There is a quote you are probably familiar with from William Gibson:

“The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.”

I like it for what it means, but I also like it because it is from our generation. It was spoken when my friends and I were just starting to get the feeling something big was happening and we were seeing it unfold.

Jason Kottke linked to a post today by David Bauer about traveling to the year 2000 and being shocked at the absence of, well, everything.

After Jason quotes a few paragraphs he wrote a response:

I turned 27 in 2000, lived in San Francisco, worked as a web designer, and had been using the web since 1994...and most of the people I knew were similar. We were a bunch of outliers, people with lots of knowledge about and access to technology and the internet. So a lot of what he writes doesn't ring true to me, especially the bit above, and extra especially the newspaper providing "the better news fix".

David makes a lot of fun points in his post about what was missing, and it is fun to read, but I feel the way Jason described in his post.

Connecting with friends, finding a community, tracking weblogs, sharing photos, and reading news all existed in some form for us. Yeah, you had to work at it. Yeah, you had to read man-pages last touched in the 80s. But we were doing it and we knew it was just going to get better.

If I traveled back to the year 2000 my day wouldn’t be that different than it is today. Yes the tools are remarkably better, but there isn’t anything I would feel unable to do. I could still read kottke.org. I could still mail Jason. I could pull him up on IM and chat. I had been on the internet almost a decade by 2000 and was fairly proficient at finding information and connecting with people who were like-minded.


Here is a quote from Chris Dixon that I also like:

What the smartest people do on the weekend is what everyone else will do during the week in ten years

I think that was us back in 2000 and the late 90’s as we wrestled with those man-pages. I think that is what describes people who are dabbling with Arduino and fabrication technologies right now.

Nearly ten years ago I built a crowd funding site called Dropcash because I needed a way to raise money for a fledgling site I had built and managed in my spare time. There were a few of us at the time doing these little communities on the weekends. Matt Haughey ran Metafilter. Joshua Schachter ran Memepool and then Delicious. They weren’t conceived as businesses because there was no business in it. We did them because they were fun to make and people liked to use them.

I don’t exactly consider myself “smart” for doing these things ten years ago. I think of myself as a deeply curious person who likes to think about how to solve problems. I live in constant state of thinking about problems and thinking about solutions. This is fun for me.

What is also fun is being aware of technology as it emerges. Because if you are going to solve problems you should be aware of what other people are doing and what is possible.


For the past week I took a break from Twitter because I was feeling like rather than consuming Twitter it was consuming me. Whenever it was time to put my phone down there were ten more tweets to read. Feeling like I was a bit addicted to the service I decided to set it aside for a week and look into other stuff I’d been missing out on while locked onto my phone.

After spending a week away I had time to think about what I wanted out of Twitter and what I could change to get the most out of it. Rather than ditch it entirely I dropped my following count by almost 300 accounts and I have a few ideas for some lists to make.

The exercise of cutting out Twitter has taught me that Twitter is how I stay aware of that future that is being “unevenly distributed.” I just can’t give that up.

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It’s been a couple days now since I took a break from Twitter. Here is a list of things I use to keep up with what is going on:

What am I missing? What source of information should I be checking daily? Mail me here

or @torrez.

(Thanks to @guylschmidt)

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Just over ten years ago I quit smoking. I had tried for many years but the thing I realized is that you can only quit when you know it is time to quit. Like a lot of smokers I had tried to quit with the aid of nicotine gum or patches, but it never really took until one day I thought: I really don’t want to be a smoker anymore.

Of course it was still hard. I had to figure out some things to do that worked for me to help me quit (eating, eating, eating). It was a lot of work but I finally managed to quit for good sometime in October of 2002.

On Friday morning I was making my son’s lunch for school. Something that usually takes me no more than 10 minutes had taken almost 20. I realized I was taking breaks and following an interesting conversation on Twitter instead of doing what I needed to be doing.

When I snapped out of it and went back to getting my son ready for school I thought it’d be a fun experiment to skip Twitter the rest of the day. That night I shared with some friends what I had done and some said they had thought about doing this too. It felt good finding other things to do that day so I thought of extending it through the weekend.

The weekend was a little tougher. I ended up getting stuck indoors with a bad case of pollen allergies and every time I reached for my phone to check in on Twitter I was able to catch myself. A few times I actually loaded the app only to realize what I was doing and close it. It’s not as destructive as smoking, but it sure feels a lot like the same sort of addiction.

I would call myself a very heavy user of Twitter. I just looked and I’ve marked 33,621 tweets as “favorites”. I have only tweeted 9,252 times (in seven years that’s 3.9 tweets per day) and I would bet a full 80% of those are actually replies/mentions. I read Twitter a lot, but I don’t tweet nearly as much as some heavy users. I just love to read it and converse with people. I have been doing this since November of 2006 so taking a break meant I had some extra time on my hands I haven’t had in a while.

This weekend didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I found other things to do. I watched Down By Law and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai which lead to my reading Rashōmon. I spent a couple hours on Sunday just drawing. A few hours with Ridiculous Fishing and an hour or so with The Cave.

Back in 2002 after I’d quit smoking a funny thing happened: I got a terrible case of tendonitis in my hands and wrists. I knew people who had it and I figured it was just something that happens to people who type for a living until my doctor suggested it might have to do with quitting smoking. I used to take breaks pretty regularly to go smoke which gave myself a rest. But now I would work straight through. Four hour stretches without a break was just too much for my wrists and fingers.

So on Sunday night when some friends were talking about new games they were playing and looking forward to, I realized I’d cut out out my way of keeping track of new releases, news of the world, and news of tech. I wasn’t just missing out on what my friends are doing, I’d cut myself off from many other things I am interested in.

So this morning I bought a digital subscription to the NY Times. I added a couple more feeds to my newsreader for tech and game news. I still have to figure out what to do about missing out hearing what my friends are doing. I might look into some kind of Twitter summary service. Perhaps a very small Twitter list.

I don’t know if I am off Twitter for good. I still haven’t read it though I did tweet a link to something this weekend and replied to some people who replied to me. I might pare down who I follow to just friends and only check-in when I actually have free time and there isn’t anything else to do. I don’t know.

In the end it’s just fun to break shit every once in a while and see what happens. Cutting Twitter out for an extended period is definitely going to break some shit. I can’t wait to see what happens.

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A few months ago I was contemplating buying a subscription to a service when I was shown a screen that reminded me I could cancel at any time. I figured I could try it for a month and then cancel if it really wasn’t worth it.

I filled out the required fields and made the purchase. Only when I got to the post-payment page I realized my card had been charged the full year. Sure, I could cancel at any time, but that would only stop payment for the following year.

I was a little annoyed. I could have called someone and canceled right then, but I really wanted to try out the service so I stayed a customer.

Months later, through some bit of luck, I ended up hanging out with a group of people and one of them worked at this company. I didn’t mention I was a paid subscriber but I did express interest in how they do things because I am always interested in how people do things.

“We A/B test everything!” they said excitedly. “We have a team dedicated to rolling these tests out and making decisions.”

At the time of the conversation I thought this was pretty cool. A/B testing is something I have never really done. The most we did was A/B test banner ads and some post-purchase upselling.

But this morning I was thinking about how I’d implement some A/B testing of my own when I realized: that’s what happened to me. The language on the page of the service I had signed up for was written (or honed) to maximize purchases. And I would imagine it does a very good job if it is still in use.

I can imagine the success of this particular path converts many paid subscriptions but probably affects re-subscriptions a year out. Now having used the product for a few months I know I won’t be renewing. Partly because the service didn‘t do everything I wanted, but also because I felt tricked into paying that much for it.

I assume the tests don’t account for that.

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Less than two weeks ago I whittled my 2,000 feeds to about 100. I had to do this in the piece of trash that Google Reader had become and it spurred that blog post about how to deal with its limitations for others who might run into the same problem.

The reason I still use Google Reader is that I absolutely adore Reeder for Mac (and iPhone and iPad). Reeder uses Google Reader as the engine for its display and synchronization. To me nothing beats a native app when it comes to reading RSS and Reeder was worth paying for on each of my devices.

So although I am annoyed to find out that Google is killing Reader on July 1, I am hopeful someone (Newsblur?) can work with Reeder to keep the app going.

I don’t think this “kills RSS” as some people on Twitter have said, if anything it is good news for people who actually care about RSS and are building a business on it.

Now RSS is going to have someone spending their time delivering the best service they can, rather than spending their time trying to figure out what ads it could inject in between posts.

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“But as the smiling face of the fastest-growing company in history, Mason was also a shield, a barrier between the press and Eric Lefkofsky, the co-founder and investor behind Groupon, and a man with a track record of creating hypergrowth companies that have crashed and burned... after he cashed out.”

The Verge, “Andrew Mason’s Deal with the Devil”

Here is an example of how tech writing can be better. Yeah, Andrew wrote a funny resignation letter and everyone covered it and tweeted about it. But there was a better story there just waiting to be looked into.

Anil has mentioned this to me often in chat and I think on his weblog: if you look at the history of the people involved in any tech story you can find patterns that tell a much better one.

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Because I just figured this out after unsubscribing from over 2,000 sites I wanted to share how to do this.

Going into Manage Subscriptions, selecting all, and then clicking unsubscribe does not work. You get an error “Oops. ..an error occurred. Try again in a few seconds.” which is bad advice because it will always reply with that. It seems the limit is somewhere just below 200 subscriptions.

The trick turned out to be the filter/search box. You can use that to filter to something more manageable, like a 50 or so subscriptions, then selecting them all and unsubscribing.

I didn’t figure out to do this until I was at the M’s. I just typed “M” and the list was truncated to all feeds whose name began with the letter “M”.

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I am shuffling some ideas around in my head but I wanted to put down all the elements before I forget about it. I might revisit when I can form a better post. You might find some of these links interesting.

  1. A very good conversation is starting here on this Branch about how to design your projects. It was interesting because the first two respondents are his investors and advisors who also have a lot of experience with the questions. (Unrelatedly there are neat things going on in the UI with Branch.)
  2. I tweeted a quote and link to @jbouie’s post about tech writing. But I think the sentence I quoted: “An implicit network, not overt racism, keeps tech writing dominated by white men” goes beyond tech writing and beyond “white men”. There is a lot in there.
  3. This story from AVC where Fred misses the point of Airbnb because they can’t identify with the need for sleeping on people’s floors.
  4. Did you know Path was hit with an $800,000 fine for collecting people’s address books without their consent?
  5. The Only Black Guy at the Indie Rock Show

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Last night I did some research on static blog publishing. The winner for me was easily Pelican because:

1. it is built with Python.
2. it supports plugins.
3. it uses a sensible template engine I can tweak.
4. it allows me to write in the text editor of my choice.

Give or take a few bullet points this essentially is what every recently built static blog publishing engine looks like. I was ready to take the plunge when I realized: I think I am happy about these features because I am a programmer who likes to tweak things. As a keeper of a simple weblog (this one) what I really want is an OS X app that

1. stores my posts in iCloud.
2. can therefore sync between computers (and phone).
3. publishes locally to a directory or to S3.
4. light generation of an index and archives.
5. markdown formatting.

It doesn’t even need to have an editor, though it’d be fine if it did, but I generally write in Markdown.

After using Medium, I realized my needs for writing are just text-area, light formatting with Markdown, and the ability to drag in images. I don’t need tags. I don’t need comments. And I definitely need a service (S3 or Dropbox) that will just be up without any tweaking or maintenance on my part.

What I think is cool (Pelican) is not what I really want to use every day (mystery OS X app).

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What Will Ad Tech Look Like Without Cookies?” This is a very interesting question raised on PandoDaily. I think a lot about ad serving and ad tech so this kind of stuff is always interesting to me.

It reminded me of a trick that people already do to create zombie cookies that rise from the dead even after you think you’ve deleted your cookies.

The ETag is part of the HTTP spec that provides a mechanism for cache validation. When you request a resource (image, css, html) from a site some servers provide an ETag string in the headers. Your browser will make a note of the string and the next time your browser requests that file from the servers it will send the previously attached ETag string along with the request.

If the ETag string you send, and the ETag string the server has in memory for that file are the same, the server tells your browser the file hasn’t changed and does’t waste bandwidth sending you another file. Just use the one you have.

The ETag string can be anything. And ad companies use this fact to identify you by sending you ETag strings that are linked to a cookie they gave you in the past. So you delete all your cookies but your browser sends the ETag along with some ad serving .js file and bam, your old cookie is back.

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Matt posted about Facebook vs. Twitter on Medium. We were talking the other day about this and I said something that occurred to me during our conversation. Facebook vs. Twitter is essentially real names vs user names. And it makes sense that most of my friends from the old days of the web, when user names were king, have gravitated to Twitter. While all the people we were getting away from have taken to Facebook.

I did create a Facebook account many years ago, but deleted it. Then when MLKSHK was starting up I created another so I could make a MLKSHK page, but Facebook itself has never, ever been interesting to me.

After I left FM I had lunch with a Facebook co-founder. We could not be more in disagreement about real identity versus fake names. I left that conversation feeling like perhaps I had it all wrong and I should give in to the world of real names, but Twitter has validated my feelings about what some people want, and I love that.

I ❤ Twitter

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Screen Shot 2012 08 31 at 10 34 24 AM

I link to this tweet and photo not to make fun of her, but only to point out the absurdity of filters. I do hope she had the option set that saves the original version of her photo. That would have made for a great picture with no filter at all.

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Two new services showed up last week that captured the tech web’s attention. Branch, an invite-only hosted conversation app, and Medium, a next generation publishing app.

I think both are fine apps and I think they will do quite well with the tech world. Outside of it I can’t really say, I think I am too in the Valley to see out of it. But the things that caught my attention last week were:

  1. The pre-order for Little Printer
  2. The release of human.io

Let me take a step back: I am trying to use my computer less. That is, I work on computers every day as that is what our business does, but outside of my time at the office I want to be on the computer less.

I have started learning about circuitry and playing my guitar more. I also pick my kid up after school and we go to a tumbling class (for him) or a park. I love my computers, but I love the rest of the world more.

Berg’s Little Printer

Shop 01

At first glance Berg’s Little Printer looks like it came from some alternative 1990’s universe where the Macintosh SE was not only wildly successful, it destroyed every other computer manufacturer on the planet. I have to admit 50% of why I care about this device so much is in the design of the product and the design of the site. The API documentation is also quite pleasing. I cannot wait to hook something up to their service and watch it go.

The other 50% is about what the printer does. Yes, it does use a thermal printer to print to rolls of paper you can find at your local office supply store. But that part is not really even core to what this is about. This is not about printing, it’s about BergCloud.

If you make things for people on the web and you take some time to read the API documentation the little gears in your head will start turning. This isn’t just a printer you print documents with. It is a content delivery service that doesn’t require a computer.

When you see the future you want you buy it; so I did. I hope to be submitting an app for acceptance to their service before they launch.

When smart people balk at the $260 price tag I don’t think they fully understand that part of that price goes towards access to the BergCloud service. I think if Chris wasn’t so focused on hardware entrepreneurs bootstrapping companies he’d be able to see the larger picture. There’s more than just cheap hardware here.

While it might be off-putting to know that there are some pretty steep walls around the BergCloud garden, I find the opportunities within service they built pretty exciting. There are so many reasons we dig our phone out of our pocket in a day that it’s fun to think we could cut some of those reasons out with a small disposable newspaper. And knowing that there will be a small well-vetted collection of apps that feed into that newspaper fits with the decluttering process I have been undertaking outside of work.

And it is cute.

Human.io

Human.io is a different sort of thing. It is an iPhone app that provides an interface to people. Developers write “micro-applications” that can present questions or request work from people. Some have called it an “IFTTT for people” and I think that is somewhat true, but there is a lot more there that hasn’t been fully brought out.

Clients

Human.io is made by Tasty Labs, makers of Jig. I think they have a similar problem that IFTTT in that this sort of human->computer/computer->computer software requires a lot of good documentation and plain English examples. IFTTT managed it with a really clear site that still took a few months for people to fully grok*.

I think Human.io is a bit more Mechanical Turk than IFTTT. The thing that MT was missing was what Human.io provides: a very simple way to construct micro-apps to present elements that extract work from humans.

I can’t even write about Human.io in a language that doesn’t end up sounding too geeky. It’s a hard thing to do and I wish them luck. It’s a very exciting service I just wish I had an idea to build on it. Every time I sit down to do it I come up completely empty and frustrated. The problem is I don’t have a need yet so I have to keep it in mind when I do.

Why I like it is that it creates an ecosystem for quickly gathering data from humans that can be statistically analyzed and used for larger purposes. Weathermob is an app that crowd sources not only the weather but your friends’ moods. This is a step up from something like that. You could build Weathermob on top of Human.io.

But you could also build a service to classify a set of images. Or you can geo-target interview questions. (I do wish they had a drawing UI element that let me ask people to draw things.)

Again, it’s hard to exactly classify Human.io but that’s what is so exciting to me. There is possibility there rather than more conversations on web pages. If you like conversations on web pages I think Branch is great for you.

I don’t want to sit at a computer and read conversations on web pages. I want to get out and do stuff. I feel like Little Printer and Human.io are going to help people do that.

* I don’t use the word “grok” often. It is apt here.

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I forget how nice it is to write something, see someone get inspired by a bit of it and run with it. Weblogs are still the best place to unpack and share ideas.

Matthew Crist took my post about following and attention and built unfollowing.net.

It is currently offline due (I suspect) to Twitter’s rules about automating certain actions on behalf of users. I know there are a myriad of good reasons why they do this, but hopefully they can work something out where users can easily choose to reboot their list of who they are following. I think it’s a nice way to get out from underneath what some might feel is a burden and get back to what they love about Twitter.

Personally, I don’t want to unfollow everyone. I cited Paul Ford’s example to point out he figured out what he needed to do and it worked for him. Others have let me know they also unfollowed a lot of people and I think that’s pretty cool. They’re doing it because they still care about it. I think that’s why this subject strikes a chord with others. Nothing can replace it, they just want to lower the burden and distraction.

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In an effort to reboot my reading habits and focus on longer blog and journal posts I asked friends to fork my OPML from Google Reader and then post their own.

I then wrote a script to merge all the lists into one mega-list. Removing duplicates, removing vanity search feeds, and inscrutable feeds that have disappeared or don’t really work.

Now at night instead of reading Twitter I am filtering through all 3,500+ feeds. I am in no rush. I am reading in order and if a feed looks good I keep it, if it doesn’t I unsubscribe.

Tonight I thought it’d be interesting to write another script that would pull each feed, check to see the most recent post date and then compile it and post the results in a chart. This is completely unscientific and I don’t think you can draw any conclusions, but I will say that the results were opposite of what I thought they’d be.

My prediction was that most of the feeds would be dead or last updated in 2008. Instead what I found was nearly half the feeds were still being updated.

The first bar in the following chart represents all dead feeds. 1,087 feeds were dead. They were either 404’d or the entire domain was gone. From there (starting at April 2004, consisting of one blog) each bar represents the number of feeds that have a last published date in that month and year. The bar on the far right represents feeds updated this month July 2012 (1,418 feeds).

The Chart

Again, unscientific, not at all what I expected, but fairly good results for where blogging has been for the past few years.

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To continue a theme here, my friend Anil just wrote about the Joy of Missing Out (JOMO).

People have asked me if I am going to unfollow everyone or simply quit Twitter and I’ve been replying that I don’t think that is a solution. I enjoy Twitter more than any other site (probably more than MLKSHK?) and so unfollowing would remove something that I do enjoy.

I cited Paul Ford unfollowing people because he figured out what he needed to do, but that’s not my answer.

I think Anil nailed it. I have to learn to enjoy missing out by not thinking about it as “missing out”. Consciously deciding not to check in because there are other things I want to do with my time is what I have been doing the last couple of nights.

So far it is working pretty well.

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A few years ago a web community I manage decided to have their meetup here in San Francisco. Every year the members vote on a city and so I was lucky SF won out. They’ve held them in cities like NY, Portland, Toronto, Chicago and this year it is going to be in Boston.

At one point that night the entire group decided to walk from the place where we ate to a bar about four blocks away. As these things go our group quickly turned into a long line of people walking along the street. This was a Saturday night so there was the usual crowd of bar goers and people out for dinner.

While standing at a red-light (half our group continued walking, talking, and not worrying if the group behind them would catch up) a woman also waiting to cross asked, “What is this?” She was smiling like she was about to discover something that was cool. She looked hopeful.

“You will laugh if I tell you,” I joked. I was fairly intoxicated. I couldn’t think of anything better to say.

“No, tell me. What is this?” She looked at the group. We are from all parts of the country (and world) and so we are dissimilar both physically and the way we’re dressed.

“We are all members of a web site. We met online and are now meeting in person.”

She laughed. Not even in the, “okay, I get it” way or “that’s cute” way but more like the “that is very stupid” way. She said something like, “Yup, you were right,” and continued on her way.

Every once in a while I think about that moment in the Mission when the woman was so eager to know what and who we were. Like she was missing out on something. 50+ people talking and walking in a line down the street is a compelling scene; especially in a part of SF so fixated on trends.

This weekend I went camping with my family and six other families. Not only was it a relaxing day with families with whom we had a lot in common, it was a nice time away from the internet as well. There is no cell service where we camped and I can’t imagine WiFi signals have bounced around those redwoods very often.

I’ve been posting about this a bit, but I think my time off pushed me even further along to where I was going. I won’t say “off Twitter”, but I feel like focusing more on things around the edges of Twitter.

And maybe I am just looking for examples—seeing patterns where there are none—but a few things have appeared that makes me feel like other people are feeling the same way.

Today Mule launched Evening Edition a one-page summary of the day’s news. I love so much about this, but what I love most is that it is well written and concise. Go back a few days to see how much good stuff there is to publish when you aren’t concerned about page-views and stuffing ads down your reader’s throats.

A few months ago Dave Pell launched NextDraft, a mid-day email that summarizes and links to everything worth reading in the day so far. The commentary is hilarious. The selected links are always on target.

Dustin Curtis’ Svbtle network has almost single-handedly brought blogging back. (Not that it ever went away!) But people are excited about writing and that could not make me happier.

Right now at this very moment the parade of people walking down my neighborhood on Twitter are talking about Marissa Mayer leaving Google for Yahoo!. Twitter is great for single issues like this. Jokes tossed out, pithy sentences get flung around via retweets, and ultimately everyone settles on an opinion (or two) and the parade moves on. I rarely remember who said what. It’s always a bit of a blur to me.

Paul Ford unfollowed everyone he was following. Paul’s a far more perceptive and thoughtful guy than myself. When I noticed he had unfollowed everyone (only following a few geography accounts) it stuck in my head for a few months. I even asked him about it when I saw him in person and he sort of shrugged it off. Paul figured this out months ahead of me. I want to figure it out too.

It’s taking me a while, but I feel like I am getting closer figuring out how to let the parade march by and go happily along my way.

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I’d like someone* to make an app where people can subscribe to newsletters, but they’re only mailed when you click a button that is a proxy for “I just sat down for coffee” or “I just sat on the toilet” or “I am delaying going to bed.” Perhaps it’s an iPhone app where I can pick through channels I want to subscribe to and a button that basically permits the email to be sent.

If I never press the button I am never sent the email. If I do press the button only the latest ones are sent to me.

I get nextdraft.com every morning. It usually arrives a little after noon, which is a great time because it’s usually when I am having lunch. A great time to get caught up with what’s going on. It’s nice, but some days I don’t have time for it so I don’t want it in my inbox.

* not me! Maybe you!

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You probably didn’t notice this, but some of my posts here recently have taken on a theme. I am working through some ideas about how I am using my time, and behind the scenes I’ve been making a few changes.

Just an example: I unfollowed almost 200 Twitter accounts in the past two days. I realized I was following a lot of noisy, repetitive, echoey accounts. Not friends, or friends following me already, but those accounts I accumulated over the past year or so that weren’t really doing me any good.

After I wrote I Give Up I started thinking about those things in my day that I give too much time to, only to be rewarded with a lack of time and no new skills or knowledge.

I missed this the first time it made the rounds, but game developer @jonbro linked to it this morning and so I spent an hour drinking coffee and enjoying it.

There are some really good gems in this that I found revelatory. Especially the part where he talks about stripping down some of the most popular types of games (both video and gambling) into their core mechanics. These are actually very boring activities dressed up in bleeding-edge graphics or temporary feelings of accomplishment.

While watching, this talk started resonating the way other things in my life are set up to appear to be enjoyable experiences but are actually pretty grueling. Twitter without the stars (favorites) and feelings of missing out looks more like an unrewarding use of time for me.

I am not ready to chuck it all and quit Twitter, there is still a lot of value in it, but I certainly have enjoyed what my purge has given me back in time saved and updates from people I actually care to listen to.

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I have to admit I was a little surprised to see Twitter re-iterate what Ryan Sarver had previously stated over a year ago. I thought everyone understood that Twitter was going to be pushing back on apps that didn’t offer unique experiences than the timeline on Twitter.com.

Essentially Twitter let developers know on Friday that they were going to be enforcing the previously stated guidance that 3rd party developers and consumers should not be making apps that essentially duplicate Twitter’s timeline stream. LinkedIn immediately complied and removed the inclusion of tweets into the LinkedIn update stream. (Which, in my opinion, actually made that stream more useful.)

Dalton Caldwell wrote a piece called “What Twitter Could Have Been” that reveals a bit about the company I didn’t know. Apparently there was a split between those who wanted to make Twitter more of a protocol and those who wanted to seize the opportunity to make it a platform for serving ads.

After reading Dalton’s piece I was reminded of another company that chose protocol over ad platform. Though “chose” is probably the wrong word. AOL pretty much stumbled around while their instant messaging service became one of several competing chat protocols. It seemed like one day all my friends were on ICQ and the next we had all migrated to AIM. But soon after it didn’t really matter what protocol you were using, everyone ran multi-protocol chat apps and we could network hop between conversations in a single interface.

AIM did make some attempts to make money from the service. They threw banner ads into the official app. I think they even charged for a version of their client. They flirted with an API but never really seemed to commit. Only until it was well over did they make an attempt at what people had been wanting all along with their new AIM app released last year—but they killed that too.

In the end AIM is just another protocol for chatting with friends. Instant messaging is my absolute favorite way to keep up with people, but I couldn’t tell you if I am talking over AOL’s wires or Google’s. The core ability to time-shift conversations is unlike any other means of communication for me. Instant messaging feels like it hit a false dead-end, where it can’t be monetized so people aren’t putting effort into innovating.

I am happy to see Twitter doesn’t want to go that route.

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It’s not a list, it’s a series of paragraphs. It’s actually about tech blogs again. Did you read the one about the best dressed geeks? Yeah? Cool!

The stuff below might be incorrect! Ah well, best dressed people of tech win again.

Did you read the story about Parkmobile? Apparently some guy used a non-governmental service* that let him pay for his parking meter while he was at a baseball game. The city was made aware of the location of his car by Parkmobile (which shared his license plate number) and dispatched a truck to tow him because he had unpaid speeding tickets.</p>

That is: a private company informed the city’s parking enforcement of the location of someone’s car that had unpaid speeding tickets.

People who commit speeding violations are terrible, and anyone with unpaid speeding tickets is twice the jerk, but there is a feeling in my mind that using a private company would shield me from a connection to my city’s police department. That their privacy policy would restrict the sharing of my license plate or name or any information I’ve stored with them with the local government who can then act on that info.

I didn’t see this story in the tech blogs so I thought I’d write about it.

* The entire article is pretty wordy and paced slowly for dramatic effect, but the relevant bit is three paragraphs from the bottom.</s>

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After World War II ended in 1945 a few Japanese soldiers (known as Japanese holdouts) refused to surrender either because they were never told the war was over or simply refused on principle. They continued to hold their islands/positions as instructed by their superiors ten, twenty, and in some cases thirty years after the war had ended.

I know about this footnote of history because the phenomenon seemed to show up often in TV shows and pop-culture produced in the decades following the end of the war. It was a peculiar bit of trivia that, based on real fact, could be dramatized and injected into a show like Gilligan’s Island (So Sorry, My Island Now).

I think TV writers liked it because it can reflect the romantic notions of honor and loyalty, or the stupidity and stubbornness of humans to accept change.

Michael Pusateri posted something he titled “Inventing a Problem” about the latest Apple outrage: an unhackable, unserviceable laptop. Quite a few people got worked up about this fact even though Apple delivered a non-serviceable laptop way back in January 2008. Please read Michael’s post, he has some good arguments that I agree with.

I am a member of a small, private web community that has existed for over ten years. Over those years I have noticed a certain type of member who without fail gets worked up over a change in technology. When Apple dropped the 3.5" diskette they were there. When smartphones began losing physical keyboards they were there. When the Macbook Air debuted without an optical drive they were there. The reasons for their protests are manifold: IT departments will have to redo their policies regarding software installation!, people will design web sites too big for smaller screens!, people will have accidents because you can’t type by touch!, it goes on and on…

When the new Macbook Pro with Retina display was released a few on the site complained that rich designers (who could afford “Stevebooks”) would start designing sites that wouldn’t look good on cheap computers. Setting aside the existence of CSS media queries that can select the correct image for a browser’s resolution and the ever-growing adoption of responsive layouts, I think at the core of this response is that technology is about to drastically change and this scares people.

Now, as I said, I am a member of that community. I too join in on the booing when change starts happening too fast. Even recently fretting over the impending change to the gTLDs.

But in the last couple of days something happened and I can feel my view of the world changing.

Let me rewind a bit: we bought my mom a third-generation iPad. She took it home, used it for a month, and then returned it to us saying she thought it was much too nice to be sitting on the shelf while she used her Macbook Pro. She really likes her Macbook Pro.

I happened to be going on a business trip this week so I took it with me. I actually used the thing as it is intended: I checked and wrote email, I read some books, I watched a couple of documentaries, I shopped. Every time I would think of grabbing my laptop I found myself flipping open the iPad instead.

Yes, I know millions of people have bought these and use them exactly in this fashion. It’s just that I am one of those people who used to pore over CPU specs on Anandtech. I would wait to buy new hardware if it coincided with a game release. I daisy-chained my 3dfx Voodoo card. I overclocked my CPUs for reasons I don’t even remember.

I have a sub-domain for my weblog. I manage my DNS. I use a personalized domain for email. I have been using the internet for TWENTY years! Like some hipster who has been following a band for years I spent 10 of those years not shutting up about the internet, and then the second 10 years wishing everyone would get off my internet.

But somewhere in between that new iPad, the unserviceable laptop non-story, and that idiotic comment about the new Retina displays something in my brain snapped. I give up. I surrender. The war is over. I can’t care about this stuff anymore. Getting annoyed at the pace of technology is fruitless for me. Being cynical about any new bit of technology that doesn’t fit into my view of how stuff should work has been a dragging anchor in my life.

I will admit right now that I am typing this on my Macbook Air. I could not find a blog editor that could publish to Typepad that I was comfortable with, and until MarsEdit for iPad gets written I think I will keep using my laptop for blog posts and of course programming tasks.

But sitting right next to the Air is my iPad in a beautiful DODOcase that just screams “Pick me up!” and so I am going to do that now.

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Someone asked me today about the CI stack we have at Simpleform. Then someone else asked about our logging. Then I got into a conversation with someone about Backbone. So here is nearly everything we use and build stuff with.

First I spend most of my time in Tornado. Right now we’re working on an API that sits in front of Mongo so we are using Tornado and Bitly’s asyncpymongo. As long as I’m listing libraries I’ll also mention we are using Mock for testing and Boto to interact with Amazon’s AWS.

We make extensive use of Amazon’s Web Services. That is EC2 servers, RDS, S3, Elastic IPs, CloudFront, whew… It’s scripted with custom scripts that fire up Puppet clients and servers that build out and configure the environment.

We also built a site for a client in Django this year and it went very well. I like Django. I’d use it more if it fit into the types of sites we build, but too often it feels forced so we go with Tornado.

Late last year I worked on a project that used CoffeeScript, Backbone, and Sass on the front-end. I had never used any of these tools and wasn’t particularly a strong JavaScript developer, so it was fun to see these tools from a different perspective. Since then I released Laterspam.org which used all three. I have another app I will release someday that also uses them.

I use Codekit to manage compilation, syntax checking, and minifying. If you’re on a Mac it’s a must have.

We also use Rundeck for deployments and Jenkins for automated testing. Logging is sent to Papertrail. And of course everything lives on Github.

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I can’t really add too much context to why I had to listen to this song this morning. I can only say it was while waiting for a car to take me to a conversation about startups. I had to listen to this song so bad I broke my “only 2012 music” project.

Needless to say: if you have Rdio you should hear it. If you can find it someplace else I think you should hear it.

It’s just a brutally honest song about trying and failing and trying again.

The song is ten years old. Dakota shared it with me back in the days when he was putting out a song every couple of weeks. I was writing on my weblog and shipping code left and right. Then something happened and it’s ten years later and I am waiting for a car to take me to a conversation about startups.

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Chris Dixon tweeted something the other day I liked.

It received a lot of retweets and favorites but I didn’t see any more about it. I suspect it’s a bit related to my tweet from a few weeks ago:

When we were getting our privacy policy together we spent a few days talking to our lawyer to get something drafted that was fair and reasonable. We posted it and asked for feedback. While nothing changed in text from the date we posted it, we had conversations with users to help them understand what it all meant. I think it was good for our early users to be comfortable, but I really wish I had a toolset like Chris described to make it easier for us and our users to understand.

I discovered Aza Raskin already had Chris’ idea and took it much further, but since he doesn’t have dates on his posts I can’t tell if it’s a recent or old post.

It will be a shame if this doesn’t happen.

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  1. I liked what you said.
  2. I loved what you said.
  3. I want people to see this on Twitter or Stellar.io.
  4. I liked what you said to me, but I don’t have a very good reply and the train is coming.
  5. I don’t really get what you said to me, but it appears to be a joke.
  6. Accident. I don’t know how to undo it.

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Happy Notes now has banners on the left side of the page. You might remember I had this idea a couple weeks ago. Before I throw them on MLKSHK I am going to get the bugs out of the admin by serving them here. (You’ll have to visit Notes to see them.)

These aren’t exactly ads. I don’t intend on them only having links out to products you can buy. On MLKSHK I hope to be able to use them for serving content people want and links to things I think are worth seeing.

There are enough ad networks out there serving typical ads. I want to do something different.

More later!

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I’ve been thinking about ad networks a bit more. Ad Tech is this week and an old co-worker stopped by my office and we ended up talking about them. Then Justin, another former co-worker at Federated Media, posted this discovery last night. (Justin and I talk about ad serving a lot. Too much probably)

So I had this idea. I think it is a good and simple one for normal people with weblogs.

The short of it is I like the idea of running a tasteful, small ad on my site like the ads from The Deck. But I realize using some fly-by-night penny ad network for punching monkeys really just opens you, my readers, to what those ads are really doing: tracking you with cookies. Or worse: installing malware.

Screen Shot 2012 04 04 at 1 55 52 PM

The old joke is nobody clicks ads, but the truth is their business is not just getting you to click an ad. Their business is to set or read a cookie (or allow another unnamed party who bids high enough to) and then sell or merge that information with other databases so they can really target you later on.

Install Ghostery and you will see some of your favorite sites (that’s Techcrunch on the right) are serving you a mess of tracking codes that you really don’t think about because it’s happening behind the scenes.

I have volumes I could write on the subject of ads, ad networks, and cookies. But the what this post is about is simply a desire for more options that work for everyone, publishers, advertisers, and readers. They are rare.

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The Curator’s Code (more) is a cumbersome solution based on a good intention. Attribution should be stored in the meta-data of a tweet or post, not in the post itself. Unstructured text only complicates the job of any software trying to make sense of these codes.

Screen Shot 2012 03 19 at 12 28 23 PM

Twitter once promised to allow arbitrary meta-data in the form of “annotations”. The tools themselves could be encoding this within the post or tweet object for you rather than inserting into free text that can’t be parsed and aggregated. It’s too bad Twitter never did it, it seems like more and more we need meta-data to clear up the growing list of symbols and bad tech (URL shorteners) that clutter Tweets and blog posts.

Attribution and appreciation are good things! And we should seek to include them whenever we create/curate. But I think the execution of the Curators Code is flawed.

If anything the team that made this should petition Twitter and other publishing tools like Tumblr and Typepad to agree on a standardized method of encoding this kind of stuff in meta-data.

(By the way, I hooked up Typepad to my @andre_torrez Twitter account in case you would rather get notified of new posts there.)

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I switch Twitter desktop applications often. For reading on iOS it’s either Twitterrific or Tweetbot, but on the desktop I want something much more robust with all the noodle-y little features a heavy user like myself would like to waste/save time with.

(So I decided to write them here, but it’s times like this I wish I had a wiki-type site instead of a weblog so I could keep editing this file and have it rise to the top.)

  1. Show me what my friends have liked. Similar to stellar.io but I want it in an app and without a follow limit. Also I would love to see the most popular or retweeted tweets for the past 24 hours in one view.
  2. Ability to turn off all retweets or only show retweets. I love retweets because they usually have great links in them, but I also dislike them when they get in the way of simply catching up with people.
  3. Save for later. I hate using favorites to track save things I want to read later.
  4. Twitter’s Tweetie-era app still allows for keyboard commands. This is essential for me. I am not so sure they will stick around when Twitter launches the next version given their iOS (BUY TAMPONS SPONSORED TWEET) release.
  5. Ability to quickly add someone to a must-read list. I keep some private lists for stuff I absolutely can’t miss, but adding and removing people from it is so hard to do.
  6. Pre-load every image and display it inline. I hate waiting for images to load even though they’re already thumb-nailed inline. I have bandwidth to burn, please use it.
  7. Separate Webkit view for URLs. Two reasons for this:
    1. I can trace where the URL was originally opened from.
    2. If it has tabs I can keep my work browsing separate from my Twitter browsing.

Itchy coding fingers wish I could make this. But…if I were going to dedicate some time to a desktop application it’d probably be an email app that was smart enough to know what to do with email as it arrives. Hotel reservations? Add to iCal. Super extensible rule plugins. Keyboard navigation. Better filing. Blah…blah…blah.

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Paul Graham’s Y Combinator request for startups #9: Kill Hollywood.

…What is going to kill them? Mostly not what they like to believe is killing them, filesharing. What's going to kill movies and TV is what's already killing them: better ways to entertain people.

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Adam really said it better than I was able to say it. He even uses a word that was on the tip of my tongue but I could not find: “spectacle”. Here’s a portion of his post:

The implicit, underlying assumption of much of journalism is that reality isn’t interesting enough, or comprehensible enough on its own. It needs to be reinterpreted through storytelling with a bias towards conflict, personality, stereotype, conventional wisdom and other tropes that make what is boring and unfamiliar to the writer more palatable to a large audience.

YES. That.

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After my post yesterday I received some nice email and question about what exactly I do think a tech site should be covering. I have a lot to say on this, and I don’t have a ton of examples right now, but I thought I’d write the first ones that come to mind here and then just reply with the URL to this post.

In short two things interest me: the first is small teams or businesses that have managed to bootstrap themselves without angel or VC money. There are SO MANY ways to fund a company that knowing someone did it with a product that people actually wanted is so much more valuable to me as a reader. I think one could spend a year chasing down the people who have bootstrapped or overfunded their idea on Kickstarter and then went on to deliver another great product. A weblog with a hard requirement like that would be a daily read.

Look at Wirecutter on The Awl network. Did not take funding. A one man operation. Makes money with ads and Amazon referrals. Hell yeah! That’s a great story.

The second thing that interests me is actual emerging tech ideas, not manufactured ones. I am talking about the sorts of people who tinker with APIs and services to come up with a new way to publish or share.

This year I think the big thing will be taking back your data from the cloud. I think owning your own data and having file-level control of your photos and blog posts and personal relationships on your computer is going to become much more popular than it is now.

OpenPhoto was a Kickstarter project that successfully funded an open-source solution to managing your photos through Dropbox or S3. It was built with $25,000 of supporter’s money. I mean, look at this!

Jekyll is a “blog-aware, static site generator” that has been around for over three and a half years. The idea is that you don’t need a centralized blog posting service to generate and host your static files, you can have them generated locally and pushed to a static web server. Quite a few people have been thinking about this for a while now. Brent Simmons has been working on one since 2009, Marco Arment just pushed the source to Second Crack on Github. I just saw a new one yesterday that looks great but is extremely custom and probably won’t be released any time soon, but the need is there.

These “own your content” apps are still in the toothpick and wad of gum stages, but someone is going to get this right and it’s not just going to be a great story but a new way of thinking about how we publish and own our content.

What’s boring: $10 million in funding to make a new Facebook. Yes, you can hire a ton of people and make perplexing videos on someone else’s dime for quite a while it seems. I thought the first version of Color was actually cool if not cold and a bit cumbersome, but since then they haven’t done very much worth posting about yet we get new blog posts and profiles about the founder every few months.

All that said, and given I linked to a quote about PandoDaily in the previous post, I also think posts like this are absolutely worth discussing. Anyone up for a stop Jimmy Wales protest avatar?

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Tim O’Reilly on SOPA and lobbyists (emphasis mine):

The mismatch between Silicon Valley and Congress isn't just that Silicon Valley isn't engaged enough with lobbying Congress, but that Silicon Valley has this outmoded idea that your ideas succeed when they are right, as proven in the marketplace, rather than because you were better at making a backdoor deal than the next guy.

Tech Industry Buys Itself a Mouthpiece

"It's a long list," Lacy conceded in the announcement. "And there is a simple reason we spread the syndicate widely: This is a news site built for the startup community, so the more of them that are a part of it, the better."

I know where Tim was going with that paragraph and his posts on SOPA/PIPA are must-read thoughts on the problem, but I think that sentence reflects for me the thing that is a bit discouraging about Silicon Valley.

I still want to see an independent tech weblog that covers the many startups and subjects I never see listed on the current tech blogs. I hate seeing a glowing post about some new startup and know the writer and CEO regularly joke with each other on Twitter. I hate when a popular startup is given a pass because most of the writers attended the founder’s bachelor party or got an exclusive on a new feature.

This is the game that goes on and the righteous belief that there isn’t one bothers me.

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A long time ago, when people dialed (as in telephones) into Unix machines in some closet or college campus, they used a command called ‘w’ to see who was also on the machine.

You can use this command now if you’re on a Unix-derived operating system. Open terminal enter ‘w’ and you’ll see your login name and any command line tools you might be running. (Likely just ‘w’.)

w-command

In those days ‘w’ was used to not just see who was logged in, but what they were using (pine, vi, irc, ftp, lynx) and for how long they had been signed in.

There was a joke about getting ideas for making new apps in the late 90’s: just pick a random Unix tool.

  • Talk and IRC begat ICQ, AIM, GTalk, Campfire, Convore.
  • Usenet is at the root of Slashdot, Reddit, Digg, and the multitude of PHPBB communities.
  • Finger influenced the creation of weblogs and the idea was further refined as Twitter. (This is a forgotten history of weblogs: video game bloggers were at its birth, they took the .plan and .project updates of people like Carmack and Romero and posted them reverse chronologically. I will fight anyone on this.)

But there was something special about ‘w’ for me. In those days of shared servers I would auto-run a shell script that would parse ‘w’ and highlight my friends and see what they were up to and if they were available to talk. If they were in Pine of course you wouldn’t bug them, but if they were just idle in a shell or working on homework, they were probably up for talking or helping you find some new warez site or want to meet up for a slice of pizza.

This past week, like many of my friends, I jumped with two feet into Path. I’ve been pretty selective about who I will share with on Path because of that 150 person limit, but also because I am drowning in Twitter and RSS subscriptions. I like Path for the ability to clearly see my friends’ statuses in a way that Twitter and weblogs no longer provide.

Path is not a remake of ‘w’. I think AIM had and still has the ability to be the ‘w’ of the modern internet. But Path has done so much right with its latest release, I think I miss ‘w’ a little less than before.

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I pulled my head out of MLKSHK the last two months and had a bit of a revelation about the future of web apps—at least, any web app I work on in my future. I present to you my new starting markup:

<html> <body> </body> </html>

Well, throw a <head> tag in there pointing to some JavaScript (generated by CoffeeScript of course) and perhaps a DIV with an id of “app” and that’s about it. I just don‘t see a need to manage “page” markup when so much of my markup is now in jQuery templates/snippets I can swap out very easily.

I resisted hash-bang paths and client-side apps for so long until I started working on a project where it made perfect sense. Since then I’ve just gotten more comfortable with the idea because:

  1. It’s easier for me to think about the server-side app as an API with your browser-view one type of client. Side-effect: your mobile app just got easier to make.
  2. This divides testing into server side and client side. Working on the UI doesn’t mean you have to flip over to the server-side tests to ensure it’s working.
  3. I think I love CoffeeScript.
  4. Marshalling data for a specific view is tedious.

I feel like separating these clients from the back-end means less time tinkering with data as it moves from your db out to your views. There is so much traversing code when you build a site and I now think if you can cut your trips into smaller loops you‘ll spend less time wrestling with data, markup, and CSS (boring) and more time writing useful functionality (fun!).

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Sorry I uncircled you on Google+. Hell, I uncircled everyone and closed my account. Boop dee boop!

Facebook was never my thing, and Google+ filled with the 300 or so people I interact with on Twitter + 1,000 or so people I have never talked to (mostly dudes) was really not my thing either. I'm on Twitter. I love Twitter. I don't need anything else to keep up with what people are doing.

It's nice to see Google finally getting a clue about how to make a social media site, but as someone remarked on Twitter, "Twitter and Facebook were indie rock bands that made it big, Google+ is a manufactured boy band."

Plus that anonymity thing is so much bullshit. It's cheating by forcing accountability rather than fostering it.

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I switch browsers every year or so. Last year Chrome was my default browser after switching from Firefox (which had become achingly slow), and I switched from Chrome to Safari because it supported 1Password. While Chrome now supports 1Password integration, I am happy with Safari and don't see a reason to change.

The only thing I miss from Firefox is the Merge All Windows function. You could hit “⌘-SHIFT-M” and all your windows would be gathered in one window with tabs. (Though, now I can't find this feature and I'm wondering if it was a plugin I'd used.)

Safari has this feature, but not accessible with Keyboard Shortcuts. Here is the menu as it looks before you do this. The option is there, but you have to grab your mouse and select from the menu.

exciting graphic

By the way, this also doubles as a tutorial for adding command keys to any application's menu (as far as I know) in OS X.

Open up System Preferences and choose "Keyboard" and then hit the "Keyboard Shortcuts" tab.

I have to admit, I had no idea I could do this until a year or so ago.

Select the little plus sign in the center of the window and in the popup select Safari for the application and type "Merge All Windows" (the wording is important) for the Menu Title.

So tempted to start adding command keys to every app. Must. Not Fiddle.

For the Keyboard Shortcut box, simply type the shortcut “⌘-SHIFT-M” and it will fill it in for you.

Click "Add" and now head back to Safari. Your new Keyboard Shortcut is now in place.

I love my computer.

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Ars Technica is now blocking their content from people blocking their ads. The comments in this thread are priceless. People are threatening to never read Ars again because they can't get the content without ads. Imagine that!

The alternative is to actually sign up for a subscription and all ads would disappear. I think I might just sign up. I did sign up.

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I think Alex Payne's post titled Don't Be A Hero is a must read for engineers, but even more so for managers of engineers.

Hell, everyone who works on teams should read this.

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I hadn't heard about this competition called NYC BigApps. It's a project to get people to create applications using NY specific data. Submissions actually closed yesterday and voting begins in a few days. It looks great and the site where you download data sets is incredibly usable.

I want to play!

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I'm a little bummed about Favrd shutting down. From the first day to the last day of using it, it never changed for me—so it's surprising to hear it had become such a unwieldy burden.

I don't doubt it had, of course. I trust Dean to know when it's no longer manageable. I just didn't know it had become that bad. I wish I would have known this was coming.

Twitter lacks the ability to discover who has favored your tweets. When Favrd launched it filled that gap, but also made a point of filtering the webcocks* who had just began realizing there was a new way to strut around like they owned the place. Webcocks will always have a few thousand people happily slurping down whatever tripe they (or their team of writers) happen to write that day. The same thing happened to blogs almost a decade ago, but we had referrals and trackbacks and services that helped us discover who else was out there nodding their heads or laughing along with us.

What Twitter does not lack is the function (now standardized) to retweet. I dislike retweets for many reasons, but chief among them is it feels like an imposition on one's followers. That's just me though, others seem pretty happy to do it. All day. A lot. RT. RT. LOL. RT.

It's just not for me. I have retweeted all of 0 tweets. I have favored 3,057 tweets. I was telling a friend a few weeks ago that the new RT functionality seemed to be (in part) doing for the Twitter community what starring a tweet should be doing: "I like what you said, here is me telling you that."

I have started following many people who silently showed their approval of something I said. I could not even begin to count the number of people I have found through Favrd, so I'm grateful for that, but I think that's what's got me down the most: I wasn't done finding people.

  • Not sure if "webcock" was coined by Dean but it's why there was a rooster up in the corner of the site. It's such a great word I love saying it.

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On the subject of Net Neutrality: Aiyeeeee.

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This is a clever idea from Andy. Take a popular meme, remove the subject and just leave the background. Meme Scenery I don't know why it's so funny, but it is.

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WikiRank is a fascinating front-end to Wikipedia that loads the freely available traffic stats and then bubbles up and charts the trends for popular pages. It's not just a clever use of the stats, it's beautifully designed. I wish Wikipedia looked more like this.

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Brent Simmons remembers a few conversations with people at conferences and trade shows long ago. Maybe you can help track down who the people were.

I did the same thing with Jeffrey Zeldman at my first SXSW. I was so nervous I couldn't approach anyone. Eventually I tagged along with some folks and ended up at a party where Jeffrey was—and then I gushed like he had invented HTML, browsers, and erasable pens. Ugh. But he was really nice about it.

Anil, thankfully, approached me and began introducing me around as "That File Pile Guy". The rest is history.

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The Fireland Podcast — "This lane is for douchebags."

Internet of Things — I liked this post.

I installed 1Password this week and now have long, hairy passwords that would make your mamma blush. I'm still dealing with how to sign into things from my iPhone and actually use Safari, but otherwise it's great. I love it.

Earlier in the week a ClickJacking hack sprang up and was quickly fixed by Twitter. Here is the explanation about how it happened. Some actual services were relying on this hack, which of course brought up the OAuth debate again. Luckily it looks like OAuth is nearly ready to be ready for everyone on Twitter.

While I like OAuth for web apps, I think the developer of Tweetie says it best when describing the UX problem OAuth has for desktop apps. I've had a chance to use OAuth in conjunction with Yammer for a couple months now. It's completely disorienting, especially since they routinely expire (or lose) my key. First I'm here, then this is closing, then I'm over there, typing a password, now go over here—it's like The freaking Amazing Race on my desktop.

But OAuth for web apps? Hooray!

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An interesting nugget of information in a terrific post on rc3.org is that George Bush, Sr. has a domain name and has held it for ten years.

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This looks interesting, The Start Conference:

Start is a one-day conference in San Francisco designed for smart, talented Web people to take hold of their ideas, follow their dreams, and start their own companies.

That's one sweet site, too. See you there.

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What an eventful week! I feel like talking about it.

First the torch thing here in SF. Two interesting things came out of that: my Twitter friends who were near the torch kept me updated throughout the day on what was going on, and second, Greg Knauss summed it up nicely.

Then there's Flickr video! What a bunch of hoo-ha about nothing. It seems a large group of people think Flickr is going to turn into YouTube—whatever that means. Anyway, here is why Flickr is no YouTube. Eleanor is easily the face that sold a thousand Flips (mine arrives today!).

Per my New Year's Resolution: I still haven't bought a single book. I only bought one CD in an emergency situation where I had to drive 600 miles and forgot to burn a CD-R. No DVDs. No video games.

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Mat Honan didn't go to SXSW, but he's been twittering like he did.

But it is just a business. And if you ever fucking forget that at the end of the day your only purpose is to deliver to your customers what they need, you shall soon be back to tapping your trust fund. If you are not already.

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FriendFeed is finally public. It aggregates all your friend's feeds and your feeds into one lovely river of feed goodness. I like it. Here's mine, let's be friends!

Someone is going to accidentally put the output into the input of one of these many feed aggregation/repurposing sites and blow up the Internet. Just watch.

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Get Satisfaction points to a Tweet Sheet to help you remember Twitter commands. This idea is cool, but also reminds me of the days of keyboard overlays and dongles and sitting in computer class writing macros to convert letters into ASCII art. (HEY OLD MAN, TELL ME ABOUT FLOPPIES AGAIN!!!)

Tape it to your display, use it, learn it, then for gods-sake throw it away.

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Cabel has finally packaged up his FancyZoom project so regular folks can have those fancy Javascript image zooms on their site. He has examples at the end of the post to show you how it works. If you're a regular reader of his site you have undoubtedly been jealous of them.

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My first Django app has no real use other than it's terribly pleasing to click that random link (well it is for me). Does anyone really need to bookmark a color? I don't know, but now you can.

I do attempt to determine if the text color needs to be white or black but other than that it's pretty dumb. I was just pleased to have a completely senseless idea and get it up and live within a few hours with Django and Python.

I'm in the middle of creating a specialized CMS for Amber's print site in Django. Whenever I'm working on a project of that size, and in a new framework, I like to make simple little projects to test ideas. In this case I wanted to see how Django handled load, errors, and how to get mod_python and Django working correctly in a production environment.

Plus also I kind of liked the idea of owning a Google result for a hex color.

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Venture Hacks on giving lawyers equity in itself doesn't apply to me, but it's interesting to read about the subject in a completely navel-gazing Valley point of view. The site is interesting in much the same way. via Ev (naturally).

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Snuggle Bear Bear Revolution is a banner ad that mimics Dance Dance Revolution. I love reading Banner Blog but I am not sure if it's because I've worked with and around banner ads for almost 10 years or because they showcase the intense amount of creativity and work it can sometimes take to make an effective banner ad.

Either way they're a great example of being creative within constraints, and that's interesting to me.

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iTransmogrify! is a bookmarklet which transforms embedded Flash content into direct links to natively supported formats. Check out the link to see a demonstration.

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Nice detective work pointing out Network Solutions' trick of locking up domain names for a few days after you use their search engine (or "whois" from your command-line). found on daringfireball.

I've noticed this with a few other registrars and domain search services, but couldn't prove it. Glad to see someone caught NetSol with their pants down.

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I'm signing up for Catalog Choice, I'll let you know how it goes. The site helps you opt-out of receiving paper catalogs by mailing the companies requests to remove you from their rolls. found on the unstoppable links.

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I keep collecting ideas for newsreader features in my head, I thought I should write them down before I do something stupid like try and make my own. I find that if I hold on to ideas too long they take root and start growing like weeds that need to be picked.

  • I'd like a switch called "window mode" that would allow me to mark as read anything 30 days or older. In case I get behind or take a vacation I don't really care what blog drama happened weeks ago, it's of no use to me.
  • Get rid of "star" and "share" as they are used on Google Newsreader. I just need "bookmark". I bookmark stuff for me, for others, for no reason other than it might be useful later. I don't specifically think I'm sharing something or that I'm promoting something. I just need to know I can get back to it again.
  • WHEN I RUN OUT OF THINGS TO READ DON'T TELL ME TO GO AWAY. It's rude! Look, I am at my newsreader because I don't want to be anywhere else. If I want stuff to read, give me stuff to read. What are the power readers subscribed to? What are the power posters posting? Who is today's biggest "via" link? What are people clicking? Can you sort them by longer vs. shorter pieces? Sometimes I'm about to go out of mobile range and want a long blog post to read.
  • I would like rules I can apply to folders. When this group of people talk about this word, highlight them.

I think this is pretty obvious stuff, but I just need to get it out of my head...to make room for another idea that's been taking root. Whoo!

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Sometime in the spring I saw a demo of OmniFocus and got really excited about it. I've been doing a modified GTD with text files and folders for a couple years now and was interested in stepping up to a system with a little more smarts.

While waiting for the release I discovered something that has proven to work very well for task tracking. It's called TaskPaper and when mixed with .Mac's iDisk it's just the right amount of functionality on top of my current system to do what I had hoped to do with OmniFocus.

The core of TaskPaper is text files. If you were to open up a .taskpaper file you'd find it completely readable and not-unlike what you'd type if you were just managing the text files by hand. The app is a very light-weight text editor that has a couple features that help you sort, search, and mark items as complete in your todo lists.

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I'll post my delicious links later today, but I have a meeting in a few minutes so I thought I'd link two things that I read this morning that I think are worth reading.

The first is Ev's first post answering reader submitted questions. Great stuff. Especially the bit about the companies he admires, they're mine too. (Add Coudal's Northmay to that list for me).

The second is Dave Winer poking at Google with an observation of Apple in the late 80s. It was sent to me by a co-worker who did work at Apple in the late 80s.

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If you use Twitter and a Macintosh computer you should check out Twitterrific. The new version is nice and the ad revenue / registration model is well done. You can buy the application or allow it to drop an advertisement into the stream once an hour.

I happily paid for my copy. Not because I minded the ads (they're no big deal), but because I think it's easily worth $15 to me. I do wish Twitter got a bit of that, but maybe I'll just get Alex a drink someday.

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If you haven't read this post by Chris Anderson it's worth reading as well as the comments. It's sending little ripples around the web as it calls out certain PR people out for what they are: spammers.

Joshua agrees with Chris.

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Ben Brown reveals a bit on how their point system worked (and didn't) on Consumating.

Points as currency always seemed too challenging to implement without a the checks and balances it'd require so I never did it on FP. Now I think it's too late. To focus on the points would change the way people interact with each other and the site.

I can't wait to see what else Ben writes in subsequent I Love My Chicken Wire Mommy Posts. It's a pretty interesting subject to me.

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Here are two articles I read today. You might like them.

Technology Review: What Is He Doing? An article about Ev, Twitter, Blogger, and petting his cat.

A Paler Shade of White. I enjoyed reading this. Slightly related I still think that people who think music has gotten boring have gotten boring.

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Great piece on version control and branches: "Without some sort of version control system in place, you can't reasonably call yourself a software engineer."

I don't know how Jeff does it, but he consistently puts out great articles every week. A must read for tech minded people.

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I think Chris sums it up nicely. Email applications need to be more open and configurable. I don't believe email is broken, as some people like to say, I think it's just how we interact with it that needs fixing.

At work I've taken up portions of Merlin's Inbox Zero and it's changed my work day entirely. I reply to anything that needs replying and I am on top of many conversations. On Friday I left the office with a completely empty inbox. Heck, my Mom even noticed I reply to her promptly.

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This video is going to be the number one thing on the Internet for the next three days at least. I love how the last thing on the list is something I JUST saw yesterday. Thanks to Andy I am now up to date on every one of the people featured.

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Nelson reminded me of a thought I had a few weeks ago: the adoption of ad blocking plugins and software is like the adoption of the Firefox browser. It was partly due to popups and a general lack of control over the content from a browser that wasn't progressing.

On a discussion board I'm on I watched someone help another user install ad blocking software and explain how to keep it updated. A few years ago the early tech adopters were doing this for IE users moving to Firefox. It's why I am so wary of behavioral and context sensitive advertising. You won't be able to match much if someone has k-lined your ad server, and if you force someone to that extreme, then you've lost them from ever coming back.

I personally find self-selected advertising pretty interesting. The sort of advertising where people can define filters for what they'll accept in exchange for the content. No personal information beyond preference needs to be recorded and opting out of the program is as simple as clearing your cookie. Ideally you'll end up creating fertile advertising spheres that will be attractive to advertisers because they can be assured of a receptive audience. The fire and forget Ad Sense model will be less attractive to people who want to know where their ad is going and why.

I've thought about this problem a lot. I've built prototypes and have spent a fair amount of time every weekend working on the problem simply for my own satisfaction. I like good ads. I like when advertising does what it's supposed to do, and I hate when it needs a dancing lady with the words "YO, UPGRADE YOUR MORTGAGE, YO" to do it.

I will never install an ad blocker because I know it directly harms these small and medium publishers who are trying to make a living. I won't give up on advertising simply because it offends me—just the opposite: because it offends me I want to fix it.

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Fred Wilson responds to Mark Cuban's assertion that the Internet is "dead and boring". I love how Fred responds almost exactly how I did when Adaptive Path said something similar.

I love music. Music is always awesome. Anyone whoever says music has gotten boring has gotten boring. I feel that way about most things people get bored with.

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I agree with this mini-review completely "(TidBITS: Coda Plays Web Developers a New Tune". I've been using Coda for a couple of days now, once to add some feature on FP and once to mock up a site for testing an idea. Both times I felt like it was really cool but lacking a few important features--or just got other things completely wrong actually that's not true, I don't know why I said "completely", I think I just don't work the way Coda wants me to work and it's irritating because it's sooo close to being my favorite app of all time.

sites-paper.jpgThe interface has a few surprises that confused me. The top level "view" buttons seem to be doing double-duty as noted in the TidBITS article, and I found myself lost a few times while flipping through tabs. Why would I ever want to see rendered, plain-text CSS? These things seem just an iteration away, so I think they'll figure it out.

I think it all comes down to the fact that I no longer build sites straight on the production server. Any project, large or small gets an SVN repository and a local Apache server (w/MySQL + a doctored /etc/hosts file to mimic the live server). I think Coda would have been essential seven years ago when I lost the ability to use Homesite on my PC when I switched to OS X, but now it only takes about 10 minutes to set up a complete development environment that mimics my production that I can build everything in my own sandbox, commit changes, then have them available when I get to the office.

So will I buy Coda? I think so. I prefer TextMate to SubEthaEdit and I rarely edit things directly on the server, but there's something about Coda that I know I'll miss once it expires. Weird, huh?

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Picture 7.pngMy friend Omar just moved to the Noe Valley neighborhood in SF where I live. I was downstairs putting my shoes on to get lunch when I remembered he works from home sometimes too. As I started to walk back upstairs to see if he wanted to get food, I remembered his twitter post this morning that he was annoyed with a seat-mate on the CalTrain. He takes the CalTrain into work and so I turned, put my shoes on and got some lunch.

See also: http://web1979.wordpress.com/2007/03/14/rip-twitter-2007-2007/

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colorlogo.gifWhen people ask me about a movie I say two things: whether it was good or bad; and whether it was better than X or worse than Y where X and Y are two movies that are similar to it.

I never say FOUR STARS! Or NO STARS! That's just silly and not helpful to anyone.

I stumbled onto Netflix's contest last week while re-organizing my queue and I've been tossing ideas around in my head about how to solve it while I sit on the train. I couldn't come up with an interesting algorithm, so I took the cheap way out and decided their data is bad.

I'd prefer to track my movies based on their relationship to other similar movies (if possible) and then I would like to browse movies based on the same data my friends supply.

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Google Reader just keeps getting better and better. Yesterday I noticed they had added something I, and I bet a few people, asked for. This little refresh button:

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Previously it had been a link at the bottom that, when clicked, would offer no feedback. If there were updates they'd percolate in, if there were no updates nothing would happen. Clicking it felt like a thunk.

I know this is a small thing to get excited about, but it made me happy to see that last night. The "jackpot" feeling of clicking "get mail" in my mail app and seeing messages come in now exists in my feed-reader and I like that.

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Picture 26.pngThis past week a few of my friends who weren't at SXSW griped about the change in how people were using Twitter. Suddenly it became less about random thoughts and actions related to our individual lives, and more of a way to coordinate meetups and dinners amongst those fortunate enough to be in Austin.

I didn't mind it quite as much as everyone else, in fact, I kind of like seeing systems appropriated for something different. I like seeing how the developers react (I suspect friend buckets and filters are coming soon to Twitter and/or Twitterific) and I like thinking about how I would fix the problem.

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MarsEditIcon128.jpgI've been using MarsEdit for a while now, because of its dead-simple design and markdown integration, it's a great tool for quickly composing blog posts when you don't have a network connection or don't want to use a web-based form.

In case you hadn't heard, MarsEdit was recently acquired by Red Sweater Software and they have been starting to issue minor updates and fixes. The recent release features bug fixes and (woo) Blogger support, but I'm mostly looking forward to the addition of drag-and-drop images with uploading (fingers crossed).

I tried ecto a few times, and found it clunky and a little complex for what I needed to do—just write a blog post. If you hadn't tried MarsEdit before it's probably worth checking out.

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So the other day I ranted a bit about having to commute into work as it represents 2/15ths of my day that is not always pleasurable. I also included the fact we're experiencing a fair amount of noise at work, and so I poked at the problem a bit publicly here until I can figure that out. It bothers me, the commute and the noise.

A few days ago I switched from my Converse shoes to my Campers (trust me, I'm going somewhere with all of this) because I was starting to get a dull ache in one of my foot's arch. Converse, as you know, offer as much support as a box of dry leaves, and Campers are pretty awesome Spanish, city walking shoes.

While walking down to BART with the Campers something odd happened. My foot started to hurt way more. I had to stop walking to give my foot a rest. About halfway there, I had to begin walking with my foot markedly pointed inward as the way I was walking was so painful.

And a few steps after that my foot stopped hurting all at once. In fact it felt really good for the first time in a while. The Campers have very good arch support and I think what happened is my foot was getting lazy in the Converse and I'd started to alter my walk to support myself, which didn't work very well in the Campers. At first I thought, "Oh shit, my foot is even WORSE than it was before!" but as soon as I realized it was better, I was happy...though I still wished I could wear my Converse as they were a lighter, simpler shoe. Plus black. I like black. And simple. I like simple.

A huge part of web development for me is asking the question "Why does it hurt?" and then thinking about not only how to fix it, but how to solve the problem in a way that provides what someone actually wants. Too often feature driven projects end up spiraling into something everyone likes but nobody loves:

That kind of development is where you make a list of every request people have made and then tick them off like a todo list. Your email inbox becomes your task list. Your whole reason for developing is translating someone's description of the problem and how to fix it into code. I don't like to work like that. Feature driven development is poisonous and leads to unnecessary back-end complexity. In this way Flickr is my hero. Nobody does it better than they do when it comes to adding features people actually want and need versus throwing every idea at the site and seeing what sticks.

So going back to my shoe, my problem was I liked how my Converse looked but I needed the support of the Camper, even though the red and orange clashed a bit too much with my pants.

Rather than just solve the problem with my aching foot, I solved the problem of what I really wanted.

New Old Shoes

And got both.

Going back to my commute and noise. What do I really want? I don't know yet. The simple answer would be to move all of our desks to another part of the office and close the door. And buy a car. But buying a car is almost exactly what I don't want to do as it's way to expensive to keep garaged, with insurance, and maintenance, and of course the environment is not particularly enthusiastic about the pollution. Plus this is "Year of The Wedding" which means spending money on things that we can't really afford means less chocolate cake for everyone this December and nobody wants that.

Maybe these are the answers. I don't know yet. I need to think about it a bit more. I'll figure it out, though, I know that.

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Oh awful, after Jeff posted about the FizzBuzz problem people actually started posting their own versions in some sort of sad compulsion to prove they were capable to write five lines of code. It's like someone said, "Everyone should know how to tie their shoe laces!" and a hundred people untied and tied their shoelaces to prove they could do it.

Link: Coding Horror: FizzBuzz: the Programmer's Stairway to Heaven.

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A lot of great stuff being written about what's wrong with conferences today. I have wanted to say something about them and I wrote this after initially just del.icio.us-ing what Anil said.

Every year I get asked which web conferences I'm going to. I always say "none."

I like meeting new people and talking about projects. I like hearing what people think are best practices and how they are solving their problems. I love hearing what they're working on and seeing it demonstrated.

But web conferences are so BORING. So expected. So...done before.

To me it's not that everyone is white or male, it's that a conference is so typically boring and safe. Did you get your badge yet? Did you check-in? Let's all stand around and drink. I am looking at people's badges as they walk by. I think that was Zeldman. Whoah Kottke is taller than I thought he'd be. Let's go sit in a room with our laptops. Hey these guys are disagreeing! Did he just say that?! Now everyone agrees!  Look he just took this photo of the crowd and posted it to Flickr! What day are you leaving? Let's totally make a site together when we get back home!!!

It amazed me back in the first days of the web (when the money arrived) that all these great web writers were suddenly psyched about their book deals. It seemed like every person I liked to read was talking about how they just got a book deal and they couldn't say anything about it and how awesome is it that they were going to get to put all their stories in a paper book.

Oh sure, they had like 10,000 daily readers and they were updating like madmen with funny, interesting, wild, completely new ways of  presenting ideas. They invented perma-links and discovered syndication. They moderated the conversations happening beneath their own stories (think about that for a second, that's cool). And suddenly they've got a boner because they were offered 3 inches of copy in Entertainment Weekly?

This is how I feel about people and their conferences. It's like all these people went to conferences back when they were run by Oracle's High Volume Transactional Database Whiz Bang Ops and thought, "Oh shit, this is how we're supposed to do it! Keynotes! Schwag bags! Closing party!" Have you ever seen Glengarry Glen Ross? Remember those salesmen sitting in that boiler room grasping at paper leads and hoping to win a set of steak-knives? That's what conferences are to me. A bunch of people doing things in some sad routine because that's how it's always been done. These are the people you invite to speak, these are the things you need to say, have an odd number of people on a panel, get some corporate sponsors, and have a breakfast or something to kick it all off.

My friend Merlin often tells me this joke about people. This one guy is looking around for his keys but can't seem to find them. Another guy walks up and asks, "Where did you last have them at?" And the first guy says, "Over there somewhere." So the second guy says, "Why aren't you looking over there?" And the first guy says, "Because the light's better over here."

I do not want to go to your conference because I've already been to your conference. Give me something different. The web is this wonderful place where we get to make our own rules about how things get done, why do we persist on doing it how they did it?

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Picture_3_2 Yahoo has apparently done something nobody seemed to be able to do right. They've managed to create a metaphor for consuming and processing XML that people can actually understand and use and build things with.

Did I say things? I meant applications. This is what Ning should have been or what Plagger does but does without all the baggage of the little orange XML icon.

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Flickr_logo_gammagifv1 I just received this notification that my "Old Skool" Flickr account is going to be migrated to Yahoo either by choice (I can change it by March 15th) or they'll just do it for me.

Fine, whatever, I think it's lame as I liked having my old sign in not tied to Yahoo but borgs will be borgs. The interesting part is they say:

"...95% of your fellow Flickrites already use this system and their experience is just the same as yours is now, except they sign in on a different page...."

If 5% of my audience, die hards from the early days (the ones who told friends who told friends), had decided on doing something a particular way and did not change for several years after being give a choice to—I just don't think I'd have the guts to email them telling them they were no longer allowed to make that choice.

Maybe 5% is an acceptable number, I really don't know how many users there are but 5% seems enormous to me.

I've never managed a user base the size of Flickr, but I'd have trouble clicking "send" to 5% of my "Old Skool" peeps if I was them.

I dont' think anyone will care about this on March 16th, but it's that initial communication and the following weeks where people will gripe and be annoyed at having to join or else, it really does feel like a bummer.

Also, Monday morning quarter-backing: They should have rolled out these new awesome features and said, “Sorry, your account can’t access them because it uses Yahoo API’s tied into login. Wanna switch?” Of course, knowing nothing about the infrastructure or time constraints ($) this probably wasn't an option, still, I wouldn't have felt so bummed about it.

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Readerloading After reading a few good reviews of Google Reader, and a good recommendation from a friend, I decided to chuck my copy of Newsfire (I literally had to remove it from the toolbar as I am programmed to click it frequently) and upload copies of my desktop OPML and my laptop OPML—they hadn't been in sync since I stopped using NetNewsWire.

The first thing I realized was that I lost DaringFireball's special members-only, full-text feeds. Though disappointing, now that I'm reading in the online reader, it's no big deal to just click over every so often from his regular abstract feed. I do find I check his site a lot less now, though since the Linked List isn't consumable. If I only had one thing to be on my wish-list it'd be the ability to read authenticated feeds as I am also missing out on my own authenticated feeds we use at work.

So far, the experience has been very good, and if you follow more than 10 feeds, it's completely worth moving to the web.

Finally, my fancy new Sony Ericsson K790a with its built in RSS reader got its ass kicked the moment I signed into Google Reader for mobile phones. Now anything I read at home, at work, or on my commute is instantly marked as read.

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Stikkit finally about two weeks ago put a "keep me signed in" item on their sign-in page, now I can go back to using it as my home page. They also added are taking requests for their new API, so if you had tried it out before and didn't stick with it, go look again.

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Flickr's 300,000,000th photo was uploaded last week, http://flickr.com/photos/42909211@N00/300000000/. Alan actually let me know, which is funny because we met on Flickr back when it was a Flash chat environment with shoe-boxes. He guided me through the site and got me using it and I remember thinking people from FP were going to flock to it. It was a bit of fun, though I didn't really use it that much as I didn't have time.

Here's the first image I uploaded, file number 3430. Back when it wasn't photo focused. They didn't get so concerned about copyrights until Yahoo bought them, then stories of people's images getting removed started coming out so I hid this image. I just un-hid it as I'm told they don't really make a fuss until there's too much traffic going at it and flags get raised.

Here are the real early ones, though, Caterina's (#88) and Cal's (#74)—appropriately it's a test image.

I love Flickr and use it every day. You can see my own photo stream is a more accurate history of my life than this blog. In fact, I announced our engagement on Flickr before anywhere else. I didn't even think twice about doing this. And when people find out that's how the message was delivered to most of my friends they're a little bit surprised. It seems completely normal to me.

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Amazing what a few press release can do.

I had no idea the site existed. Now it seems it's all anyone is talking about.

Twitter Fever! Catch it!

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evhead: The Birth of Obvious Corp.

On the subject of small, I think it's difficult for people to understand why small (really small) and autonomous is best. They are stuck in the the old-view of "We have to do everything or we're going to DIE". (or worse: we're going to have to take a second round of funding.)

Its unfortunate because small, focused groups intent on making a simple, useful product are all I ever want to be a part of. An absolute nightmare to me would be one of those drones working on some save-the-world SAP installation that never gets off the ground--or one of those startups with a million ideas on how to ignore what they originally were building in the first place.

One quote from his post made me pretty sad, because it illustrates of the shortsightedness in humans: "Nearly everyone I know in the Internet business is either at one of the giants, wishing they were at a startup, or at a startup that hopes get bought by a giant."

If we thought in 5 year chunks (rather than 6-month or even month-to-month) I think we'd see a lot more thoughtful, planned companies, and less people freaked out about diluting their stock. Also awesome: 401ks.

A book I recently enjoyed: Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

 

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Dear Lazyweb, someone make a site called "Sign Up For Launch" or something where all the web2.0 sites that are "coming soon" just link to one site where you can sign up to be notified at any and all of them, browse others, and then ultimately, when one of these web2.0 sites you sign up for actually launches you can get a notification email.

Two wins here,

  1. I get to find out about all the sites people are working on without having to constantly check Chris Messina's Flickr stream
  2. People who are working on sites can spend time working on the sites and not building yet another "coming soon" form that yellow fades into stars which then lightbox and explode into rounded cornered gradient spooge

Or someone just make me some javascript that does item #2 above. Yay.

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I'd attend that conference.

Nothing against the recent conference that happened here, but I don't find the subject very interesting anymore. I think my motto is "run from enthusiasm".

Thinking about what is interesting to me: good customer support, "small + cheap", decentralized processing (ad serving has ruined my brain), my friend Leonard brought up off-web/on-web connectivity and I can't stop thinking about it. Leonard does that a lot. I used to want to do these little PDF booklets that could be printed but someone did it already. No fun now.

I find Netflix's delivery system the most fascinating thing I use on a regular basis that has web connections. I wish Dodgeball were more interesting but it isn't. I like the idea of that RSS service that lets you hear bands coming to your town, but ideas are cooler than the implementation unfortunately.

This is still true.

If I had a weekend to blow, I'd make my wall-mounted MUNI/NextBus parser. Every morning while putting on my shoes I load it on my phone. Sometimes I find out I have 2 minutes to run down the hill, sometimes I end up with 10 and slowly amble down and wait with the other fools. I don't have a weekend to blow, though.

My mom bought me Beautiful Evidence for my birthday. I read on the boat this morning and got inspired to create something—I will most likely create nothing.

Band is good. We have a song recorded over like two months. MySpace alert: sweetie.

I think we miss Los Angeles less these days. Today while walking along the bay to my office in Sausalito I think I may have forgotten LA for a bit.

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I've been tooling with a sentence in my head this morning, but I haven't been able to come up with the right wording.

Right now, it's: Solving a problem never feels as proportionally good as the bad feeling of experiencing it.

I'll take a crack at it later, but it looks like I'm ending this week on a higher note—though other problems still exist and require a lot more work to figure out. There is still next week.

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Since my post last month I now have Vox invites up the Vox right now, so if you're a friend of mine and you want to check out Vox send me an email.

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Launching a website is perhaps the smallest milestone there is, it's no more momentous to me than starting a new work week. It's a chance to take a breath and open up a new channel to your (hopefully) new users. You're not ending your work load, you're pretty much doubling it.

At least that's how I always thought of it. I love make sites for people to use, and I love to listen to what they have to say and respond as fast as I can to make the site better. It's perhaps my favorite thing to do, and it saddens me when I can't respond fast enough.

Like launching a boat or a rocket, you're not standing by watching the boat sail off into the sunset or watching the rocket climb into outer space--you're on it.

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Identifying a web programmer is easy! Ask them to spell "referrer.

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Old Man #1 : He's even got his own DNS server.

Even Older Man #2 : He's got a what now?

Old Man #1 : I said he's got his own DNS server!

(at this point I'm laughing because I can't believe these two old men are discussing DNS servers)

Old Man #2 : Why does he have that?

Old Man #1 : I dunno, he likes the control, I guess.

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Next_computer Someone asked on a discussion group I'm on about naming servers. As you probably know we name machines on our networks so we don't have to remember that the file server is 192.168.1.23 and the mail server is 192.168.1.22. Instead you grant a symbolic name to the machine and can just type it in and rely on the magic of DNS to match it, even when the server needs to move to a different node and get a new IP address.

IT folks and others who are in charge of servers sometimes get excited as 16-year olds naming their rock bands. The discussions usually go like this:

"Let's name them after moons in Star Wars!"
"Yeah!"
"alakatha!"
"dxun!!"
"forestmoonofendor!!!"
"Hmm, that might be a bit long."
"sharene?"
"There's a Sharene in accounting, actually. That might not go over well."
"Okay, how about Simpsons characters?"
"Brilliant!"
"homer!"
"marge!!"
"bart!!!"
"lisa!!!!"
"There's another woman in accounting named Lisa. Let's get away from people names."
"Planets in the solar system?"
"We'll run out of names."
"What's wrong with Uranus2?"
"Greek gods?"
"I'm listening..."
"Well Hermes was the messenger of the gods... So that could be the mail server."
"And Zeus was the god of gods, that could be our DNS server."
"This is brilliant!"
"Let's do it!"
"Yeah, plus that's what we named the servers at the last place so it'll be easy to remember."

At the last place I worked at we started from scratch and had the "haw haw" idea of naming them after Scientologists: Moore, Hayes, Plummer, Alley, Cruise... It was mysterious enough so that when we told clients their files were on "plummer.ourdomain.com" we didn't have to explain what that was about. And since we were a marketing company, we didn't come off as a bunch of social-rejects with something like "ClakDorVII.ourdomain.com" or "NarShaddaa.ourdomain.com".

Like I said, "haw haw".

When the IT group started growing, they acquired their own servers and--I shit you not--named them after Greek gods. The main file server was named Zeus, the mail server and database were named Pandora and Apollo. They'd have a nice laugh when Pandora was acting up--which was "haw haw" squared.

Here is a list of things to keep in mind when naming your servers:

  1. Keep it short and easy to spell. "Blue", "red", "green", "black" are infinitely more friendly than "judaspriest", "polyhymnia", or "chlamydia".
  2. Give the servers names you don't mind saying in meetings with big clients. "Yes, you can grab those files off of 'pine' whenever you like." sounds better than, "Yes, you can grab those files off of 'klaatu9' whenever you like."
  3. Nobody likes Star Wars. Yes, a few engineers, mostly concentrated in pit of hell a few miles south of San Francisco, but that's pretty much it. Star Wars is a terrible, terrible period in our nation's history which thankfully, due to the human fascination with trilogies (or even double trilogies), means we'll see a Battle of Bull Run before we see another new Star Wars movie. It's over. The nightmare is over. Fuck your Star Trek, too.
  4. Don't be too cute. Naming things after Scientologists was fun until I had to tell the new hire what the naming scheme was and hope he wasn't a "Friend of L.Ron" and was going to somehow fill my water glass full of Thetans and damn me to a life under some volcano in Hemet, California. Kind of like that moment when you let the word "retard" go in a group setting and then worry a bit that any one of them might actually have retarded relatives back home drooling on something.
  5. No Greek/Roman gods. At least make it exciting and name them after more current mythical gods like Jesus or The Dude or Steve Jobs.

In closing I would just like to cite this fact I found on Wikipedia while researching this post. Total number of kick-ass rock bands named after Star Wars: 0.

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My best of 2005 doesn't really stick to any one medium. I tried listing my favorite music this year, but some of it was recorded in 1993. I tried listing some favorite movies, but I couldn't think of anything I got on Netflix this year that wasn't a TV show or made in some year like 1993. So then I thought about books and there was just the one I thought was worth reading.

So here are my favorite things of 2005. In no particular order.

Fisher Space Pen

I just bought my second and third Fisher Space Pen. I accidentally left my first one in the car I dropped off at Hertz so I bought two more. I like to find something that works and stick with it, and right now it's these wonderful pens. Sure they write through blood and water, and you can write upside down, but the secret to why it's so great is that when closed it's about 3/4ths the size of a normal pen, when you take the cap off and place it at the end of the pen the size grows to a normal size pen. Add in the very simple, black matte, metal, "bullet" design and a ball point that seems to begin delivering ink a micrometer before it touches the paper, and you have the best and only pen you'll ever need. (Unless you are all about precision, in which case I have to recommend my previous favorite pen, the Sakura Microperm).

Camper Shoes

This year I went all out on Camper Shoes. I now have seven pair. Moving to San Francisco has meant I'm on my feet more, and some of the shoes (not all) do very well for walking. Now that the Camper stores are popping up in the larger US cities, they aren't as rare, so they don't make me feel nearly as unique as they did when I'd be on this page hoping I wasn't ordering a shoe that would fit on a keychain.

The Mountain Goats - "The Sunset Tree"

Mat got me into the Mountain Goats this year. It's an album. A real full album like the old days when you'd drop the needle on the record and sit in your room and follow along (not that I really ever did this but I'm told by old people with Who albums that they did). It feels like sharing any song from the album is like sharing a chapter from a book out of context, but before I heard the album Mat had given me this recording the MGs had done on the John Peel show which got me interested.

John Darnielle also has my favorite thing said this year, from this interview done in haiku:

Q. Preparing yourself
for an ominous ending
What is the magpie?

A. Only a traitor
undresses his metaphors
As if they were whores

Graph Paper

Hell yeah I said graph paper. I love graph paper. I'm going to buy stacks of it. I like to use the 8 squares to the inch though that 16 square looks HOT. When was the last time you used graph paper?

iTunes TV Shows

I totally missed the boat on the TV show "Lost" due to work and moving. I hate jumping into something mid-season and so I figured I'd wait until it showed up on Netflix. For the holidays I was able to catch up using the iTunes Music store and that rules more than graph paper. I work a lot more on my laptop than I did at my old job. The fact that I can call up a TV show for $1.99 is pure joy. Though I have to wonder, why does 99¢ seem like a bit much for a song I could conceivably listen to 100 times, and $1.99 about right for a TV show I'd watch once? I can't figure that one out.

San Francisco

This town is swell. We love it here. The weather isn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be, we're still in California after all, so Christmas Eve, when I was getting ready to drive down to my parents house it was clear and sunny, and I didn't need a coat. I dunno why everyone is all crazed about this weather, I've seen bad weather and this isn't it. I love being able to walk and get a beer, or coffee, or ride the train to downtown without worrying about parking. I do hate that I don't have easy access to stores like Target and Home Depot, though. Back in Long Beach it was easy to get to those stores if you had a lot of stuff to buy, now you have to plan a bit more. Plus I don't have my truck so you have to get creative with getting large things into the house.

To say it's a bit segregated would be an understatement. There are things about this neighborhood (Noe Valley) that annoy me and I think I'd like to be closer to the Mission if I could, but overall I like San Francisco and it beat out Italy when I made this list so that's pretty good.

Quicksilver

Along with TextMate, Quicksilver is an application for Macintosh that I use religiously. I find it better and more agile than Tiger's Spotlight, and the plugins made for it are pretty varied. If you have a Mac you should try it out. Then check out Merlin's post on using its append to text file feature for your todo lists.

HipsterPDA

Speaking of Merlin, you should really meet Merlin. He's an interesting guy with great ideas and great hair. Seriously.

Anyway, Merlin "invented" the HipsterPDA and it's become my favorite organizational tool behind my .Mac residing todo.txt file. I've owned several palm organizers and learned how to chicken scratch letters on them only to have them trickle down to the bottom of my pile of crap I have no use for. Also, it's cheap!

Products

Like I said in my Fisher Pen item above, when I find something that works well I stick with it. And this year was all about three products: Tom's of Maine Toothpaste, Dr. Bronner's Soap, and an array of Kiehl's  products.

When I was a kid I remember toothpaste being toothpaste and not candy. It seems like toothpaste now is so sweet and candied that I don't feel like I'm getting my teeth clean so much as coating my mouth with stuff that smells good. It's like air freshner for the mouth when I really need to be cleaning it. Tom's of Maine just works. And it's in a simple tube that doesn't make me feel like I'm not only buying toothpaste but funding some toothpaste manufacturer's R&D budget to make some crazy dispenser.

Dr. Bronner's Soap isn't a very new product, it's apparently been around a while and I've seen it in people's bathrooms and heard about it from friends but didn't really come around to using the soap until this year. It comes in a bottle straight out of crazy world and being a sucker for packaging I bought a couple bottles when I saw them at Trader Joe's. Of the three companies I'm talking about, Dr. Bronner's wasn't featured in any Seth Godin book I know of, but it should. It's the purple cow to end all purple cows, and it's damn good soap.

I am a sucker for good marketing and good packaging. When I first saw a Kiehl's store I knew I was going to buy a cartload of stuff. The fact that I think the products (specifically the shaving cream, non-alcohol toner, and shampoo) work so well is why I keep buying it. Only later did I find out it was a Lancome company with a trumped up back story. Being a fan of Seth Godin's books means that sometimes you either feel like a total hypocrite or just an informed shopper when you fall for stuff like Kiehl's. It is good though.

Other Stuff

A few things that were good but not great last year:

<ol>
		<li>A <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0007TFLLC/nutshell-20">PSP</a> and
			<a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00006FSLC/nutshell-20">Wipeout Pure</a> for
			my trip to Italy. Sitting on the train or waiting out jetlag in the hotel went by quickly
			with this game. I still can't hear the music and not think of Rome or Venice.</li>
		<li>Any game I was insanely excited about after E3. Nothing really kept me playing this year. All the
			GTA:III styled
			games turned out to be the yellow-fade of the gaming world. &quot;Ooh, I get to drive a motorcycle around and
			run over people. That's a game?&quot;
			Even <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0007PIEAQ/nutshell-20">Psychonauts</a> became
			tedious and grating after a few hours. I did nearly finish <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0009I6S0O/nutshell-20">Shadow of the Colossus</a> but
			it was during a time when I was swamped at work and couldn't really devote my evenings to it. I'll probably
			finish it up in the next month.</li>
		<li><a href="http://www.netflix.com/">Netflix</a> is a great service, but it feels like they hit a brick wall in terms of building their application.
			It's the same service it was (to me) as it was a year ago. They added some friend features and cleaned
			up the interface a bit, but nothing that really made me feel like they were devoting much time to its future.
			Where are the video games? Where are the PSP movies? Netflix is rapidly becoming the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cdnow">CDNOW</a> of online rentals.</li>
</ol>

Stuff That Didn't

There were a few things I had been excited about this year that turned out to not be what I had hoped for. While PHP turned 10 years old, Ruby on Rails (or, as I lovingly refer to it: Ruby on Rims) went 1.0. I know, Ruby on Rails runs best on LightTPD, PHP runs best on nearly everything. I think Ruby as a language is wonderfully simple and a good language to be introduced to programming on, I think I just didn't mesh with the RoR way. I can't wait to do an app with it, I just didn't trust it when I first tried. It really isn't you, Ruby, it's me.

Gamefly was a huge disappointment. Their turn around times are atrocious and it's like their interface people have never used Netflix before. When I first signed up it took nearly 2 weeks to get my first games, and my original calculation of $50 a month for one game vs. $30 for unlimited games seemed to be thrown off. Waiting a week or so to see a new game in the mail is hardly what I expected.

Not to sound like some tech-pundit blowhard but what is Microsoft doing? They're almost completely off my radar now that I and nearly all my friends work on Macs. I realize that's dangerous, but come on, isometric views of my apartment? Big whoop.

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A few years ago I was into programming AIM bots. I wrote one for Metafilter that would scrape the RSS feed and send out a couple hundred IMs to people informing them of the latest posts to Mefi. I ran into the "too many messages" wall and gave up on the bot. I didn't feel like creating a web of bots, like my friend Phil Fibiger did, and so I let the bot die.

A couple years later Andy rigged his AIM bot to the Infocom interpreter, and let loose a few Infocom games to the world. It was wildly popular, and tonight while researching some AIM bots for something entirely different, I ran into something I hadn't seen in a while. Andy had registered infocombots 1-3, and someone else decided to register infocombot4.

As they say on the Internet, hilarity ensued (read comment #6).

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This made my day. Not because Mena thinks she said something dumb, she probably didn't, but because whatever I said had some germ of truth in it and Mena liked it. I say a lot of dumb things, but I say them in front of a small number of people who know that:

  1. I say a lot of dumb things.
  2. Maybe the dumb thing Andre just said should have been phrased differently, and if so then that actually makes some sense.

Anyway, I fret about things I say here (and now about things I say on LJ!) but it's nice knowing that people still get it, however poorly worded.

Also, thank god I don't have more than the 100 or so readers who keep visiting my site. I can't imagine what it would be like if things were scrutinized as much as they are on the more popular sites.

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The best weblogs are the ones in everyone's "drafts" folder. So much of what I used to write and like to write about won't work today.

I heard a "blogger" on NPR this morning, totally unprepared and ineffective, trying to make arguments by doing this trick where she would just repeat her beliefs or start down one path and then simply stop, ask the moderator and the other people to FORGET WHAT SHE HAD JUST SAID and then stated her beliefs again, ignoring the question entirely. It was a lot of fun listening to her make a fool of herself and edit her little blog entry in real-time, but I really didn't get why she was so scared of a celibate gay man and not a practicing pedophile.

Webloggers of 1999 don't equal bloggers in 2005. I really need to accept it and move on. I recently found out that a few people had migrated to LiveJournal (yes, LiveJournal. Really!) because they could set controls on who could read and have more freedom to write about things they didn't want etched in Google for eternity.

I was kind of shocked when saw the names of people who were on it. It's like when you're wandering around the party thinking people had gone home and then you find them all in the back-room smoking pot and giggling at a television that isn't even on.

Anyway, I guess I've been wandering around the party these days. All the people I used to read didn't get boring, they just found someplace else to hang out (and didn't tell me! jerks).

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A lot of buzzing going on with that phrase Web2.0. It's a fine phrase. It's like Ajax, easier to say than XMLHTTPRequest Object and it provides some context for a conversation. But like Ajax, it's the same story as before: people like to get excited about new things, even if those new things are just the same old things synthesized or standardized in a new way.

Whatever you want to call it, whatever you think it means, I know one thing: the people who actually build stuff win this round. I could not be happier for Andy, Leonard, and Gordon. The right people got the right reward for doing it the way it's supposed to be done.

When I lived in LA we used to meet up once a week for a "geek dinner" where we'd get a chance to talk about web topics, ideas for apps, or see what cool gadget Leonard just got from Asia that we wouldn't see in our stores for 5 years.

Andy's original idea for our "geek dinners" was based around the famous Pho mailing-list meetings that would happen in Berkeley. His work on Upcoming back then, I think, was prompted by the idea of our dinnners, and how others would want to meet up in a similar way. We always had a problem choosing where to eat, and we'd invariably end up at the noodle place followed by boba.

While Upcoming evolved into something almost entirely different, it's a clear example of how things should work. You need something. You build it for yourself, you build it for others. You share it, refine it, and get rewarded for it.

That's every version of Web in my book.

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How is this DRM different from this DRM?

I bought my copy of Agile Rails Development after using a copy purchased by someone else. Their name was at the bottom of each page, and though it was kind of weird seeing it over and over, it didn't seem like such a big deal...I bought my own copy soon after because the book was worth buying.

But now the more I think about it, I'm just encouraging these folks to start pasting my information in my documents, documents that could get pilfered in a laptop theft or accidental folder sharing—there are plenty of stories of P2P app users accidentally sharing their entire HD.

Whenever I see some strange DRM scheme I think about any of the introductions to one of Cory Doctorow's books. The ones where he points out he's given away hundreds of thousands of digital copies AND gone through numerous print editions. I still buy his books because they're easy to read as a book, would cost me a heck of a lot more to print it, and yeah, I want to support him as a writer.

Anyway, Cory tells it better than me, you can read it for yourself (gosh!) on his site.

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In a week where Jason brought to light a storm over AJAX on Wikipedia, I had a run-in with a particularly nasty Wikipedian who is HELL BENT on preserving an entry he knows nothing about. He's reverted versions of an entry that make no sense, purely because people are voting its deletion. He's like some sort of attack dog switched to "on" position and I doubt he'll give up without giving it his best.

I stupidly stuck my foot in the conversation when I should have just let it be. It's amazing how easy it is to get drawn into that machine, when all you want to do is correct a few nasty and incorrect assertions. It's a world I need to just experience from the outside.

Kind of like visiting a slaughterhouse, it's best just not to know.

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While the world doesn't need another weblog template site, it sure could use a web app template site. Not a template system like Smarty, but a site where a good web designer with some knowledge of the types of screens (login, form pages, user pages, tag soup pages, etc) that a web developer would need could be prepared. Nothing sucks more than having an idea, building it in a couple hours, and then having to scramble to find something that doesn't look like total poop.

I'm not saying we need a bunch of Kubrick web apps cluttering the landscape, but I'd prefer to use a nice set of form elements and styled pages that take into account features of web apps that don't exist in weblogs, than running with my typical Helvetica/White Box/Auto-Margined And Centered/Floating On A Sea Of #C6C6C6 design technique.

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I'm in Marin this week living in a hotel where the only Internet access, described cheerfully by the woman at the front desk turned out to be "a data-port in the side of your room's phone."

After a few hours hacking away with incorrect information given to me by the Cingular rep (who chuckled when I said I was using a Macintosh) I finally figured out how to connect at a whopping 56kbps. I even made a phone call while connected!

Anyway, this guy's mobile phone modem scripts saved me from going insane. Everything you need to know is on his site.

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I give up. The SEO goons have won this round as I've taken Everything TypeKey down for re-tooling. You can still access the site, you just can't edit it. Please tell me if there are any missing pages or links to SEO spam.

Instiki needs TypeKey support!

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I'm sick of five star ratings. Five stars in relation to what, exactly? I trust groups rather than individuals, and would like to make my purchasing decisions based on that.

I sound cranky for some reason. I'm not cranky, I just hope that if you're out there contemplating a five star rating system, you re-think what you want people to actually get out of the experience.

The SEOs who are going to burn in hell might have something to do with my mood today.

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This Adaptive Path essay is both exciting and really pissing me off. Sorry, I was in Italy for a couple of weeks so I missed out on this the first time around.

The most retarded sentence in it is: "Curious, inventive people are making cool stuff again." Um, hello? WTF? "Again"? I really don't know how to respond to that other than to feel really insulted and feel like anything people made three or four years ago was somehow "boring" because there wasn't any money attached to it. It's like when people say something as asinine as "Music is getting exciting again!" and the rest of us are like, "No, you just weren't paying attention."

Anyway, yes, there's more money that seems to be available for people who have been building these apps, but the suggestion that people who make these sites are only now springing to life when money is available is kind of disappointing. I hate the equation that $1 million in funding == EXCITING OPPORTUNITIES. It's how you fools lathered yourselves into the last bubble.

The exciting part for me is seeing friends, acquaintances, and heroes from years past finally getting recognition for their work; and yes, hopefully money to keep doing the stuff they like to do.

It's never been the technology that makes things cool for me, it's how the idea is executed. Tags, Ajax, RoR, RSS, XML, blogs, Java, VRML... if your focus is on the neat technology shoehorned into some idea to make money then you're going to be up to your ass in sock puppets again.

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My friend Matt pointed out how some people's sites he reads are evolving into a handful of links sprinkled with some jokey commentary. It's true, I'm one of those people he's referring to. I promised myself I'd get stuff up on this site this year and part of that has meant that I fall back on del.icio.us links, rather than what I should be doing which is just sitting down for twenty minutes and writing something when I have the time. Quality over quantity, maybe.

Part of why I've been so excited about del.icio.us and using it to post links is that I'm writing some API thing that will make it simpler for me to publish my links to TypePad. I guess I've gone a bit overboard. I see a lot of links in a day, and sometimes I just want to save them for my own use, so why not get them up on the site too? Unfortunately TypePad doesn't allow the finer tuning of widths and styles that might be needed, so I'm working to help get around that.

One thing about using TypePad is that it forces you to be a little creative with how you do things. It's kind of like what Matt (the hater) said about people liking limits. I chose to work with TypePad rather than my own MT install for a few reasons, but chief among them is that I liked the idea of being constrained with a very narrow-use blogging application. If MovableType is the car then TypePad is my scooter.

I picked TypePad because I find it makes me think more creatively about solutions for getting it to do what I want it to do. I figure there's a lot of people out there who might be dealing with those same problems but not know how to program, and that's just the kind of group I like to help out.

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All this hullabaloo over robots.txt destroying the web is crazy! I mean, why can't I decide what content on my server search engines can index? I think in five years we'll all forget about how they "destroyed the web" by allowing people robots.txt restrictions.

Seriously, describing content is cool. Cool!

Sometimes I feel bad because I can't write these long billowing posts about technology. I wish I had some good opinions on stuff like nofollow or atom/rss poop. But to me it's all just more toys. So thanks everyone for making more toys that might come in handy later if I need them for something cool.

The other day someone said they thought they liked it better in the "good old days" when the web was wild. I don't get that at all. I think the web just gets better. More toys for me to play with. Standards and co-operation. I don't make rollovers by hand anymore. I don't parse query strings by hand. Right this minute I'm in the middle of making a little toy that lets me do something I thought would be fun. I couldn't have done this in 1998 without writing my own web server.

Anyway, I probably embrace new stuff too much. I like new stuff. New stuff means it might be better stuff. I just can't be a grouch about the future because then I wouldn't have any fun.

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I recently downloaded the new beta of NetNewsWire and while going through the new options I chose for it to download and install podcasts automatically.

That, in itself, is a pretty neat feature. Yay Ranchero.

So this morning I notice a new playlist in my iTunes. "It's Dave Winer!" I think to myself and happily start it up. Technology!

It's not that it isn't good, it's that Dave sounds like I'd think Jerry Garcia would sound. I don't want to listen to Jerry Garcia. I'm not making fun of Dave, I'm just pointing out that audio adds too many variables for me. Sound of the voice. Background noise. Ums. Uhs. NPR has me spoiled.

But yes also it isn't good. I really didn't pay attention to what he was saying, just how it was being delivered. I think podcasting is a cool use of technology, but so are LRADs.

It's just not something I can get excited about. Ranchero making it happen, yes, listening to random thoughts, not so much. I'm sure for Dave it's pretty damn cool to be able to do it, but it's not my thing.

No, my thing is coordinating in iChat with Mat, who is at Macworld, to go in front of the Other World Computing live camera and flip me off.

Technology! I'm living it.

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I've moved the wiki to /guide on Everything TypeKey (Gordon says "Don't name your wikis "Wiki"). There are a few reasons why I'm moving it, but chief among them is the fact that I couldn't reliably get a robots.txt file in the wiki software to protect against bots rolling things back, on top of that it seemed that nothing on the site was getting indexed for search.

I'll be redirecting the RSS feeds to the new ones via mod_rewrite, but please change them in your readers as well.

Also, I'd like to offer my services to anyone contemplating or trying to get TypeKey running in their project. I figure if you get 20 people to sign up to TypeKey that's 20 people who will be receptive to seeing it in my projects. The most negative reactions to TKPal or Dropcash or have always been the use of TypeKey.

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This might be an old link, since I thought I had read it before, but while adding the cent sign to TKPal I ran across this piece called The Demise Of The $.01 Sign.

I like the ¢ sign. If you want to help bring it back, please use &#162; in your HTML.

If you're on a Mac, just type alt+4 which is the $ when shifted key.

If you're on a PC I think you type alt+0162.

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I just turned live some new TKPal code with some great updates from Bill Zeller. He wrote a database class that generalizes the functions through drivers. So now there is a flat file option as well as a MySQL option.

I updated the instructions as well. If you previously downloaded the code, please go back and download again. Remember: you can always go back as often as you wish and download as many times as you wish.

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I've been tracking my small updates to TKPal at Simpleform but I should mention here that Grouphug.us has gone and implemented TKPal site-wide. Pay once and get access to comment on any confession you wish.

Bill Zeller sent me a whopper of an update tonight that abstracts the database with a nice class so a number of databases will be able to be plugged in. My next goal is to get SQLite running with that class.

Once TKPal development has settled down, I'll be rolling out some TKPal uses. One of the great things about the system is it gives people who have thought of implementing some kind of PayPal functionality on their site some real code they can extend—all for the bargain price of $1.

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Matt's post about Internet-wide comments reminds me of an idea I would like TypeKey to implement.

I like to build things on top of TypeKey, but I find myself having to always make a database to save random bits of information about the users. For example, if I've made a site where I had subscriptions I'd have to have a bit in a database to mark who has paid and who hasn't. I could rig a folder of stub files to tell me that, but that seems messy.

What I would like to see is TypeKey adopt something not unlike my PS2 memory card. Any site  implementing TypeKey would have the ability to save data directly to someone's TypeKey account in any schema they wish. An API sitting in front of the TypeKey could be as simple as:

$tk->SaveData("has_paid", "true");
$has_paid = $tk->LoadData("has_paid");

Maybe sites with larger space requirements could pay for more "blocks" so that more data could be saved and retreived.

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I guess I'm releasing TKPal tonight. Though I think it still needs work. Anyone interested in testing it is invited to download the files and have a go with it. I don't think it works exactly how I want it to, but I could probably spend some time tweaking it and not get it right. I really should streamline it a bit more.

Anyway, if it doesn't make sense to you, ignore it. It's just some code that allows you to sell portions of your web pages using TypeKey and PayPal. Most people won't have the requirements to install it on their computer, but those that do now have a little head start in implementing a system for doing that. Or at least an example of how one was done.

I don't really have any other way of releasing something like this for testing purposes, but that's what this is for now. I wouldn't implement this on your server  yet.

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I'm on the cusp of releasing something I think is pretty cool, so I've been writing and re-writing it to make sure it works how I want it to. One of the last steps has been deciding how to license it.

I have to admit I don't spend very much of my time thinking about licenses since I very rarely release open sourced code for use or example. I find the whole matter kind of boring (except for the 2 days after seeing Lessig speak or reading some of Doctorow's work for the EFF), and so it feels something like choosing car insurance.

I'm not writing the next great word processor, it's just a couple hundred lines of PHP to help people sell content on the web, and so that is bloody awful, and that is probably more my style. I can see why people just © and move on with things.

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My friend Jason is on a roll. First he sent out Pass Pod to the world, and then followed it up immediately with another great idea: the Preshrunk blog.

Along with books, CDs, and DVDs, I tend to buy a lot of t-shirts since they fall in that sweet $15-25 range. Jason not only blogs the shirts, but he tells you the price, and whether they accept PayPal or not. (Dear people who sell shirts, use PayPal)

I renewed a bunch of my domains recently and I realized I tend to launch sites around this time of the year (December/January). I think slow work weeks, cold weather, and new toys get the creative juices flowing.

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My job title changed three times. Anil saved my blog. Dropcash topped $20,000. Dropload is appearing in MacWorld and this web site would have as well if it weren't for the phrase "Damn Ass Hell Kings" used a few weeks back. I accepted money for an account on a web site I run. I'm telling you, it's been weird...

Watched my company's online Christmas card blow up. Experienced what it's like to be on the other side of ill-informed, self-righteousness (Onion headline: Old Man Thinks Website Was Designed To Target Him, Writes Blog Entry Concerning Vagisil's Confusing Imagery). The video is for our clients to laugh at and possibly get people to click over to our company site...which you did...and read generous portions of...which you did...and then you linked it...gee, that sounds like the marketing worked.

"Semi-Professional writer" indeed.
Fattypomh

When you want to dress up and pretend to be Mr. Anti-Corporate Warrior, be sure to remove that Google banner from your site, Ché.

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Me: Wow! This is cool, come see this!
Other Programmer: What?
Me: This, it's called Google Suggest. Watch, give me a phrase.
OT: Um.... um....
Me: Anything, it doesn't matter.
OT: Big. Bottomed. Girls.
I type it in and it auto-fills as I type...
Me: See?
He stares at it for a few seconds and then declares.
OT: It's filling in because you already searched for it!

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I had a new idea for a way of representing a weblog in a tree format. Rather than a linear, post-post-post fashion, there can be parallel "branches" splitting and re-joining. If I feel like posting links for a few days, it doesn't drive everything down below the fold, and if I have a side project I want to document for a few days, I don't have to start a new blog on a different page. Instead a line would split off the main 'trunk' and progress northward like a regular weblog.

I've been thinking about solutions for the back-end data, and at first I thought I could solve the problem with a parent-child type database-something like a message board turned on its side:

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Becomes:

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But now I'm thinking if I could just make an association between blog_id's, every time I have a new branch I'd just start a new blog and specify one blog_id as the parent to another. Upon closing out a weblog, I'd just represent a folding in, similar to a CVS branch rolling into the main trunk.

I'm not as concerned with the back-end as much as rendering the front end. I'll have to have an intermediate "data cooking" step before printing it to the page that builds a nested array. Displaying small windows of data (e.g., month of June) means I'll have to do something tricky, I just don't know what.

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I really do ♥ TypeKey. So much so that I started a little TypeKey Wiki that puts some TypeKey links together for developers looking to implement the sign-on service.

I invite you to add your own links and text where appropriate.

I'm also running this system on Instiki which is a fine wiki for this sort of thing. I made some edits this morning to the source code and it was really fairly painless.

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My friend Michael who runs Wordphoto sent out a request for help in keeping wordphoto alive (bandwidth probs!) and his request was answered.

Even more impressive is this Toy Drive being held by AcuraZine. $5,000 worth of Matchbox cars is an awesome idea for a gift, I pitched in a couple of dollars, why don't you?

Speaking of pitching in, I realized today while looking over the database, I've handed out nearly $200 in testing and helping people get their campaigns rolling. It boggles my mind sometimes when I think about the free sites and the time I spend working on them, and I still haven't managed to get any of them to turn a profit. It's like I'm not even trying.

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My cyber-internet-friend Gabriel Jeffrey has compiled a book from the grouphug.us archives called Stoned, Naked, And Looking in My Neighbor's Window for Simon & Schuster. It's a real live book you can go to your local store (or shoppe for those of you in the UK) and buy.

I like the UK cover more than the US one. Mainly because I like comics more than girls in panties.

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I still do not have a proper response formulated for things people have forwarded me that I have already seen. In addition to running FilePile, I read blogs. Lots of them. I have over 200 subscriptions that I actively keep track of, so the chances of me seeing photos of Ron Jeremy seeing his first goatse are pretty high.

I don't want to be rude about it, but I just have no simple way of saying, "seen it" without feeling like a jerk every time.

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Little_traffic_spike

It's been a while since I'd been farked. Through some coincidence I had called my ISP to fix a billing problem with my credit card, and I thought I'd find out how my bandwidth was doing. Since I'm a friend of theirs I think they give me a little bit of extra rope with this stuff, but we both couldn't believe what we were seeing when we saw my stats for the past day.

Anyway, if you're wondering why www.torrez.org is off, it's because I'm doing some cleaning up.

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We measure milliseconds in metric but not seconds. There are no millimiles or decafeet. This is all I've been thinking about at work today.

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Dear Flickr API,
You said you'd call. I wrote you a request for an API key and so far nothing. I thought things were going well. I even signed up for a pro account and joined the Flickr API discussion list in good faith. I fired off my API request and nothing.

I really like you. Please call.

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TypePad is currently being inundated with trackback spam and I'm swatting them as fast as they pop up. This is why you should have the source to your blogging tool. I think I need to go back to MT.

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44<p> I finally dropped the money to buy a copy of BBEdit 8. If you’re going to be buying it, check out the last paragraph on this page for details on how to get it cheaper. </p>

After I installed it, I got rid of that awful icon and replaced it with this non-crappy one over at Hicks Design.

I never understood why everyone was so hot for BBEdit. When I first switched to the Macintosh I was surprised to find out that BBEdit was the best text editor there was. It was ugly and had way too many options (Bare Bones?) to keep track of. It took about a year of trying out other editors—SubEthaEdit lasted for half a year before I got tired of the search command not working correctly. Plus nobody wanted to edit files with me. :(

But when version 8 was released I decided to give BBEdit another chance and I'm glad I did. This morning I needed a regex to re-validate some data coming through a form I'd written. I had previously been allowing anything through and now had a giant text file of both bad and good data. I was able to write a regex "live" in my editor and watch the data filter through. It only took about three revisions and I had a regex (and the data) available to be stuffed back into the database.

From there I was able to copy and paste my expression into the PHP script and it worked.

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I sometimes query friends for feedback on my projects, but sometimes they are busy or aren't online. I decided to start a Google Group for those of us who make these kinds of sites to get support. A place for anyone with a new site idea to come and get feedback or help out others who are trying to launch a site.

As I state on the group's charter: A group dedicated to those of us who build web sites in our spare time for fun or profit. Discuss new ideas, feasibility, and get or give help to others.

The Making Stuff Google Group.

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Alan of Kokogiak has launched a new version of Amazon Lite. This one takes advantage of the new Amazon 4.0 web services but also features some pretty cool tools. Each product page has a list of tools that allow you to make a Dropcash campaign, mail a link via Gmail, post the link to your Blogger page, add the page to your Del.icio.us links, and depending on the type of media, look up the book at the library, find the movie on Netflix, or find the artist in iTunes.

Those tools are great, but the one that got me most excited is the local library lookup. I don't use my library enough, and having that option right before I buy another book from Amazon is perhaps the coolest thing I've seen all year.

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My Tivo keeps track of what I watch, creating a profile of me to sell to marketers. Web sites keep track of me, creating a profile of what I look at to sell to marketers. I think because I am always aware of these facts it bleeds into other things I consume.

A few days ago I was scanning through the stations on my radio when I hit upon some talk radio bullcrap about the war. When I realized what was being said on the station my hand reached for the dial, my brain instinctively telling me I didn't want any marketing data being recorded about that.

The more my

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google_globe<p> I had a chance to see this globe when I visited Google earlier this month. Like the updating search terms in the Google lobby, the globe is very much a “oh neat” type thing. </p>

The colors represent the languages being searched and the height of each beam relates to activity. There's a legend just off to the side that tells you what language is what. You can zoom in and rotate the globe in a number of directions.

Oh Neat.

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The nice thing about Google is that if you have a tech support problem, you can copy and paste the error and find 10 other people who had the problem. Perfect example is the worst debug message in recent memory, AOL's: feedbag error.

It's a Friday afternoon before a three day weekend so my employer is paying me to mod my desktop with some Unsanity and Panic software while I do my weekly server upgrades.

I just rebooted after some fairly big tweaks, including upgrading to 10.3.4, and I get the error I pasted in my title bar. Related to the Unsanity/Panic stuff? Doubtful. This is the Mail.app, which hasn't been touched. The 10.3.4 upgrade is probably more likely. I just can't seem to find anyone with answers in Google.

Which is why I'm posting. Maybe someone can figure it out. Maybe I'll figure it out and update here. Maybe I shouldn't rely on Google for tech support. Ah well..My dock is SEE-THRU!

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For those of you finding my page by searching Google for "gmail" and then coming here and asking me to "invite you into gmail" (it ain't Friendster), I have a site for you. It's called GMail Swap and unlike the crass selling of invites on Ebay, this seems harmless and feels like it fits within the spirit of inviting a friend.

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I don't have the time to do this, but maybe someone out there does? Feel free to take this idea.

A web site with user accounts that has a location field (area code?). The ability to, via text message, email, or a function on the site, to submit a license plate of a bad driver. The license plates are grouped according locations like Los Angeles, or states. The state might be set in the user's account, a default state for submissions maybe?

There would be a few false positives, naturally, but the real offenders would show up. This might even be a more useful site for bike riders and pedestrians.

I can also imagine there could be discussion beneath each license plate entry.

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editingdocument2.jpg
SubEthaTrack is a web server that allows people to place their shared SubEthaEdit documents up for the world to see and edit in real time. Why nobody thought of this sooner is beyond me.

findingdocuments.jpg

As Andrew Cooke said in his excellent compute mailing list: "One of those odd 'it's very cool, but where exactly is it going?' things..."

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One of my favorite GMail features is plus addressing [?]. I already, with my torrez.org domain, hand out tons of aliases when signing up for things, and so being able to continue that method of tracking where an email address was harvested from is very useful.

Today I received five pieces of spam, all of them were sent to my gmail address without the trailing + part. Meaning, I believe, that spam harvesting spiders are smart enough to clip that little tag off before committing the address to their database. I don't believe I have ever placed my address on a spiderable page without some sort of + addressing tag.

Also, two web forms I have filled out in the past week have filtered the + in my gmail address as a space (which is understandable, it's a method of urlencoding spaces), rendering the account I was creating unusable.

I like the idea of plus addressing, but I am afraid it's not going to be as useful as I had hoped if spam harvesters are clever enough to know when they're being tricked, and web developers are filtering out the plus character in registration pages.

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Prioritizing feeds is something I have wanted too, and it appears to be coming in this newsreader that emulates a mail interface--but what I really want to do is be able to subscribe to comment pages.

I coded a new site that's not quite ready yet, though a few people are using it. It not only offers feeds for top level items, but each discussion has it's own XML feed generated so you can keep a folder in your newsreader for disposable feeds--ones that you could ditch at any moment when the conversation no longer interests you.

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I just saw Jason Shellen's running tally of GMail reviews. He's got my torrez.org one linked on it but since I never use log analyzers I'd never know. Heh.

I just found out something gmail does that I didn't know it did: +addressing. Meaning I can make my own address (andre.torrez+example@gmail.com) and filter on the word "example". That's a big one.

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What I like about the beta version of gmail:

  1. The conversation format is an obvious natural evolution of email. I've seen a few mail clients attempt it through threading and grouping, but I've never seen it done as well as this.
  2. Secure server access. You can go to https://gmail.google.com/ and conduct your session securely.
  3. Labels versus folders. Instead of making folders to hold individual messages (Did I put that message in the "Namco" folder or in the "System Admin" folder?) all messages live in your inbox and can be filtered by labels you assign or auto-assign to them.
  4. The key commands, are inspired by vi. I wasn't sure whether to put this on my like or dislike list, it's too fashionable to bash vi, so I'll put it here, it's cute. ("bash vi"...Unix jokes never die)
  5. Purely from a technical standpoint, I love the use of JavaScript to make this work more like an app and less like a web app. Or, as some have suggested, to thwart scripted automation from 3rd party clients. Either way, it's an impressive feat and I applaud anyone who attempts that kind of stuff.
  6. One gigabyte of saved email. That's incredible. At the very least set up a double forward to archive all your messages for easy searching later.
  7. Plus Addressing

What I dislike about beta version of gmail:

  1. No remote POP access. If I can't access my gmail from any web browser, then I should at least be able to do it from a POP client.
  2. No POP access from within gmail. I want to connect gmail to my other POP accounts.
  3. I had to use andre.torrez@gmail.com because both 'andre' and 'torrez' were not available. I know this is a silly thing to complain about, but keee-rist you'd think the least I could get for being in on the beta is a super-hot vanity address. Okay, someone explained to me that a spammer would just run through common names @gmail.com so they have a list that is not allowed. Makes sense.

Weird moment using the beta version of gmail

  1. Going to https://www.google.com/accounts/ManageAccount to manage my "account".

I am sure I'll keep updating this as I find new things.

Update (04/23/04): It looks like GMail now works in Safari. Hooray.

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