our SharePoint, which is our collaboration Office platform, and then, as I discussed, MSN is embracing it so that instead of thinking about, "OK, I go to one community to do photos, one community to do social networking, one community to do this," we say, "Hey," off of Messenger, which has got your buddy list already, then, "Let's let you do the photos and the social networking and everything--but starting in an integrated way off of Messenger."

I also have been quite impressed by our signup rate, it has totally exceeded expectations. As BillG says above, we at MSN have been thinking a lot about the problems facing the existing social software landscape and how we can create the best place on the Web for people to communicate, share their experiences and interact with friends, family and strangers who may one day become friends or family. You guys haven't seen anything yet.

It's going to be a fun ride.

Categories: Mindless Link Propagation | MSN

I was quite surprised to find out that my blog was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. For those that don't have a WSJ subscription below is an excerpt of the story (***fair use***)

The rivalry between Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. has been heating up since the Redmond, Wash., software behemoth last year unveiled its own search-engine technology. But tension between the two recently flared amid an online scrap about Google's use of open-source software.

The scuffle started with a Dec. 29 Web log post by Krzysztof Kowalczyk entitled "Google -- we take it all, give nothing back," in which the former Microsoft employee accused Google of freeloading. Mr. Kowalczyk, who now works at PalmOne Inc., cited a blog post by Google executive -- and former Microsoft staffer himself -- Adam Bosworth in which Mr. Bosworth called for open-source programmers to build better database software that Google and other big companies could use.

Mr. Kowalczyk wrote in his blog that Google gets an estimated tens of millions of dollars worth of software for free thanks to open-source developers, who release their programs without charge. And he alleged that Google gives little back to open source in return: "Microsoft creates more open-source code than Google." Microsoft staffer Dare Obasanjo excerpted portions of Mr. Kowalczyk's post on his personal blog and also took issue with at least one element of Mr. Bosworth's blogged response.

Mr. Bosworth fired back, posting in the comments section of Mr. Obasanjo's blog. "For Microsoft to condemn those of us who benefit from Open Source is rich," he wrote.

Spokesmen for Google and Microsoft declined to comment on the exchange. The Microsoft spokesman said the company "treats blogs as individuals expressing their independent opinion."

For those who missed the discussion and the original posts you can find them in my work blog in the posts entitled  Google and Open Source and More on Google and Open Source.


January 2, 2005
@ 04:20 AM

In response to Krzysztof Kowalczyk's post entitled Google - we take it all, give nothing back and some of the responses to that post, Adam Bosworth has fired off a missive entitled We all stand on the shoulders of giants. He writes

Recently I pointed out that databases aren't evolving ideally for the needs of modern services and customers who which must support change and massive scale without downtime. This post was savaged by an odd alliance; the shrill invective of the Microsoft apparachiks perhaps sensing an opportunity to take the focus away from Ballmer's remorseless attack on all that is not Microsoft (but most especially on Open Source) and certain Open Source denizens themselves who see fit to attack Google for not "giving back" enough apparently unaware that all software benefits in almost infinite measure from that which comes before. As usual the extremes find common ground in a position that ignores common sense, reason, and civility.
It would seem that these cacophonous critics, yammering about giving back and sweepingly ignoring the 100's of billions of times people use and appreciate what Google gives them for free every day from Search to Scholar to Blogger to gMail to Picasa, do not understand this basic fact.

It seems Adam Bosworth's position is that Google gives back to the Open Source community by not charging for accessing Google or Blogger. This seems to imply that advertising supported services like MSN Search, Hotmail and MSN Spaces are some sort of charity as opposed to the businesses they actually are.

Mr. Bosworth's statements seem to make a number of the observations made by Krzysztof Kowalczyk in his recent post Google - comments on comments more interesting. Krzysztof wrote

More importantly, Chris DiBona, formerly a Slashdot editor and contributor to a book on open source, now a Google employee, calls me ignorant and lazy for not knowing about Google’s open source contributions.

Maybe I am. However:

  • I do follow my share of open source projects (a bad addiction, really) and I’ve never seen a Google employee participating in them. Which, of course, proves nothing but one data point is better than zero.
  • I did ask on my weblog for pointers to Google’s contributions. Despite temporary popularity of my blog, no-one sent me any.
  • I’ve read all the weblog posts commenting on my piece and no-one else in blogosphere was any less ignorant or lazy.

All that leads me to believe that Google’s contribution, if not a mythical creature, is not that easy to find.

Chris promises a list of Google’s contributions in “coming months". I would rather have it now. The good thing about promising to do something months from today is that you don’t have to do it. You can just rely on the fact that everybody will forget that you’ve made such promise.

I think no additional commentary is necessary. Krzysztof's post and Adam's response speak for themselves.


December 30, 2004
@ 08:38 PM

In Adam Bosworth's post Where have all the good databases gone he asks the Open Source community to target some problems with relational databases that the Big 3 vendors have seemingly been unable to solve.

Krzysztof Kowalczyk has an interesting response to Adam Bosworth's post entitled Google - we take it all, give nothing back where he writes

Open-source - not working as advertised.

The popular theory ("myth” would be a better name) is that open-source works because of this positive feedback loop:

  • source code for product foo is released
  • it’s free so it gets used
  • if it doesn’t fully meet someone’s needs, that someone can code the functionality (since the code is open) and submit the changes back to project (something not possible if you use closed products like Windows or Office or Google)

  • those contributions improve the product for everyone else, so more people use it so more people contribute the code and so on. Sky is hardly the limit.

The good thing in this theory is that it doesn’t rely on kindness of strangers but on englightened self-interest of those who benefit from free software. The bad thing about this theory is that in theory it works much better than in practice.

It’s all because of a weblog post by Google’s Adam Bosworth. Read it yourself, but the gist of it is that, according to Adam, commercial database vendors don’t understand the needs of companies like Google or Amazon or Federal Express. Relational database rely on static schemas and there are no good ways to dynamically reconfigure databases without the disruption in service. Adam ends with a plea to open-source fairy:

My message is to the Open Source community that has, so ably, built LAMP (Linux, Apache and Tomcat and MySQL and PHP and PERL and Python). Please finish the job. Do for databases what you did for web servers. Give us dynamism and robustness. Give us systems that scale linearly, are flexible and dynamically reconfigurable and load balanced and easy to use.

This is why the theory of open source doesn’t work in real world. A multi-billion company has a clear need for software that works well for them but instead of investing in existing open-source projects like PostgreSQL or MySQL to make them do what they need, all they do is ask some magic, undefined entity they call Open Source community to do the work for them. For free.

Google - we take it all, give nothing back. Come work for us.

Let’s estimate how much money did Google save by using open source software that they would otherwise have to purchase. The operating system for tens of thousands of their computers. Web servers they use. All the Unix utilities they use. Editors, compilers and debuggers they use to write their code. E-mail smtp server. E-mail pop servers. Languages like Perl and Python. Databases like MySQL and PostgreSQL. It’s safe to say that if Richard Stallman was never born, the licenses for those kinds of software would cost them tens of millions of dollars.

And what does Google contribute back? Where are their patches to gcc, gdb, python, postgresql, sendmail, emacs?

Google - we leave open-source to Microsoft. Come work for us.

It’s very ironic that I can find more open-source code created by Microsoft and its employees ( RSS Bandit, IronPython, Windows Installer XML (WiX), FlexWiki) than by Google employees. Not saying that there aren’t any but they are certainly not easy to find, even when I use mighty search engine trying to find google open-source.

Google - we like our hardware cheap and our software free. Come work for us.

If you’re into this stuff you know that Google is known for it’s highly tuned process of selecting hardware components (i.e. all those thousands of computers they need to index and store the web) to hit the best price/performance ratio. In a way, they use the cheapest thing, when you define the cost as the total cost of ownership (as opposed to simply the cost of buying the hardware). Thanks to Adam’s admision:

Indeed, in these days of open source, I wonder if the software itself, should cost at all?

we also know, that they like their software free.

As a side note, it’s a surprising statement coming from Adam who knows very well that writing software costs a lot. Open-source doesn’t eliminate this cost, it just shift the costs and allows unlimited number of free-riders, like Google.

I’m picking on Google, but they are not alone. Amazon, yahoo, ebay, aol. Any large business that uses web as means of providing services and making revenues is enjoying enormous savings by using open source stack on their back end. And what do they contribute back? A good approximation of zero compared to benefits they reap.
But Adam’s example shows that there’s a fat chance of this happening. Adam is not a rank Google employee. He was not hired to give free massage to stressed Google employees. Before Google Adam was a high-ranked executive at Microsoft and BEA. He led teams that created successful products (IE, Access among them). He’s in position to influence what Google does. He understands technology, he understand the cost and difficulty of making software. He has a weblog and deep thoughts. If only he understood the strategic value of open source.

If someone like Adam cannot see further than the tip of his own nose and his ideas are as bold as asking others to write the software he needs for free, then I don’t have much hope for anyone at aol to get it either.

Google - do no Evil. Do no Good. Just like everybody else. Come work for us.
In those days of focus on corporate profits (where there any other days?), Google’s motto “Do no Evil” is refreshing.

Or is it? It’s a nice soundbite, but when you think about it, it’s really a low requirement. There are very little things that deserve to be called Evil. If a senior citizen is taking a nap outside his house on a sunny day and you kick him in the groin - that’s Evil. Most other things are bad or neutral. Not doing Evil is easy. Doing Good is the hard thing.

I doubt that this is the kind of response that Adam Bosworth was expecting when he posted his plea. The fun thing about corporate blogs is that it gives people more places to read between the lines and learn how a company really thinks. I suspect this is why Google doesn't have many authentic bloggers and instead has favored the press release page masquerading as group blog approach at http://www.google.com/googleblog/.


December 27, 2004
@ 03:58 AM

I tend to think it takes a lot of insensitivity to stun me but it seems like I was incorrect. I was taken aback by Robert Scoble's post entitled Where's the blogosphere on first-hand earthquake reports? where he writes

By the way, PubSub really rocks (it lets you search blogs only and build an RSS feed so you can watch a specific search term over time -- something none of the big three search engines let you do). My posts only took a few minutes to start showing up in the earthquake feed I built. There's remarkably little blogging going on about the earthquake.

It's really disappointing. Citizen Journalism is really failing here. Almost no first-hand reports.

The mainstream press kicked the blogosphere's a##.

This is probably one of the most insensitive and unthinking posts I've seen in a while. A giant tidal wave kills over twelve thousand people and Robert Scoble's first instinct is to complain because none of the survivors rushed to their blogs immediately afterwards to post about it.



Jim Hill has a post where he comments on Michael Eisner's management methods as Disney CEO in his post What does a Yeti smell like?  where he writes

Michael Eisner is a micro-manager. Now, I know that that's not exactly a late breaking story. But I think that it's important to understand how truly obsessive Disney's CEO can be when it comes to getting the details at the company's theme parks just right.

Take -- for example -- the Dolphin Resort Hotel. When Eisner wasn't entirely convinced that the giant banana leaves that architect Michael Graves wanted to paint on the sides of this resort would actually look good, Disney's CEO ordered that a huge sample leaf be painted on the backside of Epcot's Mexico pavilion. Just so he could see if this particular design element would look good when it was done to full scale.

But Michael's almost-insane attention to detail doesn't just stop at just the outside of Disney's resorts. Oh, no. After all, for years now, Eisner has insisted that -- before he signs off on the construction of any new WDW hotel -- that a sample room from this proposed resort be prepared. One that features all the furnishings that guests will actually be using in this hotel.

This sample room used to be located in a backstage area at the Caribbean Beach Resort. I've actually seen photos of this squat square structure back when the Imagineers were testing design elements for the All Star Music Resort. Which is why these pictures feature a giant sample maraca leaning against this tiny brightly painting building.

As for the other part of this story ... That Michael reportedly insists on sleeping in each of these sample rooms before he will actually allow construction of the proposed resort to go forward ... That part, I've never been able to prove.

Although Jim Hill's intention is to paint Michael Eisner in a negative light with these examples I'm not sure I necessarily see them as being bad practices. Personally, I'd love it if I heard that Steve Ballmer (the CEO of the company that employs me) wouldn't allow Microsoft to ship a copy of Microsoft Money until he'd used it to manage his finances with relative success or that no MSN Direct SmartWatches should go out until he'd succesfully used one as his personal timepiece for a month or that no release of Internet Explorer would be shipped until he could browse any site on the Web without fear of his computer being taken over by spyware. Of course, I don't expect this to ever happen even if Steve Ballmer wanted to do this Microsoft ships too many products to introduce such a bottleneck in the product development process.

I do know people who've had VPs take personal interest in their products that have ended up disliking that level of scrutiny. One person even commented "Whenever I see a VP asking some nitpicky questions about one of my features, I wonder to myself why he's trying to micromanage my features instead of trying to figure out how to get our stock price out of the flat funk its been in for the past few years". Different strokes for different folks I guess. :)


December 24, 2004
@ 02:38 AM

Mark Fussell, my former boss, has a post entitled Smart Watch Frustration - A Christmas tale of where he talks about the various problems he's had with an MSN Direct SmartWatch. He writes  

  • I wander into the company store and excitedly purchase a Fossil FX-3001 at the end of Dec 2003. I have to wait 4 weeks before I receive it, so it was a belated christmas present.
  • I receive watch one in Jan, the plastic/metal carton nearly kills me, but I activate it and procede to continuously show my work mates how great it is and how I know exaclty where to be for my next meeting.
  • End of Jan 2004 - watch one goes blank and stops working entirely. Not a hint of life. I send it to the Fossil repair center. 
  • Feb 2004 - Get new watch two, register it, continue to enjoy it and proudly show it off again, especially to Arpan, who desparately wants one. 
  • Feb 2004 - Watch two starts to reset on an hourly basis to 12pm 1/1/2001, rendering it useless. I send it to the Fossil repair center again.
  • March 2004 - Get new watch three, register it and enjoy it and tentively showing it off. By now everyone is uninterested in it.
  • May 2004 - Watch starts to reset on a 2-3 hourly basis. Worse still I start to tell people the wrong time and cause confusing including one old lady in the street who asked my the time and then argued that I was wrong. I should have agreed with her. 
  • May 2004 - Nov 2004 - I suffer watch three.Whilst it is in a good reception area (i.e. around my home) it works Ok. If I go anywhere out of reception range (i.e. the steel buildings at work, 20 miles north of my house or the UK) the watch becomes immediately useless, resetting to 12pm 1/1/2001 continuously. i.e. it is not even a watch.
  • Nov 2004 - I give up. I send watch three to the Fossil repair center having spent 30 minutes on the phone with a technican trying to "fix" it.
  • Dec 2004 - Get new watch four which is a new design, the FX-3005. The clasp must have been invented by someone from the Spanish Inquisition and it takes me about 10 minutes to figure out how to open and close it. I take watch four out of its brand new box and set it onto the charger. There is no comforting "beep" to indicate that it is charging. I spend 1 hour trying every combination and position on the charger. The next day I speak to the Fossil technical help desk and they determine, as I did the night before, that watch four is a lifeless heap of metal and plastic.  I sent it to the Fossil repair center.
  • Dec 22nd 2004 - I recieve watch five which is also a new FX-3005. Curiously this one is not in a new box and is simply wrapped in bubble wrap. I take it out and note that it is ready charged, but at least it is working, being careful not to slash my wrist with the dangerous metal clasp. I leave it to charge overnight and sync my personal settings.
  • Dec23rd - In the morning I note that it still has not synced my settings, so I go to register the watch ID on the MSD Direct site. Worringly it replies that this watch is already registered. No problem, I phone MSN Direct. To cut a 40 minute conversation short, I am told to 'reboot' the watch by continuously pressing three painful buttons (it takes 9 attempts)  to generate a new 'dynamic' ID for the watch. It turns out that this is all in futility. And here is the crux. This watch was previously owned(by the ID) and the icing on the cake is that the ID cannot be reset and assigned to my account. I am told by the help desk that the only thing that I can do is send it back to the Fossil repair center. Aaaaargh.Aaaaargh.Aaaaargh
  • I witnessed a lot of this first hand and I was stunned at how problematic these watches were for Mark. The initial lure of the SmartWatch to Mark was having a useful, internet-connected device that would automatically track his schedule as well as keep up with news and sports scores. I also had a need for such a decide but decided to go with a SmartPhone instead.


    So far my AudioVox SMT 5600 has worked like a charm. It's a phone, a camera, it syncs with Outlook wirelessly so I always have an up to date email and calendar, it tracks traffic density, it can be used to catch up on news when I'm bored while I'm stuck waiting somewhere, and I've even used it to hit Google once or twice while on the go. Plus the form factor is all that and a bag of chips.


    I should to talk Mark into giving up on the SmartWatches and going for a SmartPhone instead.



    According to an article entitled 50 Cent Involved In Scuffle At Airport In Nigeria on AllHipHop.com 

    American Hip-Hop star 50 Cent was engaged in a scuffle with the entourage of another rapper in a Lagos, Nigeria airport last night. 50 Cent was in the African nation taking part in the annual Star Mega Jam, which brings top name talent to perform along side popular Nigerian artists.

    The incident started in an airplane belonging to the Aviation Development Company, before an aborted trip to Port Harcourt for a final performance. Eyewitnesses stated that Nigerian rapper Eedris Abdulkareem attempted to sit in a seat reserved for the internationally known 50 Cent, but was prevented from doing so.Abdulkareem’s entourage protested, resulting in a brawl inside the airplane.The scuffle carried on to the tarmac of the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammad Airport, drawing the attention of employee’s and other passengers.

    The rapper left without completing the performance due to the incident.

    That's kinda messed up. I'm just glad this happened after my mom got 50's autograph when she interviewed him.  


    In Jeremy Zawodney's post Are bloggers really that dumb? he writes

    I'm not sure if I should be insulted, disappointed, or both. There's a lot of noise out there right now about some dummy data that ended up the Target.com website. Steve Rubel goes so far as to call this a PR crisis in the blogosphere. Even Scoble is complaining.

    Jesus Fu@%ing Christ, people. It's a stupid mistake. Are we too screwed up to realize that companies are composed of people and that people sometimes make mistakes? I don't know about you, but I see really big differences between this and the Kryptonite "pick a lock with a ball point pen" crisis. (Hint: It actually was a crisis.)

    Any regular reader of Boing Boing has seen this issue before. First it was the Target sells "anal massage" hubbub which turned out to be the result of the fact that Target.com basically mirrors content from Amazon.com but leaves off significant identifying information. Now it's the fact that Target.com is mirroring the page for the book 'Marijuana' published by Rosen Publishing. I guess bloggers are hungry to be the next one who discovers a scandal as juicy as the Trent Lott or Dan Rather fiascos.


    I just noticed the eWeek article MSN Hotmail Nears Storage Finish Line which reports

    Microsoft Corp.'s Internet division on Thursday started offering 250 MB of storage to new users of free Hotmail accounts in the United States and eight other countries. New accounts previously received 2MB of storage. As for current Hotmail users, the majority has gained the added storage and the rest will be upgraded over the next few weeks, said Brooke Richardson, MSN lead product manager. Hotmail has about 187 million customers worldwide.
    New Hotmail users will get the storage in two steps. They first will receive 25MB of e-mail storage as MSN verifies that the accounts are for legitimate senders of e-mail and not spammers, Richardson said. After 30 days, they will gain the full 250MB of storage.

    The increased storage also comes with an increase in the maximum attachment size to 10MB for free accounts.

    A new photo-sharing feature in Hotmail lets users browse thumbnails of digital images and include multiple photos in an e-mail with one click, Richardson said. The feature also compressed the image files.

    The article doesn't mention the eight other countries where the large Hotmail inbox feature has been deployed, they are the U.K., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain.

    I am curious as to how much of a deterrent the 30 day waiting period will be to spammers. You'd think that using CAPTCHA technologies to prevent automated sign ups would get rid of most spammers but it seems like they are still a problem.


    Categories: Mindless Link Propagation | MSN

    November 16, 2004
    @ 06:56 AM

    I picked up a copy of Halo 2 from the Microsoft company store last week. It's definitely a great game but nothing revolutionary. It's the original Halo with more guns where you also get to play as one of the Covenant in campaign mode. The graphics are excellent, the sound is great and the gameplay is about the same. The outdoor levels where you ride around on a Warthog are just as cool as before and the treks around the mazes in the indoor levels also tend to get just as repetitive as before. The game truly shines in multiplayer mode and may be the incentive for me finally setting up XBox Live at home given that the kit has been sitting on my cofee table for about half a year.

    I also picked up the AudioVox SMT 5600 last week. I've wanted a Windows Smartphone for months because I'd gotten to the point where having access to my Outlook inbox and calendar on the go was becoming more and more necessary. I picked the AudioVox 5600 based on some favorable comments from Robert Scoble which were echoed by someone from the MSN Messenger team during an impromptu cross team meeting. I totally love the phone and take back all the snide comments I used to make about folks like Russell Beattie who are always singing the praises of mobile phones that do more than make voice calls. I even used the camera on my phone today while sight seeing in Washington, DC. However, unlike Scoble and my new boss I don't see this phone or anything like it replacing my iPod anytime soon.

    That's two Microsoft-related personal purchases that I'd heartily recommend to a friend. Excellent.


    November 10, 2004
    @ 06:00 AM

    A comment in Slashdot pointed out to me that it's been a day full of good news. On this day we find out that

    1. Halo 2 Released
    2. Firefox 1.0 Released
    3. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft Resigns

    The last one is spectacularly good news [unless he is nominated as a Supreme Court Justice].


    November 3, 2004
    @ 05:45 PM

    According to the CTV article Election voter turnout highest in 30 years 

    About 120 million people cast ballots, or just under 60 percent of eligible voters — the highest percentage turnout since 1968, said Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate.

    In the 2000 election, when Republican George W. Bush squeaked out a win over Democrat Al Gore, slightly more than 54 per cent of eligible voters, or about 105.4 million, voted.

    Gans said the modern record for voter turnout was 1960, when 65 per cent of those eligible cast ballots to back Democrat John Kennedy over Republican Richard Nixon.

    More detailed figures were expected later Wednesday.

    Still, despite the high turnout, 2004 did not prove to be a breakout year for young voters.

    Exit polls indicated that fewer than one in 10 voters who came out on Tuesday were 18 to 24. That's about the same proportion of the electorate as in 2000.

    It looks like P. Diddy's Vote Or Die campaign didn't get the MTV demographic out after all. However I was quite amused to see him as one of the election pundits on MSNBC last night.


    October 22, 2004
    @ 05:01 AM

    It's hard to tell the headlines Google misses earnings expectations and Google's 3Q Profit More Than Doubles  are about the same occurence. I guess it's all about perspective. The market seems to be taking the half full approach seeing as GOOG jumped by $8.89 to close at $149.38.

    Even more impressive is that it is trading at $161.79 in after hours trading. And I thought the original IPO price of $135 was excessive. Dang.


    October 3, 2004
    @ 06:10 PM

    I just came up on some invites for Wallop a couple of days ago but have been too busy with work to explore it so far. I have about half a dozen invites to give away but don't have any friends who I think would use the system enough to give Lili and co the sort of feedback they want for their research project. If you are a friend of mine who would be interested in exploring and using Wallop then ping me over email or respond to this blog posting.

    By the way if you are curious about what Wallop is, the quick description of the project is

    is a research project of the Social Computing Group at Microsoft Research, exploring how people share media and build conversations in the context of social networks. 

    With any luck I'll get a chance to explore Wallop over the next few days and perhaps will post my thoughts on how the experience compares to other online communities targetted at the same niche.


    September 6, 2004
    @ 01:02 AM

    According to HipHopGame.com Young Buck To 'Stomp' Out Luda/ T.I. Beef On Debut Album

    If you have a mixtape featuring "Stomp," Young Buck's posse cut with T.I. and Ludacris, hold onto it. It's a collector's item. The track as we know it, with Cris and Tip battling each other, isn't going to be included on Buck's upcoming Straight Outta Cashville LP. Instead, a remix is going on the album, with newcomer D-Tay replacing T.I.
    Buck says he asked 50 Cent to reach out to T.I. for a collaboration for Straight Outta Cashville. 50 obliged, and the track was sent to Atlanta for T.I. to rhyme on. Buck said he was surprised when the song came back with the line "And me getting beat down, that's ludicrous," because he didn't know if was a dis or not.

    "I was hearing on the streets that [T.I.] and Luda be having problems with each other, and I know I just did a song with Luda's group about a week or two before," Buck elaborated. "Me and Luda are cool. To be all the way honest, I'd known Luda before I knew T.I., so I couldn't just jump on this record and have them having differences with each other, and then [have Luda] be like, 'Yo, Buck, what's up?' "

    Staying diplomatic, Buck talked the situation over with Cris and even played T.I.'s verse for him. Ludacris confirmed that the two had been going back and forth, and he wanted to get on the song and speak his piece.

    "I even got at T.I. like, 'Yo, Luda heard this record. He wanna jump on the record,' " Buck explained, "just to make sure all the feelings and everything would stay the same way. And he was like, 'Oh, I'm cool. I'm cool with it.' "

    So Ludacris laced "Stomp" with his own battle raps, and the streets have been talking ever since.

    T.I. and Cris have apparently now squashed their beef, Buck said, but controversy still surrounds the song. According to Buck, T.I.'s camp requested that Ludacris change his verse before they clear Tip to be on the album. (A T.I. spokesperson had no comment on that.) The G-Unit soldier said Cris has refused.

    "Even throughout the song, you don't hear either one talking about killing each other," Buck lamented.

    I'm not surprised Ludacris didn't want his rhymes removed. He totally schooled T.I. on that track. It's also a statement as to who is the bigger star that Luda's verses stay but T.I.'s will be removed given the standoff between both rappers. The track is hot, too bad it won't be making it onto the album.

    By the way, Young Buck is wrong about them not talking about killing each other though.  T.I.s verse ends with When the choppers hit you bitch, you'll wish you got your ass stomped.


    From a Sports Ilustrated Article entitled Iraqi soccer players angered by Bush campaign ads 

    Afterward, Sadir had a message for U.S. president George W. Bush, who is using the Iraqi Olympic team in his latest re-election campaign advertisements. In those spots, the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan appear as a narrator says, "At this Olympics there will be two more free nations -- and two fewer terrorist regimes."

    (To see the ad, click here.)

    "Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign," Sadir told SI.com through a translator, speaking calmly and directly. "He can find another way to advertise himself."

    Ahmed Manajid, who played as a midfielder on Wednesday, had an even stronger response when asked about Bush's TV advertisement. "How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?" Manajid told me. "He has committed so many crimes."

    "The ad simply talks about President Bush's optimism and how democracy has triumphed over terror," said Scott Stanzel, a spokesperson for Bush's campaign. "Twenty-five million people in Iraq are free as a result of the actions of the coalition."

    To a man, members of the Iraqi Olympic delegation say they are glad that former Olympic committee head Uday Hussein, who was responsible for the serial torture of Iraqi athletes and was killed four months after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003, is no longer in power.

    But they also find it offensive that Bush is using Iraq for his own gain when they do not support his administration's actions. "My problems are not with the American people," says Iraqi soccer coach Adnan Hamad. "They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?"

    I find the We had to destroy the village to save it mentality an interesting and perhaps uniquely American perspective.  Based on some of the comments in my post So Why Are You Voting For George W Bush? it seems there are still people who feel the financial and human cost of the war in Iraq was worth it both for selfish reasons (it distracts Islamic terrorists who'd probably be focusing on attacking the American mainland) and for the fact that the war has made the Iraqi people "better off" despite the fact that many of them have gone from living in a relatively stable country to living in a bombed out warzone. This is a very interesting peek into the American psyche.

    UPDATE: Based on some of the comments to this entry I decided to further clarify what I find so interesting. After it became clear that there were no WMDs in Iraq or strong ties to Al-Qaeda and 9/11 the reaction to this from the Bush Administration and American people could have been regret and sorrow (”I can't believe we killed thousands of civilians and spent billions of dollars without just cause”). Instead the Bush administration and certain portions of the American public instead have have reacted by stating that this invasion is actually good for Iraq and America should be commended for rescuing the Iraqi people. The reaction and the mentality behind it aren't what I'd expect after such a significant folly. Of course, history will be the judge of whether the current belief that America's interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq will improve the lives of the people of these nations for future generations.


    Anders Norås has an interesting blog entry entitled A JavaScript XmlSerializer where he shows how to build a class equivalent to the .NET Framework's System.Xml.Serialization.XmlSerializer class in Javascript. He writes

    In ASP.NET 2.0 it is possible to invoke server events from client side script without posting back the page. This is supported through a new mechanism called script callbacks. For more information on this technology, read Dino Espositio’s excellent “Cutting Edge” article on the subject.

    Mostly out-of-band calls have been used with fairly simple return values such as strings and numerals. The “advanced” uses have typically been passing arrays as comma separated lists. This has greatly limited the applicability of the technology and created a wide functionality gap between the object oriented programming environment of the server world and the more primitive environment in the browser...

    A JavaScript XmlSerializer

    One of the most celebrated classes in the .NET framework is the XmlSerializer class. This class enables you to serialize objects into XML documents and deserialize XML documents into objects. As we all know, XML documents are represented as strings, so it is simple to pass an XML document as either a parameter or a return value on an out-of-band call.

    By implementing a client side XML based serialization and deserialization it would be possible to pass an object from a client script to a server method and vice versa. There are of course huge differences between the powerful .NET platform and the simple JavaScript language, but these have little impact on a client to server communications channel as it would only make sense to pass data transfer objects.

    Definitely an interesting bit of code. What is also very interesting is that he has a previous article entitled Declarative JavaScript programming where he implements metadata annotations (akin to .NET Framework attributes) for Javascript. Excellent stuff.


    August 12, 2004
    @ 03:27 AM

    From the post entitled XP Lite. Seriously... they cannot be serious....  on Gerry Steele's weblog

    BBC News Xp Lite
    Forbes.com XP Lite System
    From the horse's mouth

    Perhaps I'm a little late on picking this up, but at our last weekly meeting a colleague mentioned "XP Lite". My immediate reaction was: "Oh Dear, what have they schemed up now?!" Well, I sound like a Microsoft cynic I know, but I'd love to convince you that this is not because of a hate of Microsoft... I'm just a technology enthusiast who feels insulted an pained by pretty much every executive descision the company makes. Which I feel is a shame. A lot of smart people work there, but the mandate of their work is to create products which tie people to more of their expensive (in some way or other) products. Thus work that could go towards the creation of better software for everyone and for the benefit of all customers is lost. The recent "truce" between Sun & MS has bred a new submission to a standards body on web delivery services I cannot help but fear is just a token gesture to repreave the closed-shop image of Microsoft.

    Anyway. XP Lite. Now I feared this would be bad. But no. It is much worse than i thought. A cut down version of XP aimed at the Asian market where Linux and ripped off copies of Windows abound. what's different I hear you ask? Well here's a few:

    • Cut down Networking capabilities
    • You won't be allowed To switch to higher resolutions (800x600 maximum!)
    • You may only run three programs at once, with each program opening only three windows at a time
    • No multiple user accounts

    On the up side you get a locale specific patriotic desktop background included. Super duper eh? At the end of the press release is a list of positive quotes from distinguished Asian representatives (PhDs first! mortals, kids get in queue) who seems to have very little clue about anything to do with technology (indicated by their positive comments)

    Perhaps the clearest indication that Microsoft are worried about the superior alternative open & free Linux products thus far. But unfortunately they will convince OEMs to ship this alleged software with the hardware (the OEM route is the key to printing money if the past is anything to go by). I don't see why Microsoft don't just go the whole hog and force hardware manufacturers to insert a coin slot on every box and have a trained monkey vist us each and collect the money (we would be so distracted by the cute ickle monkey visiting to notice the daylight robbery)

    I could write all day about why XP Lite or XP starter or whatever it's called is bad for you, me, your children, the economy, free speech and liberty, but unlike Microsoft I'm hoping that your smart enough to know why this software is bad and why Microsoft should feel ashamed for their manipulation of the markets. I'm off to go and find my skin which has crawled off somewhere else in anger. I hope it hasn't hurt anyone

    If you are unfamiliar with the phrase "two minute hate", see the Newspeak Dictionary


    Taken from the an article on TheServerSide.com entitled Microsoft Responds to Sun’s Web Service Benchmarks

    In a paper published last month, Sun claimed that Java based web services outperform .NET based web services both in throughput and response times. Microsoft has released a paper on TheServerSide.NET responding to those claims stating that Sun’s representation of the .NET performance was understated by 2 to 3 times and that in many, but not all cases, .NET exceeded the Java benchmarks.
    Read the Microsoft response on TheServerSide.NET: Web Services Performance: Comparing J2EE and .NET

    Read Sun's original paper: J2EE claimed to have better Web Services performance than .NET

    It should be noted that Sun did not publish source code for their benchmark so Microsoft had to  re-create Sun's benchmark based on the details from the original paper. The Microsoft response has the full source code for both the .NET Web Service implementation, the Java Web Service implementation using Sun's JWSDP 1.4 along with the test program used to benchmark both services. I always believe the best way to verify a benchmark is to run it yourself. The performance of the .NET XML Web Service implementations should prove to be a lot better than what is implied by the original paper from Sun.


    July 14, 2004
    @ 09:14 PM

    In the midst of a back and forth internal discussion on whether it is appropriate for folks to be griping about the recently announced MSFT benefit cuts on their work related blogs someone sent me a link to the Mini-Microsoft blog which describes itself thusly

    Let's slim down Microsoft into a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine! Mini-Microsoft, Mini-Microsoft, lean-and-mean!



    July 6, 2004
    @ 09:50 AM

    Whenever I'm up late and can't sleep I like checking out the HipHopMusic.com. I like reading the discussions, where else can I find a discussion of a lawsuit being filed against Snoop Doggy Dogg for using a voice mail message on his album detoriorate into gang bangers threatening to cap each other over the Web or watch a review of Jay-Z's most recent album turn into a six month long discussion about whether Jay-Z is the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.) or not.

    Speaking of hip hop the new album by 213 (Snoop, Nate Dogg and Warren G), The Hard Way, is scheduled to drop within the next month. I've been waiting over 10 years for this album. There is a God in heaven listening to our prayers. :)


    July 4, 2004
    @ 08:40 PM

    In The Problem With Online Music Tim Bray writes

    The New York Times today hits the nail on the head: if you’re buying music over the net, you’re buying it in severely damaged condition. When I plug my computer into the really good stereo at home, the difference between the way music sounds coming off CD or vinyl or a good FM signal, and the crippled version from MP3 compression isn’t subtle. I used to think that if you were listening to music on headphones on a bus or train or plane or in a crowd, the MP3 lossage really didn’t matter much.

    Then there are people like me who have a Bose sound system in their car but find out much to our chagrin that MP3s playing off of an iPod sound better than CDs since the iPod has EQs and the car stereo does not.


    June 23, 2004
    @ 03:18 PM

    From an E! Online article entitled Method Man Raps Fox

    The show debuted last Wednesday to an audience of 8 million--a decent showing for a summer series. But critics assailed the sitcom as nothing more than a collection of racial stereotypes.

    Method Man says that while the urban comedy retains a certain hip-hop flavor, it's doesn't jibe with the original subversive vision he and Method & Red's producers intended. Aside from the watered-down subject matter, Method Man lashed out at "lame jokes" that have managed to find their way into scripts and he bemoaned the use of a laugh track, which he said he never agreed to.
    Method launched into his tirade against the Man after hearing an acting coach on local L.A. radio who said the duo's show smacked of "coonery," i.e., the racial stereotypes prevalent in era of Jim Crow, and criticism from such outlets as BET.com, which labeled Method & Red "unfunny" and attacked it for aiding a "downward spiral in black entertainment" by offering "a benign buffoonish broth ready for mainstream consumption."

    "I'm no coon," the Soul Plane star vented. "I'm being criticized by people who have never set foot in the ghetto, who have never put up a brick inside the ghetto. I'm from the ghetto. We can't all be the Cosbys. There needs to be a yin and yang as far as what is shown of black people on television. But I don't want us to be used as a scapegoat for their crusades."

    Everytime I've seen ads for this shitty show I've cringed. Movies like Soul Plane and Method & Red remind me a lot of Chris Rock's famous Niggas vs. Black People skit. I can't wait for this idiotic show to get cancelled.


    It seems every few months there are a series of blog posts or articles about why returning ADO.NET DataSet objects from XML Web Services.  I saw the most recent incarnation of this perma-debate in Scott Hansellman's post Returning DataSets from WebServices is the Spawn of Satan and Represents All That Is Truly Evil in the World and Ted Neward's More on why DataSets are the Root of all Evil.

    I was going to type up a response to both posts until I saw Doug Purdy's amusing response, PurchaseOrders are the root of all evil, which succintly points out the flaws in Scott and Ted's arguments.

    Now I'm off to bed.


    Categories: Mindless Link Propagation | XML

    Bryan Kam has reviewed a couple of free RSS aggregators for Windows. Below are excerpts of his reviews including his final choice  

    I began with the aptly-named and small FeedReader 2.5. While it has all the basic features covered, it lacks a lot of things I like...Score: 3/10. Fast but featureless.

    Next I tried Sharpreader This is a pretty good one, which features different sorting, various update times, alerts, inherited properties, can import/export OPML...It would take 40+ MB RAM on my desktop computer, and sometimes would take 100% cycles for no reason...Score: 5/10. Full of features, but slow as hell!

    Another one I tried a while back was Syndirella 0.9b. While I was not a big fan of the Windows 3.1-esque interface, it does have a rudimentary scraper... This is great for sites that don't offer feeds. Other than that, though, this reader is pretty lacking, not even having categories which are a necessity in my opinion. Score: 5/10. Nice scraper, the rest kinda sucks.

    Currently I'm using Abilon 2.0, which has many of the features I like...The interface is divided into three vertical columns: the far left is the list of feeds, the middle is the items in the selected feed, the right is the detail for the selected item. I find this very weird. Score: 7/10. It's got the goods, it's small, but it's not fun to use.

    Okay, another brief RSS reader review. This one is called RSS Bandit and I've discarded Abilon in favor of it...Feature-wise it's pretty standard. The little slide-up alerts, which many of these readers have, is actually reliably click-able in this program...Another good feature is its "Locate RSS" feeds which attempts to find a feed for whatever websites or keywords you enter.8/10. Decent, but lacks that extra something.

    It's good to read first hand accounts of what people like or dislike about RSS Bandit especially when compared to other RSS aggregators. I tend to agree with Bryan that RSS Bandit currently leads the pack amongst the major free RSS aggregators for Windows. The next release will aim at being competitive with commercial aggregators such as FeedDemon and NewzCrawler.

    This should be a fun summer.  


    XML.com recently ran an article entitled Document-Centric .NET, that highlights the various technologies for working with XML that exist in the .NET Framework. The article provides a good high level overview of the various options you have for processing XML in the .NET Framework. The article includes an all important caveat which I wish more people knew about and which I keep wanting to write an article about but never get around to doing. The author writes 

    However, keep in mind that there are W3C XML Schema features that are not directly compatible with .NET's XML-to-database and XML-to-object mapping tools.

    This is very true. Besides our schema validation technologies, most Microsoft technologies or products that utilize W3C XML Schema support a subset of the language due to impedance mismatches between the language and the underlying data model or type system of the target environment.

    In fact the only complaint I have about the article is a nitpick about its title. In XML circles, document-centric implies a usage of XML that isn't borne out by his article. If you are interested in the difference between data-centric XML and document-centric XML you should read my article Can One Size Fit All? in XML Journal. In that article I talk about the differences between XML that is used to represent both rigidly structured tabular data (e.g., relational data or serialized objects) and semi-structured data (e.g., office documents). The former is data-centric XML while the latter is document-centric.



    Categories: Mindless Link Propagation | XML

    Myriad shots of Donald Rumsfeld during press briefings have unearthed his deadly secret. Behold, the Rumsfeld Fighting Technique.


    I just saw this in Wired and have been surprised that it hasn't been circulating around the blogs I read. It looks like the Mexican Air Force Captured a UFO Encounter on VideoTape. According to Wired

    Mexican Air Force pilots filmed 11 unidentified flying objects in the skies over southern Campeche state, a spokesman for Mexico's Defense Department confirmed Tuesday.A videotape made widely available to the news media on Tuesday shows the bright objects, some sharp points of light and others like large headlights, moving rapidly in what appears to be a late-evening sky.

    The lights were filmed on March 5 by pilots using infrared equipment. They appeared to be flying at an altitude of about 11,500 feet, and reportedly surrounded the jet as it conducted routine anti-drug trafficking vigilance in Campeche. Only three of the objects showed up on the plane's radar.

    That is pretty amazing. I haven't been able to locate the entire video online. That definitely would be interesting to watch.


    May 11, 2004
    @ 06:19 PM

    Jon Udell recently wrote

    In a recent column on how we use and abuse email, I mentioned the idea of passing attachments "by reference" rather than "by value." Unfortunately I overlooked a product recently reviewed by InfoWorld that does exactly that. The Xythos WebFile Server has a companion WebFile Client that hooks File Attach (in Notes and Outlook) and replaces attachments with secure links to an access-controlled and versioned instance of the document. Cool!

    The $50K price tag, as our reviewer noted, "may keep smaller companies away." But other implementations of the idea are clearly possible.

    SharePoint provides the ability to provide shared workspaces for documents and even integrates nicely with the rest of Microsoft Office such as Word. I know quite a few people who've gone from sending documents back and forth over email to sending links to documents in shared workspaces. Of course, old habits die hard and even at Microsoft lots of people tend to send documents in email as attachments.  


    May 11, 2004
    @ 03:21 PM

    In Steve Burnap's blog post entitled Infamy he writes

    I've been opposed to the Iraq war since the beginning, but until this, I didn't feel disgust.
    And that makes me sad. There are only villians here. Villians who have made the US no better than Saddam Hussein. We got into this war with lies, but even if there were no WMDs and no Al Qaeda connection, we could say "well, at lest we got rid of a tyrant". Now all we can say is that we've replaced a tyrant.

    I share the exact same sentiments. The Iraq War has hit every worst case scenario I could have come up with; no weapons of mass destruction, no concrete ties to Al Qaeda shown, militant resistance from members of the local populace, and US troops actively violating the Geneva Convention. The funny thing is that polls show that 44 per cent of people polled in the US think the war is worthwhile.  Sad.


    Dimitri Glazkov has produced a JavaScript implementation of DOM Level 3 XPath for Microsoft Internet Explorer. Below are some examples of what using XPath from Javascript looks like with his implementation

    Now counting all links on your document is just one XPath query:

    var linkCount = document.evaluate( “count(//a[@href])“, document, null, XPathResult.NUMBER_TYPE, null).getNumberValue();

    So is getting a list of all images without an alt tag:

    var imgIterator = document.evaluate( “//img[not(@alt)]“, document, null, XPathResult.ANY_TYPE, null);

    So is finding a first LI element of al UL tags:

    var firstLiIterator = document.evaluate( “//ul/li[1]“, document, null, XPathResult.ANY_TYPE, null);

    Excellent work. XPath is one of the most powerful XML technologies and getting support for it in clientside HTML scripting is should be a great boon to developers who do a lot of HTML processing using Javascript.  


    April 20, 2004
    @ 08:55 AM

    From the Duh! department are the following excerpts from the an interview with the author of Sister's Keeper

    In her book, Robbins goes undercover at a college she calls “State U.” during the 2002-2003 school year to find out whether the stereotypes—binge drinking, drug use, eating disorders and promiscuity—are true.

    NEWSWEEK: What kinds of things did you witness?
    Alexandra Robbins: I really hadn’t expected to find the level of "Animal House" campiness that I did in some groups. They had a tradition called boob ranking where pledges had just a lim­ited amount of time to strip off their shirt and bras to examine each other topless so that by the time the clock was up, they were basically lined up in order of chest size in order of the sisters to inspect. Some sorori­ties hold what they call “naked parties,” during which after a few drinks sisters and pledges strip off their clothes and basically run around the house naked, some of them hooking up with each other before they let the boys in.

    NEWSWEEK: Isn’t there a constant emphasis on boys?
    Alexandra Robbins: From the mixers to the formals to the homecomings to fraternity parties—there’s frequently a race to get dates from a limited pool of acceptable fraternity guys. And white sororities are so centered on relationships with their ceremonies and rituals and songs to celebrate specific relationship mile­stones. By comparison, in at least one white sorority, the award for getting the highest GPA was a bag of potato chips. And you have to wonder what’s the point of a girls-only organization if it revolves around men.

    NEWSWEEK: How prevalent are eating disorders?
    Alexandra Robbins:
    I had heard urban legends about plumbers having to come clean out the pipes ever month or so in sororities because they get clogged with vomit. A lot of girls told me that was true. Eating disorders are so popular that some houses have puking contests after dinner. At State U., every sin­gle one of the 18 sororities had eating-disor­der problems.

    The entire premise of the book reminds me of an episode of the Maury Povich show, an excercise in voyeurism.


    Aaron Skonnard has a new MSDN magazine article entitled All About Blogs and RSS where he does a good job of summarizing the various XML technologies around weblogs and syndication. It is a very good FAQ and one I definitely will be pointing folks to in future when asked about blogging technologies. 


    Categories: Mindless Link Propagation | XML

    My homegirl, Gretchen Ledgard (y'know Josh's wife), has helped start the Technical Careers @ Microsoft weblog. According to her introductory post you'll find stuff like

  • Explanation of technical careers Microsoft.  What do people really do at Microsoft?  What does a “typical” career path look like?  What can you do to prepare yourself for a career at Microsoft?
  • Sharing of our recruiting expertise.  Learn “trade secrets” from Microsoft recruiters!  What does a good resume look like?  How can you get noticed on the internet?  How should you best prepare for an interview?
  • Information on upcoming Microsoft Technical Recruiting events and programs. 
  • I hope Gretchen dishes up the dirt on how the Microsoft recruiters deal with competition for a candidate such as when a prospective hire also has an offer from another attractive company such as Google. Back in my college days, the company that was most competitive with Microsoft was Trilogy (what a difference a few years make). 

    I remember when I first got my internship offer and I told my recruiter I also had an offer from i2 technologies, she quickly whipped out a pen and did the math comparing the compensation I'd get at Microsoft to that I'd get from i2. I eventually picked Microsoft instead of i2 for that summer internship which definitely turned out to be a life altering decision. Ahhh, memories.    


    I'm not sure which takes the cake for geekiest weeding proposal, popping  the question on a customized PC case or on a custom Magic: The GatheringTM card.

    Anyone else have some particularly geeky wedding proposals to share?


    I recently started using Real Player again after a few years of not using it and it does seem a lot less user hostile. It seems that this is the result of some internal turmoil at Real Networks. Below are links to some interesting readings about behind the scenes at Real and how it ended up affecting their product

    This seems to have been making the rounds in a couple of popular blogs.


    ...Pimps at Sea.

    Thanks to Thaddeus Frogley for the link.


    I always thought that dis records created by dueling MCs over conjured up beefs designed to sell records (e.g. the Nas vs. Jay-Z beef) I was surprised to find out that the same thing now happens with R&B songs. From an article on MTV.com entitled That Eamon Dis Track? Ho-Wopper Now Claims He Was Behind It we read

    The beef between R&B singer Eamon and his so-called ex-girlfriend, Frankee, continues to heat up on radio, as stations across the country follow up his hit "F--- It (I Don't Want You Back)" with her dis track, "FU Right Back." Frankee's song, which uses the exact same music as "F--- It (I Don't Want You Back)," calls Eamon out as being lousy in bed, having pubic lice and generally sucking as a boyfriend. And Eamon loves every word. In fact, he claims he approved the song before the public even heard it.

    Not only does he say Frankee was never his girl, he said she was handpicked by his staff to record a response to "F--- It  (I Don't Want You Back)" in order to create the illusion of a feud (see "Eamon's Alleged Old Flame Burns Him With Dis Track"). "There was a big tryout, and I actually know some of the girls who wanted to do the song, but I never met Frankee in my life," Eamon said. "I think it's corny to death, but it's funny."

    I've listened to both songs, Eamon's is the better record although Frankee's version is kind of peppy.

    Speaking of faked endings there's the article I read this afternoon on Yahoo! about the finalists on the reality show 'Last Comic Standing' were pre-picked which has caused some of the judges such as Drew Carey and Brett Butler to fire barbs at NBC. Brett Butler claimed "As panel judges, we can say that (a) we were both surprised and disappointed at the results and (b) we had NOTHING to do with them". It seems there was some fine print which indicated that the judges where just there for window dressing and the finalists were pre-picked. I guess this just goes to show you that you should always read the fine print.


    Folks at work have been cracking up about the Rick James skit on a recent episode of the Dave Chapelle show. Linked below are two video clips from the show. Pure comic genius.

    Chappelle's Show: MORE of Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories

    Rick James asks the philosophical question “What did the five fingers say to the face?” in this all-new Charlie Murphy-inspired clip.

    Eddie Murphy's brother Charlie tells the tale of Rick James:
    Habitual line-stepper.

    You will need to download RealPlayer to view the video clips. Speaking of which it seems Real Player is much improved from the last time I used a couple of years ago.


    March 5, 2004
    @ 02:18 AM

    I became addicted to reality TV after I watched a 2 hour block on Fox that ran between 10 PM  & Midnight consisting of Elimidate, 5th Wheel, Blind Date and Change of Heart. My experience mirrors that of Justin Berton who wrote in his article Embracing the Idiot Box

    So far, in my month long experiment with the set, all the shows I expected to be good are bad, and all the bad ones are really good. In this peculiar calculus, nothing is worse than the reality dating show genre. And lowest of the low is Elimidate, which, of course, makes it the best thing on TV.

    There's no irony here. A dude goes on a date with four women. They drink lots of booze. As the date goes on, the dude eliminates one girl per round.

    I'm now a reality dating show junkie although the stuff on prime time (e.g. the Batchelor and Joe Millionairre) are a bit to sophisticated for my tastes.


    Clay Bennet says it better than I ever could with his Vote Nader billboard cartoon. While you are at it you should also check out who really should have won the Oscar for Best Actor


    I just stumbled on a guide on How to Stop Receiving Credit Card Offers on Kuro5hin which I definitely need given the aggravating amount of junk mail I get from credit card companies. It begins

    Tired of annoying "pre-approved" credit card offers? I sure am. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) of 1970 as amended in 1996, the four major credit bureaus have the right to sell your information to companies that want to offer you a credit card. Fortunately, the amendment also stipulated that credit bureaus must provide a way for consumers to have their names excluded from pre-approval lists. If you're a United States citizen sick of getting pre-screened credit card offers, this article will show you how to avoid receiving them

    Lots of useful information here including a number you can call to opt out of credit card junk mail. According to the article, 1-888-5-OPTOUT is an automated service run jointly by the four main credit bureaus. With one phone call you can opt out of pre-screened mailings from all four bureaus.  Sweet.

    A quick Googling confirms the information in the Kuro5hin article which seems to be a summary of the following PDF on the FTC website, Where to Go To "Just Say No"  .


    February 26, 2004
    @ 05:54 PM

    Aaron Swartz has lots of interesting ideas about politics and copyright in the age of digital media. I disagree with a lot of his ideas on both but they are often well-thought and interesting. This month he continues his trend of interesting posts about politics with two entries Up is Down: How Stating the False Hides the True excerpted below

    One of the more interesting Republican strategies is saying things whose opposite is true. They say that the Democratic nominee is bought off by special interests, the Democrats are outspending them, the Democrats are playing dirty, the Democrats don’t care about homeland security, the Democrats hate America, all when this is far more true of the Republicans. They say Joseph McCarthy was a noble man, the media has a liberal bias, affirmative action is bad for equality, Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and Ronald Reagan was our greatest President, all when the opposite is far more true.

    At first glance this seems bizarre — why draw attention to your weaknesses? But it’s actually a very clever use of the media. The media tries hard to be “fair and balanced”, and it generally believes the best way to do this is to present the opinions from both sides and make as few judgement calls as possible (to avoid introducing their own bias). And if there’s a debate on some issue, taking a side is seen as a judgement call.

    and Down is Up: What This Stuff Is where he writes

    I got a lot of responses to my previous post, Up is Down, along the lines of “oh, the Democrats lie as much as the Republicans”. But the piece was not about lies. For lack of a better term, it was about anti-truths. Anti-truths have two parts:

    1. They’re completely false.
    2. They’re more accurate when directly reversed.

    It’s hard to find a completely unobjectionable one, but take “Ronald Reagan was our greatest President.” As for part one, I have seen no evidence that Reagan actually did anything particularly good on purpose and as for two, “Ronald Reagan was our worst President” seems to be a far more accurate statement, since he did lots of things that were quite bad.

    My example of an anti-truth would have been “John Ashcroft respects the US constitution”. :)


    The folks at Slashdot have Indian Techies Answer About 'Onshore Insourcing'. Excellent stuff.


    February 8, 2004
    @ 06:02 PM

    I stumbled on a link to MSN Search beta site while reading about Google cancelling its Spring IPO. What I find particularly interesting is that it seems to use very similar algorithms to Google given that it falls for Google Bombs as well. For example, check out the results for miserable failure and litigious bastards. In fact, the results are so similar at first I thought it was a spoof site that was just calling out to Google in the background.


    I just tried out the President Match tool which tries to figure pick which US presidential candidate shares your views based on a poll and my results were

      1. Kucinich 100%
      2. Kerry       96%
      3. Sharpton  90%
      4. Edwards   90%
      5. Dean        89%
      6. Clark        87%
      7. Liberman   83%
      8. Bush         37%

    I'm unsurprised by how far away George Bush is from representing my perspectives but I am surprised that Kerry comes so close. I'm definitely going to do some research into his position on certain issues. I had an ex-grilfriend call me a long time ago gushing about Kucinich who told me I'd love his campaign if I ever looked into it, I guess she was right.


    January 28, 2004
    @ 10:50 PM

    From eBay, we have the  Mike Rowe Official WIPO Book As Seen On TV for sale.The current price is $1,075.0 and you get

    This is your chance to own a piece of Internet history. This is the book shown on TV, Internet, magazines and talked about on the radio and seen by millions of people world-wide. I am selling the WIPO book with the 25-page letter I received from Microsoft's lawyers on January 14/2004. I have two copies of these and I will be keeping one for my own personal memoirs. This inch-thick book contains copies of web pages, registrations, trade marks, other WIPO cases, emails between me and Microsoft's lawyers and much more. There are 27 annexes filled with information. This package also comes with the 25-page complaint transmittal coversheet that was sent with the inch-thick book. In this letter you can find policies, rules, supplemental rules, model responses, copy of complaint and much more.

    I wonder how high the bidding is going to go for this piece of Internet history.


    January 25, 2004
    @ 05:47 PM

    From Jamie Zawinski we learn

     Student Caught In Racial Controversy:

    OMAHA, Neb. -- Four Westside High School students are suspended for promoting a white student for an African-American award. Flyers featured junior Trevor Richards, a South African native who moved to the United States in 1997.

    Trevor said he is as African as anyone else.

    This is just ridiculous. The kid is obviously African-American if the words are expected to be taken literally. Of course, like most euphemisms the words aren't meant to be taken literally but instead are supposed to map to a [sometimes unrelated] concept. I hope the kids take the school district to court.



     You know what we should do? Send up a Mars mission and once they're up in space, call them and say, "You guys can't reenter the atmosphere until you develop a cure for AIDS. Get crackin;

    C'mon I bet if you asked people in Africa if they wanted us to go to Mars, they'd say yes--because it's important for humanity to reach ever upward. It's inspirational. We're at our best when we dare to dream a...GAAAH! I just puked in my space helmet.

    I read somewhere that the cost of going to Mars may eventually total up to $170 billion which is nowhere close to the $12 billion the US President has stated will flow into NASA's coffers over the next 5 years to help finance the Mars dream. I don't want to knock the US government's spending on AIDS (supposedly $1 billion this year) but aren't there significant, higher priority problems on Earth that need tackling before one starts dabbling in interplanterary conquest?

    Gil-Scott Heron's poem Whitey's on the Moon is still quite relevant today. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.


    January 13, 2004
    @ 03:02 PM

    The MiddleWare Company  announces 

    TMC today launched TheServerSide.NET, an enterprise .NET architecture and development community. The launch is part of a vision aimed at building communities (online sites, conferences, user groups, etc) to serve all technology practitioners in the middleware industry. TSS.NET will be similar to TSS.com in style and quality, but both communities will be operated independently.

    It looks like Ted Neward will be the editor-in-chief of the site. It looks like the site will be top heavy on it's focus on XML Web Services so I doubt I'll be subscribing to their RSS feed but if that's your bag it looks like a good site to check out. I've been reading TheServerSide.com for about two years and I've found it useful for getting insight into what's going on in the Java world.

    Speaking of the Java world, which community blog site has better signal to noise ratio between Weblogs @ Java.net and Java.Blogs? I've been considering subscribing to one of them but I'm already swamped with lots of content of dubious quality from Weblogs @ ASP.NET and don't want to repeat the experience.


    January 13, 2004
    @ 06:55 AM

    Scott Hanselman writes


    The MSN Direct (Wrist.NET) watch is the best PDA-Watch I've seen so far.  As a Palm fan, I was stoked about the Palm PDA Watch, but it was WAY too big, and tried to be too much.  I don't want to use a freakin' stylus on my watch.  At the same time, I have been one of the 'bat-belt' people with a cell-phone, pager, PDA, digital camera and laptop (not to mention a Glucose Meter and Insulin Pump).  I really don't need another battery to charge! 

    I don't expect a watch to replace my current ONE device - a Blackberry Phone (that handles email, calendar, web and cell phone on a single device) - but I would like something to provide me with a little more information than just the time, without making me feel overloaded with information.  Plus, it has to look good and not make my one arm 5 lbs heavier than the other.

    [Via Rory Blyth]

    I have to agree with Rory and Scott, this is the dork watch. So far I haven't seen anyone at work rocking one of these but I'd definitely like to see one close to see if it confirms some suspicions I have about their trendiness and utility factor.


    January 13, 2004
    @ 06:39 AM

    C|Net reports

    Yahoo plans to test RSS technology for its personalization tools, giving people the ability to automatically receive news and information feeds from third parties onto MyYahoo pages.

    The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company has been experimenting with technology called Really Simple Syndication (RSS), a format that is widely used to syndicate blogs, discussion threads and other Web content. Yahoo already started using RSS for its Yahoo News service, allowing other sites to automatically "scrape" Yahoo's top stories daily.

    Last week, the company started beta testing RSS for MyYahoo, but soon pulled the experiment shortly after.

    I've been using My Yahoo! almost from the beginning and have always wanted a way to plugin to their syndication architecture. Being able to syndicate RSS feeds directly into My Yahoo! content is a killer feature. I wonder if they'll go the Slashbox route or allow users to subscribe to feeds directly thus using My Yahoo! as an RSS news aggregator?

    Either way it's definitely a step in the right direction.   


    January 10, 2004
    @ 07:58 PM

    The National Pork Board would like to remind you self-righteous, holier-than-thou beef-eatin' snobs there's never been a single case of "mad pig" disease.

    Pork: The other white meat, Bee-yotch!

    The Boondocks comic is consistently funny unlike other online comics that have recently started falling off *cough*Sluggy*cough*. Also it is the only other regular newspaper comic that decries the insanity of the current situation in the US.


    Slashdot ran yet another article on outsourcing today, this one about how Tech Firms Defend Moving Jobs Overseas. It had the usual comments one's come to expect from such stories. It's been quite interesting watching the attitudes of the folks on Slashdot over the past few years. I started reading the site around the time of the RedHat IPO when everyone was cocky and folks useed to brag about getting cars as signing bonuses. Then the beginning of the downturn when the general sentiment was that only those who couldn't hack it were getting fired. Then the feeling that the job loss was more commonplace started to spread and the xenophobic phase began with railings againsg H1Bs. Now it seems every other poster is either out of work or just got a job after being out of work for a couple of months. The same folks who used to laugh at the problems the RIAA had dealing with the fact that "their business model was obsolete in a digital world" now seek protectionalist government policies to deal with the fact that their IT careers are obsolete in a global economy.   

    Anyway, I digress. I found an interesting link in one of the posts to an article on FastCompany entitled The Wal-Mart You Don't Know. It begins

    A gallon-sized jar of whole pickles is something to behold. The jar is the size of a small aquarium. The fat green pickles, floating in swampy juice, look reptilian, their shapes exaggerated by the glass. It weighs 12 pounds, too big to carry with one hand. The gallon jar of pickles is a display of abundance and excess; it is entrancing, and also vaguely unsettling. This is the product that Wal-Mart fell in love with: Vlasic's gallon jar of pickles.

    Wal-Mart priced it at $2.97--a year's supply of pickles for less than $3! "They were using it as a 'statement' item," says Pat Hunn, who calls himself the "mad scientist" of Vlasic's gallon jar. "Wal-Mart was putting it before consumers, saying, This represents what Wal-Mart's about. You can buy a stinkin' gallon of pickles for $2.97. And it's the nation's number-one brand."

    Therein lies the basic conundrum of doing business with the world's largest retailer. By selling a gallon of kosher dills for less than most grocers sell a quart, Wal-Mart may have provided a ser-vice for its customers. But what did it do for Vlasic? The pickle maker had spent decades convincing customers that they should pay a premium for its brand. Now Wal-Mart was practically giving them away. And the fevered buying spree that resulted distorted every aspect of Vlasic's operations, from farm field to factory to financial statement.

    and has this somewhere in the middle

    Wal-Mart has also lulled shoppers into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost. Its unending focus on price underscores something that Americans are only starting to realize about globalization: Ever-cheaper prices have consequences. Says Steve Dobbins, president of thread maker Carolina Mills: "We want clean air, clear water, good living conditions, the best health care in the world--yet we aren't willing to pay for anything manufactured under those restrictions."

    which is particularly interesting given the various points I've seen raised about outsourcing in the IT field. The US is definitely headed for interesting times.


    January 6, 2004
    @ 02:23 PM

    The Bad Fads Museum provides an entertaining glimpse to past [and current] fads in FashionCollectibles, Activities and Events. To show that the site isn't mean spirited the "About BadFads" section of the site contains the following text

    While the name of this site is BAD FADS, please note that this is neither an indictment nor an endorsement of any of the fads mentioned. As you know, during the '70s the word "bad" could alternately mean "good!" Thus, this site was created to take a fun and nostalgic look at fashions, collectibles, activities and events which are cherished by some and ridiculed by others.

    It's all in good fun. The best writeups are on fashion fads like Tatoos and Tie Dye T-Shirts as well as fads in collectibles such as Pet Rocks and Troll Dolls


    December 31, 2003
    @ 04:46 PM

    From ThinkGeek

    Skillset Exportable
    Insufficient ROI
    Office of Employee Termination and Overseas Outsourcing

    Definitely wouldn't mind rocking this around the B0rg cube.


    Where else do you get to see movie clips of illustrious American celebrities in ads for household products they wouldn't be caught doing in the United States? Japander.com, of course. The front page of the website reads

    Pander:n., & v.t. 1. go-between in clandestine amours, procurer; one who ministers to evil designs. 2 v.i. minister (to base passions or evil designs, or person having these)

    Japander:n.,& v.t. 1. a western star who uses his or her fame to make large sums of money in a short time by advertising products in Japan that they would probably never use. ~er (see synecure, prostitute) 2. to make an ass of oneself in Japanese media.

    The clips are all crazy weird from Arnold Schwarznegger pimping energy drinks and cup o' noodles to Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas  & Kevin Costner as Subaru pitchmen. I probably spent 30 minutes marvelling at the ads on the site, I definitely never thought I'd ever see Harrison Ford doing beer commercials. Definitely entertaining stuff.  


    Just stumbled on the following article entitled So, Scrooge was right after all

    Conventional economics teaches that gift giving is irrational. The satisfaction or "utility" a person derives from consumption is determined by their personal preferences. But no one understands your preferences as well as you do.

    So when I give up $50 worth of utility to buy a present for you, the chances are high that you'll value it at less than $50. If so, there's been a mutual loss of utility. The transaction has been inefficient and "welfare reducing", thus making it irrational. As an economist would put it, "unless a gift that costs the giver p dollars exactly matches the way in which the recipient would have spent the p dollars, the gift is suboptimal".

    The big problem I've always had with economics as I was always taught in school is that the fundamental assumption underlying it is that humans make rational decisions when buying and selling goods and services. This is simply not true. The above example is a good one; it makes more sense for everyone involved in the annual gift exchange that is Christmas if people just gave checks and gift certificates instead of buying gifts that the recipients don't want or don't need. Yet this isn't how Christmas gift giving is done in most cases. Then there's the entire field of advertising with its concept of lifestyle ads which are highly successful and are yet another example that human buying decisions aren't steeped in rationality.

    What a crock...


    December 27, 2003
    @ 09:55 PM

    An article in the Economist lets us know that research has confirmed that men lose their fiscal prudence in the presence of attractive women

    Over 200 young men and women participated in the study, which was divided into three parts. In the first, the participants were asked to respond to nine specific choices regarding potentially real monetary rewards. (At the end of the session, they could roll dice to try to win one of their choices, which would be paid by an appropriately post-dated cheque issued by the university.) In each case, a low sum to be paid out the next day was offered against a higher sum to be paid at a specified future date. Individual responses were surprisingly consistent, according to Dr Wilson, so the “pre-experiment” threshold of each participant was easy to establish.

    The volunteers were then asked to score one of four sets of pictures for their appeal: 12 attractive members of the opposite sex; 12 non-lookers; 12 beautiful cars; or 12 unimpressive cars. Immediately after they had seen these images, they were given a new round of monetary reward choices.

    As predicted, men who had seen pictures of pretty women discounted the future more steeply than they had done before—in other words, they were more likely to take the lesser sum tomorrow. As Dr Wilson puts it, it was as though a special “I-want-that-now” pathway had been activated in their brains. After all, the money might come in handy immediately. No one else was much affected. (Women did seem to be revved up by nice cars, a result the researchers still find mystifying. But the statistical significance of this finding disappeared after some routine adjustments, and in any case previous work has suggested that women are more susceptible to displays of wealth than men are.)

    I guess this explains Abercrombie & Fitch's "alleged" hiring practices. It's always interesting to see stuff you've long taken for granted backed up by research especially observing how the experiments are confucted.


    Shannon J Hager writes

    Jeff Key wants to end default buttons on Focus-Stealing Dialogs but I think the problem is bigger than that. I don't think ANYTHING should be able to steal my focus while typing. I have ranted about this before both in places where it could help (emails with MS employees) and in places where it can't (certain blogs). Not only is it annoying to suddenly find myself typing in a IM conversation with someone on AOL when less than half a word ago I was typing an invoice for a client, it is DANGEROUS for programs to be able to steal focus like this

    I agree, I didn't realize how much applications that steal focus irritate me until I used a friend's iBook which runs Mac OS X where instead of having applications steal your focus has them try to get your attention by hopping around at the bottom of the screen. I thought it was cute and a lot less intrusive than finding myself typing in a differentwWindow because some application decided that it was so important that it was going to interrupt whatever I was doing.

    An operating system that enforces application politness, sweet.


    According to Reuters

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Pentagon (news - web sites) audit of Halliburton, the oil services firm once run by Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites), found the company may have overbilled the U.S. government by more than $120 million on Iraq (news - web sites) contracts, U.S. defense officials said on Thursday.

    Why am I not surprised? This entire Iraq war fiasco will be the subject of much consternation and entertainment to future generations.


    "Clairol haircolor transformed me from a college graduate to a successful financial advisor. Clairol gives my hair the shine I need to brighten my face and my spirit, which pumps up my confidence. I'm energized! Today I manage millions — next year I'll manage tens of millions! People trust me. That's inspiring!"

    "My blonde hair had gone gray — I felt depressed. I went blonde one day for a big party and it was quite a hit! I felt GREAT! I started a diet, lost 72 lbs., began belly dance lessons to keep the weight off and still color my beautiful long blonde hair!"

    It's quite impressive what a catalyst for self improvement a simple change like dying your hair can be. There were a number of similar testimonials submitted by the New Year New You! Contest Winners. Read them, be inspired, dye your hair.


    December 1, 2003
    @ 11:31 AM

    From the BBC

    Red-faced officials at General Motors in Canada have been forced to think of a new name for their latest model after discovering it was a slang word for masturbation.

    GM officials said they had been unaware that LaCrosse was a term for self-gratification among teenagers in French-speaking Quebec.

    The article describes a copuple of similar issues with product names as they cross the language barrier. The most amusing story was the poor reception of the Ford Pinto in Brazil which was attributed to the fact that in Brazilian Portuguese slang, pinto means "small penis".


    November 30, 2003
    @ 04:55 PM
    Chicken Little: In San Francisco, you never know what you're going to find when you knock on a car window -- but nothing prepared the cops for what they found the night of Nov. 3 down by Aquatic Park.

    The window came down and there was a guy with a chicken sitting on his lap and a second chicken in a bag on the passenger seat.

    "What's with the chickens?" the cop asked.

    "I'm going to take them home and eat them,'' the driver replied.

    "Lift up the chicken,'' the cop said.

    The driver did -- and the next thing you know, the driver was in cuffs and the chickens were on their way to the humane society -- where (we kid you not) the hens were given a sexual battery exam by a vet the cops called in.

    All we can say is, it's going to make for some very interesting testimony on the witness stand.

    "But the killer will be the other evidence,'' a law enforcement source said. "A 15-ounce jar of Vaseline... with three feathers in it.''

    [via Jamie Zawinski]


    November 14, 2003
    @ 05:11 AM

    Irwando the Magnificent (king of SQLXML) just pointed me at iPocalypse Photoshop. A number of the pseudo-engravings are quite amusing, my favorites are "Stolen music is better than sex" and "once you've had small and white..."

    The photoshopped iPods in the scenes from Eddie Murphy's Haunted Mansion are also worth a snicker or two.