November 18, 2006
@ 01:40 PM

Over the past few months a number of our users have written about issues getting RSS Bandit to work in Windows Vista. A description of the kind of problems that can occur can be found in blog posts like Eric Denekamp's My RSS reader (RSS Bandit) on Vista and Arlindo Alves' My RSS Bandit on Vista. We have tracked the problem down to an issue with the SandDock GUI components that are used by RSS Bandit. In the Jubilee release we'll be moving to the Infragistics GUI components which should not have this problem. Torsten and I are committed to shipping a beta of the next release at the end of this month at which time folks running Windows Vista can test to see if this addresses their issues.

We've also started prototyping the next generation user interface for the subsequent release of RSS Bandit tentatively codenamed Phoenix. This UI will be inspired by the Office 2007 user interface. I've uploaded a couple of screenshots to Flickr. Click the images below to see larger versions of the screenshots

The goal of the Phoenix release will be to make the application look and feel like a Vista-native app.

Categories: RSS Bandit

Nick Carr has a blog post entitled Flattened by MySpace where he writes

Roush worries that MySpace "is undermining the 'social' in social networking" by encouraging companies to establish their products as MySpace "members" which can become "friends" with other (human) members: "The company interprets the idea of a 'profile' so broadly that real people end up on the same footing as products, movies, promotional campaigns, and fictional characters - not exactly the conditions for a new flowering of authentic personal expression." In earlier social networks, like Friendster, sham profiles, including those set up for commercial purposes, were scorned as "fakesters." But MySpace, says Roush, "has been hospitable to fakesters from the beginning - so much so that it's now perfectly kosher for a company (or one of its fans) to create a profile for a fast-food chain, a brand of soda, or an electronics product."

Far from being liberating, MySpace "tends to herd its users into niches created for them by the mass market," writes Roush.

I've been having some conversations with folks at work about whether social networking is a fad or a trend that is here to stay. I often respond that it is both. It is similar to the "everything is a portal" phase during the late 1990s. Every website trying to transform itself into a portal was a fad but portals were a huge trend on the Web and it is quite telling that the most popular sites on the Web today are portals like MSN and Yahoo!.

I expect that social networking is going to follow a similar path. In a little while, we'll see the death of social networking being bolted onto every website on the planet (*cough* Amazon friends *cough*) and the permanence of a small number of social networking sites on the Web landscape. Where I may differ from others is that I doubt that MySpace is going to end up ruling the roost in a few years from now. My suspicion is that the site will be crushed by the weight of commercialism such as the kind of spam that I complained about a few days ago and which Niall Kennedy described in his blog post Social network marketing, spam, and gaming. I also don't think users will be able to put up with how obnoxious the user experience is with regards to advertising. On the other hand, I think that sites that emphasize the social in the user experience and respect their users such as Facebook has done will go a long way in the next few years. I liken it to the difference between the approach that Google took with advertising and commercialization in comparison to its portal competitors.


Categories: Social Software

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.


Shelley Powers has a good pair of posts critical of TechMeme, a technology meme-tracker. In her post entitled Techmeme tells us to Feed the Daddy she writes

Techmeme heard the recent discussion about sites not appearing, and responds with a post (at on how to show up on techmeme. The money shot:

Early on I noticed my system occasionally missed good posts from blogs that link back to my sites. So recently I extended my system to take referrals into account. Now if your blog or news article sends a moderate level of traffic to one of my sites, it will be evaluated for inclusion. Linking certainly doesn't guarantee you'll appear, since all posts are run though the usual tests for newsworthiness. In fact, extra steps to avoid spam are now in effect since faked referrals and splogs are already commonplace. So in summary, sending memeorandum (or Techmeme or…) visitors is another way to "enable discovery of your post".

In other words, if you puff up Gabe Riviera's empire, giving it lots of Google rank, as well as do all the marketing for him (such as techmeme's primary gatekeeper, Scoble, for whom Riviera sends special love and kisses), you might be able to 'buy' your way into being listed.
I'm not sure what the goals of TechMeme are but it seems rather weird to use link exchange as a mechanism for getting sites into TechMeme's index. I doubt that will improve the 'quality' of the service and instead seems like a rather tacky 'scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours" ploy. If the intent is to determine if the site has enough traffic to be worth including, why not look at its Alexa statistics or Technorati rank [as flawed as they are] instead of requesting a tit-for-tat link exchange? I think Gabe got some bad advice there.

In her followup post entitled Feed your Daddy Follow-up, Shelley adds

I wouldn't 'fix' Techmeme. What I would like to see is a growth in sites that provide topic aggregations, each using its own metrics and filtering algorithms. The more of these there are, the more likely we'll see a more fair distribution of attention, as well as a greater variety of stories, and more timely ones at that. In history, a way to discover an unbiased view of a fact or an event is to seek out at least three separate sources of information. The same can be said of topic aggregators. More than three; I'd actually like to see at least five.

One of the biggest problems with Techmeme is that it is asserted to be the 'ultimate authority' on what are the top stories in technology (or politics for Memeorandum). Yet according to it, 30% of us spend all of our time talking about Google, 10% of us discuss new startup funding, 10% talk about Microsoft, how it is, or is not clued; probably about 15% of us talk about some variation of gadget, typically iPod and now Zune; the rest talk about Techcrunch, Scoble, Second Life, or Techcrunch and Scoble in a Second Life. I could go on, but the point is that Techmeme is based more or less on seeded terms and seeded webloggers, and it can't shake that influence. As such, it provides an incredibly skewed look at the tech area of weblogging–completely ignoring most of what is truly technology.

Techmeme serves a purpose for those who are into Google and VC and San Francisco and startups and money, and Michael Arrington and Calacanis, and Scoble and the scene there, and that's fine. But that doesn't make it an authority on what's important, interesting, or even timely.

As usual Shelley hits the nail on the head. TechMeme is good at what it does, gathering the popular or interesting links among the Silicon Valley blogger crowd. However this is just one particular view into the technology industry and specifically the technology blogosphere. Most of the content isn't particularly relevant if you aren't a regular reader of sites like TechCrunch and Robert Scoble's blog.

Me, I personally would prefer a meme tracker that was heavy on bloggers like Sam Ruby, Tim Bray and Jon Udell instead of the large number of PR hacks and VCs that populate TechMeme. Where I disagree with Shelley is that I don't think the answer is more meme trackers each with their own bias yet which will likely overlap significantly. We already have that today, if you read sites like TechMeme, TailRank and Megite. I think the future is in personalization and not more news aggregator whose bias you can't control.


November 16, 2006
@ 08:23 PM

We've been dealing with spam from every angle in my household today. As I write this, my blog is being hit by by a wave of trackback spam and is blocking around five trackback spam posts a second. I just deleted over a hundred emails from YouTube in my email inbox. It seems some bright Eastern European chap decided to run some script that suggesting that I check out a video of his band over a hundred times. My girlfriend logged into MySpace and checked out her messages only to find that most of them were from 50 Cent asking her to add 40 Glocc to her friends list.

I can understand why young people have given up on email and migrated almost entirely to IM and hanging out on social networking sites. I get about 1 legitimate email for every 20 pieces of spam that make it through my spam filters in my personal email address. If not for the fact that I've had both email addresses since the last decade I'd just have given up on them. As people have found new ways to communicate electronically, the spammers have followed. I wonder if social software sites like MySpace and YouTube realize how badly spam impacts their user experience and how much it could destroy them if they don't get it under control?


Categories: Social Software

November 16, 2006
@ 08:05 PM


November 14, 2006
@ 05:24 PM

Tag clouds are already a pet peeve of mine because they are a poor navigational interface but it seems some people [who shall remain nameless] have found a way to make them even more annoying. If you look at the Wikipedia entry for Tag Cloud it clearly states

There are two main types of tag cloud, distinguished by their meaning rather than appearance.

In the first, size represents the number of times that tag has been applied to a single item. This is useful as a means of displaying metadatademocratically 'voted' on and where precise results are not desired. A good example of this is, which uses this method as a means of displaying the genre with which an artist or track has been tagged. about an item that has been

In the second, size represents the number of items that have been given that tag. This is used as a presentation of the popularity of the tags and can be indicative of the content they cover, although in most contexts such information is of little use. Interestingly, the more prominent the tag the less information it contains. An example of this is Flickr.

It seems some people have decided to invent a third kind of tag cloud; one where the size of the font is chosen at random and has no relation to the popularity or number of items with that tag. Seriously, WTF people?


Categories: Web Development

November 14, 2006
@ 05:11 PM

I just saw the article College frat boys in "Borat" movie sue filmmakers which states

Two of the college fraternity brothers shown guzzling alcohol and making racist remarks in the "Borat" movie have sued the studio and producers for fraud, saying filmmakers duped them into appearing in the movie by getting them drunk.
The scene at issue in the lawsuit depicts Borat conducting a drunken interview with three college frat boys in a motor home. As the four grow increasingly inebriated, they make racist remarks about slavery and how minorities in the United States "have all the power."
"Believing the film would not be viewed in the United States and at the encouragement of (the filmmakers), plaintiffs engaged in behavior they otherwise would not have engaged in," the suit says.

"They took advantage of those kids for their own financial gain," plaintiffs' lawyer, Olivier Tailleiu, told Reuters.

Fallout from the movie, Tailleiu said, cost one of the students a job at a major corporation and another "a very prestigious internship." The third student involved in the scene did not take part in the suit, he said.

I guess the saying should be updated from "Character is what you do when no one is looking" to "Character is what you do when you think the only peoplelooking are foreigners who live thousands of miles away". As I watched that scene in the movie, I wondered how many people I've known sound like that once you loosen them up with a few beers and no minorities or women are around. My guess is quite a few.

PS:The Borat movie is hilarious and biting satire at the same time, if you haven't seen it you need to watch that as soon as you get the chance.


Categories: Current Affairs

So I got a comment from someone complaining that my embedded video gadget doesn't work when embedding MSN SoapBox video from Internet Explorer 7. So I tried embedding his video on my Windows Live Space [not there now because it starts with a video of Adolf Hitler] and it worked using the same version of IE.

I was stumped for a second until I remembered a recent blog posting by Alex Russell entitled The Virtual Life: IE At Arms Length where he wrote

IE isn’t built like Mozilla or any other browser. It really is down into the core of the OS because many of its behaviors are determined by the available versions of other components. Take, for example, the networking and javascript stacks. These are the cause of some very critical deployment-time bugs, but their behavior is determined by the versions of winsock and the Windows Scripting Host that are installed in the host OS, not the “IE version”. This means that if you’re not running the same version and patch-level of Windows, you’re not running the same browser that your users are, and if you’re not running the same browser, you can’t debug the problem or come up with a workaround. To accurately debug issues, you need to be able to step through OS revs, not just rendering engine+browser chrome updates. And as if that’s not enough, major Microsoft partners maintain their own IE builds. Getting reports of a problem that only shows up on Dells? There’s a reason for that. In cases like this, there’s really not much to be done short of buying a POS dell, but we can at least cover most of the rest of the strangeness we see in the wild with virtualization.

So it looks like I have to figure out what operating system and patches the user has installed.


If this keeps up I'm going to start missing doing C++ development.


Categories: Web Development

November 13, 2006
@ 06:47 PM

The folks behind Microsoft's video sharing site MSN SoapBox have a team blog at You should swing by and say hello. You might learn a thing or two. For example, I found out from the post entitled Spaces and Embedded Video Gadget that one can create a playlist of videos that is displayed when the SoapBox player is embedded in another website. The relevant excerpt is shown below

Dare spent the weekend updating his Embedded Video Gadget to allow Soapbox ideos to play within a Spaces and gadget.  The good news is that the Embedded Video Gadget now allows embedding single videos, as well as multiple videos, such as My Videos and My Favorites. 

The videos you see at the top of the Soapbox Team Blog, are an actual My Favorites example.

This is a pretty sweet feature and one I've not seen used a lot by other video sharing sites. I've been exchanging some mail with the team and they've been pretty good about responding to feedback and sharing information. If you have some ideas for the team or just want to find out how to get an invite to the beta go ahead and leave a comment in their blog.


Categories: MSN