Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that accessing this blog has been flaky all weekend. I've gotten numerous reports via Twitter that my blog was displaying the following error message when being visited

Server Error in '/site1/weblog' Application.
Exception of type 'System.OutOfMemoryException' was thrown.
Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.
Exception Details: System.OutOfMemoryException: Exception of type 'System.OutOfMemoryException' was thrown.
Source Error:
An unhandled exception was generated during the execution of the current web request. Information regarding the origin and location of the exception can be identified using the exception stack trace below.
Stack Trace:
[OutOfMemoryException: Exception of type 'System.OutOfMemoryException' was thrown.]
Go1999(RegexRunner ) +0
System.Text.RegularExpressions.CompiledRegexRunner.Go() +14
System.Text.RegularExpressions.RegexRunner.Scan(Regex regex, String text, Int32 textbeg, Int32 textend, Int32 textstart, Int32 prevlen, Boolean quick) +144
System.Text.RegularExpressions.Regex.Run(Boolean quick, Int32 prevlen, String input, Int32 beginning, Int32 length, Int32 startat) +134
System.Text.RegularExpressions.Regex.Match(String input) +44
newtelligence.DasBlog.Web.Core.UrlMapperModule.HandleBeginRequest(Object sender, EventArgs evargs) +458
System.Web.SyncEventExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute() +68
System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously) +75

This seems like a straightforward issue. The machine my blog is hosted on is running out of memory probably because the server is either overloaded from having too many sites hosted on it or one of the sites is badly written and is using up more than its fair share of memory. This has happened once or twice in the past and when it did I used the Live Chat feature of WebHost4Life, my hosting company, to contact a support rep who quickly moved my site to a different server. Thus when I got the first reports of this issue I thought this would be a routine support issue. I was sorely mistaken.

Earlier this year, WebHost4Life started migrating their customers to a new infrastructure with a different set of support staff. It seems this was a cost cutting measure because the new support staff seem to be a lot less technical than their previous counterparts and seem to have less access to their infrastructure. Over the weekend I chatted with about three or four different support folks over IM and opened a ticket that was closed multiple times. Here is a sampling of some of the messages that were written as part of closing the support ticket by WebHost4Life


Thank you for contacting Support.

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you. I have checked your website at the URL: and it is working fine. Could you please check it once again after clearing browser cache and cookies? If the issue persists, please get back to us with the exact error message, so that we will investigate on your issue.

Thank you!


Sharon <redacted>
Customer Support



Thank you for your reply.

I have checked your website URL: and I was able to duplicate the issue. I have received the error message. Hence, I have asked a member of our team who specializes in website management to review your issue. You should be hearing from this specialist within 24-48 hours. If you have any questions in the meantime, please let us know and be sure to refer to the link for the quickest service.

Thank you for choosing webhost4life, we appreciate your support.


Sharon <redacted>
Customer Support



I have checked the issue and and was not able to duplicate it. It seems to be issue with your ISP. Please check once again and if the issue still persists, please get back to us, tracert results of the website when you experience the issue and also the exact time and location so that we can investigate on it further.

If you have any further questions, please update the Support Console.


Aleta <redacted>
Technical Specialist



Thank you for getting back to us.

Currently, your website is loading without any slowness. I suggest you to check the website functionality again and get back to us, if the issue persists.

If you have any further questions, please update the Support Console.


Technical Specialist


I’m still getting reports that my blog is throwing out of memory exceptions infrequently and as you can see from the above there isn’t anything being done to fix this problem. At first I wondered if the poor support I was getting was because this happened on the weekend and perhaps the technical folks only work weekdays. Unfortunately my hopes were dashed when someone on Twitter pointed me to webhosting review site with dozens of complaints about WebHost4Life which echoed my experience. It seems the company is under new management and quality has suffered under some of their cost cutting moves.

Although I paid for a year’s worth of service, I’ve decided that I probably need to switch hosting companies. Thus I’m seeking recommendations for a web hosting company that supports ASP.NET and .NET 2.0 or higher from any of my readers. Also if anyone is familiar with the process of cancelling your service with a web host including getting refunded for services not provided, I’d love any experience or tips you have to share.


Categories: Rants

I've been a Twitter user for almost two years now and I have always been impressed by the emergent behavior that has developed from simply giving people a text box with 140 character limit. The folks at Twitter have also done a good job of noticing some these emergent behaviors and making them formal features of the site. Both hashtags and @replies are examples of emergent community conventions in authoring tweets that are now formal features of the site.

Twitter recently added retweets to this list with Project Retweet. After using this feature for a few days I've found that unlike hashtags and @replies, the way this feature has been integrated into the Twitter experience is deeply flawed. Before I talking about the problems with Project Retweet, I should talk about how the community uses retweeting today.

Retweeting 101: What is it and why do people do it?

Retweeting is akin to the practice of forwarding along interesting blog posts and links to your friends via email. A retweet repeats the content of a person's tweet (sometimes edited for brevity) along with a reference to the user who is being retweeted. Often times people also add some commentary to the retweets. Examples of both styles of retweets are shown below.

Figure 1: Retweet without commentary

Figure 2: Retweet with added comment

Unlike hashtags and @replies, the community conventions aren't as consistent with retweets. Below are two examples of retweets from my home page which use different prefixes and separators from the one above to indicate the item is a retweet and the user's comment respectively.

Figure 3: Different conventions in retweeting

However there are many issues with retweeting not being a formal feature of Twitter. For one, it is often hard for new users to figure out what's going on when they see people posting updates prefixed with strange symbols and abbreviations. Another problem is that users who want to post a retweet now have to deal with the fact that the original tweet may have taken up all or most of the 140 character limit so there may be little room to credit the author let alone add commentary.

Thus I was looking forward to retweeting becoming a formal feature of Twitter so that these problems would be addressed. Unfortunately, while one of these problems was fixed more problems were introduced.

Flaw #1: Need to visit multiple places to see all retweets of your content

Before the introduction of the retweet feature, users could go to to see all posts that reference their name which would include @replies and retweets. The new Twitter features fragments this in an inconsistent manner.

Figure 4: Current Twitter sidebar

Now users have to visit to see people who has retweeted their posts using community conventions (i.e. copy and pasting then prefixing "RT" to a tweet) and then visit to see who has retweeted their posts by clicking the Retweet link in the Twitter web user interface. There will be different people in both lists.

Figure 5: Retweets in the Replies/Mentions page

Figure 6: Retweets on the "Your tweets, retweeted" page

It is surprising to me that Twitter didn't at least include posts that start with RT followed by your username in as well.

Flaw #2: No way to add commentary on what you are retweeting

As I mentioned earlier, it is fairly common for people to retweet a status update and then add their own commentary. The retweet feature built into Twitter ignores this common usage pattern and provides no option to add your own commentary.

Figure 7: The Retweet prompt

This omission is particularly problematic if you disagree with what you are sharing and want to clarify to your followers that although you find the tweet interesting you aren't endorsing the opinion. 

Flaw #3: Retweets don't show up in Twitter apps

One of the other surprising changes is that Twitter retweets have been introduced in a backwards-incompatible manner into the API. This means that retweets created using the Twitter retweet button do not show up in 3rd party applications that use the Twitter API. See below for an example of what I see in Echofon versus the Twitter web experience and notice the missing tweet.

Figure 8: Twitter website showing a retweet

Figure 9: The retweet is missing in Echofon

Again, I find this surprising since it would have been straightforward to keep retweets in the API and exposing them as if they were regular old school retweets prefixed with "RT".

Flaw #4: Pictures of people I don't know in my stream

The last major problem with the Twitter retweet feature is that it breaks user expectation of the stream. Until this feature shipped, users could rest assured that the only content they saw in their stream was content they had explicitly asked for by subscribing to a user. Thus when you see someone in your stream the person's user name and avatar are familiar to you.

With the new retweet feature, the Twitter team has decided to highlight the person being retweeted and treat the person who I've subscribed to that did the retweeting as an afterthought. Not only does this confuse users at first (who is this person showing up in my feed and why?) but it also assumes that the content being retweeted is more important than who did the retweeting. This is an unfortunate assumption since in many cases the person who did the retweeting adds all the context.

Note Now Playing: Jason Derulo - Whatcha Say Note


Categories: Rants | Social Software

I've been a FeedBurner customer for a couple of years and was initially happy for the company when it was acquired by Google. This soon turned to frustration when I realized that Google had become the company where startups go to die. Since being acquired by Google almost two years ago, the service hasn't added new features or fixed glaring bugs. If anything, the service has only lost features since it was acquired.

I discovered the most significant feature loss this weekend when I was prompted to migrate my FeedBurner account to using a Google login. I thought this would just be a simple change in login credentials but I got a different version of the service as well. The version of the service for Google accounts does have a new feature, the chart of subscribers is now a chart of subscribers AND "reach". On the other hand, the website analytics features seemed to be completely missing. So I searched on the Internet and found the following FAQ on the FeedBurner to Google Accounts migration

Are there any features that are not available at

There are two features that we are retiring from all versions of feedburner: Site Stats (visitors) and FeedBurner Networks.

We have decided to retire FeedBurner website visitor tracking, as we feel Google already has a comparable publisher site analytics tool in Google Analytics. If you do not currently use Google Analytics, we recommend signing up for an account. We want to stress that all feed analytics will remain the same or be improved, and they are not going away.

FeedBurner Networks, which were heavily integrated with FeedBurner Ad Network, are no longer being supported. As with many software features, the usage wasn't at the level we'd hoped, and therefore we are making the decision not to develop it further, but to focus our attention on other feed services that are being used with more frequency. We will continue to look out for more opportunities for publishers to group inventory as part of the AdSense platform.

I guess I should have seen this coming. I know enough about competing projects and acquisitions to realize that there was no way Google would continue to invest in two competing website analytics products. It is unfortunate because there were some nice features in FeedBurner's Site Stats such as tracking of clicked links and the ability to have requests from a particular machine be ignored which are missing in Google Analytics. I also miss the simplicity of FeedBurner's product. Google Analytic is a more complex product with lots of bells and whistles, yet it takes two or three times as many clicks to answer straightforward questions like what referrer pages are sending people to our site. 

The bigger concern for me is that both Google Analytics and FeedBurner (aka AdSense for Feeds) are really geared around providing a service for people who use Google's ad system. I keep wondering how much longer Google will be willing to let me mooch off of them by offloading my RSS feed bandwidth costs to them while not serving Google ads in my feed.  At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised if Google turns FeedBurner into a Freemium business model product where users like me are encouraged to run ads if we want any new features and better service.

Too bad there isn't any competition in this space.

Note Now Playing: Lords of the Underground - Chief Rocka Note


Categories: Rants

Every once in a while I encounter an online service or Web site that is so irritating that it seems like the people behind the service are just in it to frustrate Web users. And I don’t mean the obvious candidates like email spammers and purveyors of popup ads since they’ve been around for so long I’ve either learned how to ignore and avoid them.

There is a new generation of irritants and many of them are part of the new lunacy we call “Web 2.0”

  1. Flash Widgets with Embedded PDF Documents: Somewhere along the line a bunch of startups decided that they needed to put a “Web 2.0” spin on the simple concept of hosting people’s office documents online. You see, lots of people would like to share documents in PDF or Microsoft Office® formats that aren’t particularly Web friendly. So how have sites like Scribd and Docstoc fixed this problem? By creating a Flash widgets containing the embedded PDF/Office documents like the one shown here. So not only are the documents still in a Web unfriendly format but now I can’t even download them and use the tools on my desktop to read them. It’s like let’s combine the FAIL of putting non-Web documents on the Web with the fail of a Web-unfriendly format like Flash. FAIL++. By the way, it’s pretty ironic that a Microsoft enterprise product gets this right where so many “Web 2.0” startups get it wrong.

  2. Hovering Over Links Produces Flash Widgets as Pop Over Windows: The company that takes the cake for spreading this major irritant across the blogosphere is Snap Technologies and their Snap Shots™ product. There’s nothing quite as irritating as hovering over a link on your way to click another link and leaving a wake of pop over windows with previews of the Web pages at the end of said links. I seriously wonder if anyone finds this useful?

  3. Facebook Advertisers: One of the promises of Facebook is that its users will see more relevant advertising because there is all this rich demographic data about the site’s users in their profiles. Somewhere along the line this information is either getting lost or being ignored by Facebook’s advertisers. Even though my profile says I’m married and out of my twenties I keep getting borderline sleazy ads whenever I login to play Scrabulous asking if I want to meet college girls. Then there are the ads which aren’t for dating sites but still use sleazy imagery anyway. It’s mad embarrassing whenever my wife looks over to see what I’m doing on my laptop to have dating site ads blaring in her face. Obviously she knows I’m not on a dating site but still…

  4. Forums that Require Registration Showing Up in Search Results : Every once in a while I do a Web search for a programming problem and a couple of links to Experts Exchange end up in the results. What is truly annoying about this site is that the excerpt on the search result page makes  it seem as though the answer to your question is one click away but when you click through you are greeted with “All comments and solutions are available to Premium Service Members only”. I thought search engines had rules about banning sites with that sort of obnoxious behavior?

  5. Newspaper Websites with Interstitial Ads and Registration Requirements: Newspapers such as the New York Times often act as if they don’t really want me reading the content on their Web site. If I click on a link to a story on the New York Times site such as this one, one of two things will happen; I’m either taken to a full page animated advertisement with an option to skip the ad in relatively small font or I get a one sentence summary of the story with a notice that I need to register on their Web site before I can read the story. Either way it’s a bunch of bull crap that prevents me from getting to the news.

There are two things that strike me about this list as notable. The first is that there are an increasing number of “Web 2.0” startups out there who are actively using Flash to cause more problems than they claim to be solving. The second is that requiring registration to view content is an amazingly stupid trend that is beyond dumb. It’s not like people need to register on your site to see ads so why reduce the size of your potential audience by including this road block? That’s just stupid.

Now Playing: Pleasure P - Rock Bottom (feat. Lil Wayne)


Categories: Rants

A little while ago Facebook added the News Feed feature which is basically a river of news on your Facebook home page which shows what people in your social network are up to. What I hadn't noticed until today is that sometimes they have ads in there masquerading as updates from people in your friends list. Here's what I saw when I logged in today to take a look at the much ballyhoed Facebook developer platform.

It's one thing to inject ads into a social experience like Facebook has done here, it's another thing for the ad to contain disgusting imagery from a big budget snuff film. Seriously...WTF?


Categories: Rants | Social Software

Copyright, like abortion, is one of those issues that is pretty pointless to debate online. Most people have entrenched positions and refuse to accept the validity of opposing views which may come from a different perspective. However every couple of years I end up reading something that draws me into making a comment online. This year it was the post Scott Adams' Pointy Haired Views On Copyright by Mike over at TechDirt in response to Scott Adams's post Is Copyright Violation Stealing?. I tend to avoid TechDirt because I find the writing particularly poor, full of monotonous arguments and specious generalizations. The article Scott Adams' Pointy Haired Views On Copyright is no exception, I felt dumber after reading the article.

Thanks to the Mike's article I've decided to write this rant on how to avoid sounding like a 15 year old high off the fact he can download the latest Billboard Top 100 hits off of The Pirate Bay without coughing up $15 for a CD when talking about copyright on your favorite message board or "social news" site.

Lots of folks who debate copyright on the Web are familiar with the Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Copyright Clause, gives Congress the power to enact statutes To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Lots of folks throw this statement around but never really internalize what it means. A key purpose of giving authors and other content creators exclusive rights to their intellectual property is to enable them to be rewarded financially from their works for some time before allowing these creations to become "owned" by society. This is supposed to be an incentive that enables the creation of a professional class of content creators and thus benefits society by increasing the number and quality of copyrighted works as well as creating a market/economy around copyrighted works.

Most arguments against copyright laws are directly or indirectly an attempt to challenge the existence or benefits afforded the professional class of content creators. It should be noted that professionals dominate practically all areas of content creation (i.e. professionally created content is most popular or most valuable) even when you consider newer areas of content creation that have shown up in the past decade or so. For example, if you look at the Technorati Top 100 Most Popular Blogs you will notice that a media format that was popularized by amateurs now has its most popular content (i.e. of interest to the most members of the society) being content that is created by people who make their living directly or indirectly from blogging.

Now lets look at some of the anti-copyright arguments that are common on TechDirt which are mentioned or alluded to in the linked article, Scott Adams' Pointy Haired Views On Copyright

  1. Giving Away Intellectual Property for Free is Free Advertising: It's only free advertising if there is something of even more value that the content creator can sell. In many cases, this simply isn't the case. And trying to apply that rule uniformly is as foolish as trying to point out that since companies like Microsoft and IBM give away free T-shirts with corporate logos as a form of advertising then Nike and Abercrombie & Fitch should do so as well. What's good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander.

  2. Copyright infringement isn't stealing because the copyright owner still has the original item: This is one of those attempts to split semantic hairs instead of debating the actual cost of copyright infringement. What the copyright owner loses when people pirate his or her materials is the ability to sell to those customers who are using the pirated goods. The more people who choose to grab the latest songs off the Internet for free, the less money the music industry makes. Not only is this common sense, it is a documented fact. Pointing out that copyright infringement doesn't meet some 17th century definition of the verb "steal" because the original property isn't changing hands is like arguing that calling your ex-girlfriend a slut isn't libel because you only said it to people over IM.

  3. Successful copyright holders and content creators are rich so they deserve copyright infringement: One of the main problems with capitalism is that it leads to inequity. The inequity of capitalism is why the founders of Google and Microsoft have more money than ten Dare Obasanjos could make in a dozen lifetimes. However the balance for society is that in exchange for getting rich, they have built companies and products that add value to our society. This is the fundamental exchange of capitalism, you provide people with something of value and in turn they give you money. If enough people think you have provided something of value then you get rich. Being jealous of someone's wealth isn't a good reason to advocate theft copyright infringement especially since given that we are in a capitalist society their wealth is a direct reflection of how much value they've brought to society.

  4. Copyright take too long to fall into the public domain: The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (aka The Mickey Mouse Protection Act) and the laws before it now make it so that copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years or 95 years for content created by a corporation. Many feel that his is excessive especially since it is now quite likely that no works created during the average person's lifetime will fall into the public domain in their lifetime. It is true that the pendulum may have swung to far towards the wants of copyright holders in this regard but it should be noted that even if we did go back to the rules from the Copyright Act of 1790, it is unlikely that the "free stuff" brigade on sites like TechDirt would be happy with copyrights that lasted only 14 years.

  5. Middlemen like record labels and publishers make most of the money from copyrighted works: The fact that an artist or author doesn't make 100% of the money you spend on their works doesn't justify spending zero on their work. After all getting a cut of the money you spent on purchasing their content is better than getting nothing from you. Secondly, middlemen make a bulk of the money in the content industry because they provide funding and exposure to content producers. The people who provide the funding to content producers tend to make a killing whether it is a publisher who funds a book that ends up on the New York Times bestseller list or a venture capitalist that funds a tiny startup that becomes a multibillion dollar company. Thanks to the Web, content producers who feel that they do not need the funding and exposure provided by these middlemen now have a way to route around that system. Consumers should not rob infringe the copyrights of content producers because they don't like that the financial backers who funded the creation of the content are making a lot of money from it.

After reading that, it is probably clear why reading the monotonous and ill-considered arguments on TechDirt gets old for me. If you are going to be writing about copyright on the Web, keep these notes on the default anti-copyright arguments in mind before engaging your keyboard next time you feel like ranting about the RIAA, MPAA, BSA or Metallica.


Categories: Rants

Apple's tech support is a real clusterfuck. What is amazing to me is that I know how bad their tech support is yet their products have been so much better than the competition's that I keep buying Apple devices. Yesterday I was at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store in Tukwila to report a problem with my video iPod. For some reason, my iPod no longer plays sound out of the right side of any headphones plugged into it.

Before complaining about the experience, I should probably point out the one positive thing about the experience was that I could make an appointment online instead of waiting around in the store for a "genius" to become available. I got there a little early and got to marvel at the all-in-one design of the iMacs which blew my mind as someone who spends all his time on Dell PCs and laptops. Now that I can run Windows on a Mac, I may end up buying one of these the next time I have to buy a computer. 

Anyway, back to my tech support woes. When my turn came up, I told the "genius" my problem and he gave me two options.

  1. I can get a used refurbished iPod as a replacement from Apple which would either cost me $200 or $0 (if mine was still under warranty)
  2. I could go online and try an iPod repair sites like iPodResQ which aren't affiliated with Apple at all.

Since my iPod was no longer under warranty and I didn't feel like paying $200 for a used iPod, I decided to go with iPodResQ . While the iPod "genius" was helping me I noticed that the Mac "genius" was also answering some questions from a customer about Apple Boot Camp. The Mac "genius" told the customer to go to Google and search for "Apple Boot Camp" to get information about it.

At this point it seemed to me that Apple Inc. can save itself a lot of money and its customers a lot of time by replacing its Genius Bars with the following FAQ

Q: I have a question about ...
A: Go to Google and type your question.

Q: I have a problem with my iPod
A: Go to iPodResQ

Q: I have a problem with my iMac/Mac Pro/Mac Mini/MacBook
A: Go to MacResQ

It's really a sad testament to the PC industry that despite these negative tech support experiences with Apple products I'd still get a 20-inch iMac in a heartbeat.


Categories: Rants