· · Publishing
· · · · Reference (14 fragments)
· What happened was, Lauren brought home Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style and I was instantly captivated, by the book’s beauty and also the power of its message. So I’ve got typography on my mind. Stand by for more on the subject, but it struck me immediately that I’m living a typography lesson at work, in the form of the famous Amazon six-pager ... [6 comments]
Video and Speed
· I’m sure you know the feeling — you see a link to something that looks interesting, follow it, and when it turns out to be a video clip, you shake your head and kill the tab. The problem with video is it’s just too slow. But sometimes slow is OK, and maybe video can be fixed ... [8 comments]
· I still think Twitter’s interesting; it informs me and pleases me in ways no other service comes near. Also, it lets me talk to the world, and when you do that, you find yourself asking “is anyone listening?” Fortunately, Twitter will tell you. The numbers are big enough that the stats might be of general interest. Of course, Social Media Professionals all have known all this stuff for years, but most of us aren’t those ...
· This is a love letter to an automotive review, which turns out to be one of the best applications of blogging I’ve ever seen. Specifically, the “Long-Term Road Test” format over at Edmunds.com ... [8 comments]
Paywalls Don’t Scale
· Here’s the problem: Every day I get emails about great offers expiring real soon, better act now. They’re subscription deals from publications I mostly like, but I’m not signing up. I’d like to pay them though; here’s how ... [13 comments]
Money and Ads on the Web
· My goodness, the iOS-9 ad-blocker tech is rattling cages all over the Internet. Herewith some links, including a couple you likely haven’t seen, and one to a possible solution to the problem, from Google ... [5 comments]
· I use iTunes at home, and otherwise Google Play music, which really isn’t terrible. Since the Net is echoing with screams about Apple’s cloud-music problems, now might be a good time for a few words on the subject ... [3 comments]
· I’d like to have my pictures online, and I’d be willing to pay for service. Here’s what I want; I don’t think any of the Cloud Photo services provide it, but I’d be happy to hear I’m wrong. [Update: There are lots of promising tools on offer.] ... [7 comments]
Missing the Cloud
· I’m working on my speeches for the Goto conferences later this month, in Copenhagen and Århus, and I’m using Keynote, and it’s the first time in a long time that my work lives primarily just on this physical computer in front of me, and it’s making me nervous and unhappy ... [9 comments]
Styling More Pixels, with Beards
· Our cameras put more pixels in each picture than our computers’ screens can display. But the screens are catching up, doing smart things with pixels so small you can’t see ’em; Apple says “Retina”, but everyone who ships things with screens is going that way. Publishing pictures on the Web so they look as good as they possibly on whatever whoever’s looking is carrying… well, it’s hard. But I’m working on it ... [1 comment]
· I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I’ve been enjoying a Twitter stream called Every Hex Color; every ten minutes or so it posts a 24-bit random number which expresses a red/green/blue color value ... [2 comments]
World Cup Tools
· I’ve managed to take advantage of my between-gigs status to watch just over half of the World Cup matches. To satisfy my curiosity, I regularly needed answers to two questions: “What are the group standings?” and “What’s on today?” You’d think that FIFA.com would be the place to find them, but you’d be wrong ... [1 comment]
· I just made a bunch of changes to the site here, which should make it run faster without visible effect. The details might be of interest to Web-tech and publishing-tech geeks. Plus, words on being sentimental about Perl code ... [13 comments]
· I just enjoyed watching the first-round Finland-Canada hockey game from Sochi; the Finnish defense is awesome, and Tuukka Rask just about beat Canada single-handed. Also, they gotta do something about the ice quality. But this isn’t about that, it’s about Wikipedia, once again beating the world ... [3 comments]
CSS Drop Shadows
· In early 2006, I added drop shadows to all the pictures here at ongoing; to do it I had to construct a 500-line Java program. At the time I remarked that CSS should just support drop shadows, and now it does. Here’s how it looks: ... [2 comments]
The Oxford English Dictionary
· The OED means a whole lot to me; professionally, I owe it everything. My work on it was 26 (!) years ago, but then this spring I got an invitation to their Symposium, which happened last week, and there was only one possible answer. I’m profoundly grateful they asked, and would do it again in a flash. This entry, like the OED, is extreme in length and prone to rambling; but, I hope, also like the dictionary in that it might provide pleasure to people who like words for their own sake ... [5 comments]
Meta Meta Meta
· On Sunday I wrote On Medium about writing on Medium, after I posted a rewrite there of a piece I wrote about Texas politics. Now let’s write about that ... [2 comments]
· Last week I wrote Texas Politics about the legislative-gamesmanship theatrics around Wendy Davis’ filibuster. It did OK on the blog, nothing special. Evan Hansen of Medium reached out asking if I wanted to republish there. I couldn’t think of a good reason to do that, but then I also couldn’t think of a good reason not to. So here’s a blogger’s-eye view of being a Medium author ... [1 comment]
· Paul Kedrosky, highly visible Internet/Money guy, tweets: “So strange to see people talking about future of blogs in 2013. Blogs still exist?” (His own blog is now just a daily tweetpendium.) Paul’s smart, but that’s ridiculous ... [7 comments]
· So yeah, I sat up till 2AM (Pacific, 5AM in Boston), fascinated by the situation in Cambridge and Watertown. I listened to the police radio online, watched a few live Twitter feeds, and had a couple Google Maps windows zoomed in on streets that I’d never heard of but now know where they are: Hazel, Dexter, Laurel. The professional news media knew less than I (3 timezones away) did, but said more; somewhere between nauseating and just silly ... [6 comments]
Blog 4 $
· Andrew Sullivan, one of the world’s most visible bloggers, is going indie and will try to make a living at it. I wish him luck, but I think maybe he’s thinking about it wrong ... [8 comments]
· No story to tell here, just a few notes for publishing-tech fans, which I guess is more or less everyone who does Web stuff which is more or less everyone. But if you don’t care about the difference between real apostrophes and “'” you can stop reading now ... [7 comments]
What’s Wrong With Twitter?
· About fifteen minutes after Twitter came on the scene, alternatives started crowding through the door behind it. So far, none of them have really made a difference. Why the crowd? ... [3 comments]
· Last night on impulse I spent a couple hours scripting and graphing and here’s a snapshot of the browser and operating-system market-share numbers as seen by this blog. The big trend is that there are no big trends ... [2 comments]
· Jon Udell is blogging less. Gosh, so am I. There are loads of ways to talk to the world, new alternatives every day it seems. Is this thing, you know, over? ... [19 comments]
No PC Involved
· The words you are now reading were typed in on my Nexus 7, and published to the blog without the use of a traditional “Personal Computer.” First time it’s happened, but maybe not the last ... [4 comments]
Tab Sweep (Non-geek)
· Not all sending-the-world-a-link publishing should vanish into FaceTwimblr+, methinks. So let’s batch a few up ... [6 comments]
· When I have something work-related to tell the world, I have a lot of choices: This blog, @timbray, +Tim Bray, or (work-related, remember), the Android Developers’ blog, @androiddev, and as of this week, +Android Developers. That last one, being the newest, has a mere 25K circlers (although probably more by the time you look); the circler/follower/subscriber count of the other channels ranges up to the astounding 195K for @androiddev ... [6 comments]
Better Quotes Redux
· Last week I asserted that proper left/right quotation marks are essential, recommended KeyRemap4MacBook to fix the problem, and suggested option-S, -D, and -F as mappings for “, ”, and ’. Readers objected to all three and indeed, I was wrong about two of them ... [4 comments]
· If you are publishing text for people to read and you want it to look even halfway professional, you absolutely must use real actual left and right quotation marks: “quotes” not "quotes". Also right-single apostrophe: as in don’t use “don't”. [Update: Please go check the comments, which are opinionated and full of useful alternatives. I’ll report back after further investigation.] ... [23 comments]
· For some years now, I’ve largely ignored the issues of how many people read this blog, where they come from, what technologies they use, and so on. But today I took a side-trip into Google Analytics and I found the numbers interesting, so maybe you will too ... [13 comments]
· I’m pretty relentless about adopting new technologies and usually unregretful about the ones left behind. In particular I have grave doubts about whether the “book”, I mean in its paper form, has or even deserves a future. But there are two sides to this story ... [9 comments]
Reading the Economist
· I mean The Economist, which persists in referring to itself as a newspaper even though it physically appears to be a magazine. Well, it does indeed deliver news and is printed on paper. Oops, maybe not. The mobile app version is out, and it’s noticeably better than the one involving dead trees ... [10 comments]
· A couple of days ago I switched the Neuton typeface into this space, via Google Web Fonts. I liked it but a lot of others didn’t, and it turned out that for some reason, on Windows it just didn’t work as a body font; I suspect it’d be fine for display purposes (as in, for headlines). So, on to Plan B: FF Tisa Web Pro, from Typekit ... [13 comments]
· The full quote reads “Neuton is a clean, dark, somewhat Dutch-inspired serif font which reminds you a little of Times.” I just now stripped the old serif/sans choice out of my blog (less marginalia!) and dropped in Neuton for all the body text ... [15 comments]
Things About Google+
· No, I haven’t figured it out. Neither has the rest of the world. Which means that now is a good time to write about it, while our impressions remain plastic ... [21 comments]
· NetNewsWire and its author Brent Simmons have been much in the news recently. NNW’s future is a moving target, and that matters because the app matters; it’s one of the better reasons to use a Mac ... [20 comments]
Tall and Narrow
· As in, portrait not landscape. It’s the way to go. Which is to say, tablets should be held with the short bits at the top and bottom. And columns of text should be long-ish and narrow-ish. There are consequences, in particular for tablets ... [42 comments]
· Last month I rejiggered the publishing system here, making the text larger and wider and hyphenated and justified. Now more: a bit of cosmetic change, a significant stylesheet simplification, and a substantial gain in robustness. Plus, a lesson re-learned about the Web ... [8 comments]
· For the first time in years, I’m working on changing the look of this here blog. I’ve been bored with it in recent years, then Blaine Cook’s Beautiful Lines pushed me over the edge. As of today, if you’re reading this at tbray.org rather than in one feed reader or another, the text is justified on both sides and hyphenated as necessary. There are side-effects, and I’m not sure I’m 100% happy with the results. I am sure there’s lots more work to do ... [33 comments]
More on Baking
· There’s a flurry of conversation among those who build and host blogs on the subject of “baking”, i.e. causing your blog’s pages to be served using of ordinary “static” files stored on disk, as opposed to assembled at request time with calls to a database. Brent Simmons is sort of driving; see A plea for baked weblogs and More on baked blogs ... [11 comments]
Keynote ProTip: Two Start Slides
· Here’s a really small hyper-detailed recommendation: If you’re using Apple’s Keynote for presentations, make two copies of your opening title slide ... [4 comments]
Referral Information Loss
· Late Sunday I published Ten Theses on Tablets; it picked up a few high-profile links and referrals and went mildly viral and as of now has been read (in a browser as opposed to a feed reader) 13,911 times. Who do you think might have sent those people? ... [26 comments]
· Until this month, I’d never even glanced at an e-book. Now I’ve read three and can’t stop thinking about where this is going ... [24 comments]
Starting To Be Wrong
· Everybody knows that designing for the Web is not like designing for print: The shape is fluid not fixed, the font selection is limited, and there aren’t enough dots-per-inch to do proper typography anyhow; the effect is that you have to give up fine control over layout. Which was true until 2010 ... [21 comments]
· For a few years, ending in early 2007, I used to do a monthly (maybe even weekly) update to a post entitled Statistics, which had pretty graphs summarizing which browsers were visiting ongoing, and related information. After supper this evening I for some reason got interested in this problem again and made another graph. There are tricky issues both of form (how I built the graph) and content (what it says) ... [5 comments]
· On any given day, I’m apt to communicate electronically via the telephone, an Internet VOIP equivalent, email, IRC, IM, Twitter, and I might even write a blog post, like today. Why all these silos? Shouldn’t these conversations be talking to each other? ... [7 comments]
OK, You Win
· Dear commenters and emailers and tweeters: All right already. I suppressed the weekly tweet-blobs from the Atom feed ... [1 comment]
· Recently in Blog & Tweet I explained why I wanted to make my Twitter history a part of the publication you are now reading. Along the same lines, read Dave Winer on the importance of the historic record and the general goodness of static files behind an Apache server. This post outlines how it works, with source code, and draws a conclusion ... [9 comments]
Blog & Tweet
· If you blog and also are on Twitter or a competitor, I think that’s a problem. Twitter doesn’t (yet) have a business model, and doesn’t make it terribly easy to refer back to the beginning of your tweet-stream, and the data is full of fragile URL-shortener output. So it’s time to reel things in ... [22 comments]
· A week or two ago, I was reading something which included a really silly statement hyperlinked to the Wikipedia entry for XML. I followed the link and discovered that the entry was appallingly bad. I looked with a shudder at the size and complexity of the brokenness and just failed to convince myself that it was somebody else’s problem. So we fixed it ... [9 comments]
Is This Spam?
· I still moderate all the comments here, but the setup is idiosyncratic enough that hardly any spam gets through. Today, I’m pondering one particular comment, wondering whether to approve ... [21 comments]
Less Like Oration
· Nothing is more worth studying than human discourse. We are the language-using species and if we don’t understand how we use it we’ll never understand anything. Recently, courtesy of the Net, we’ve been using it in smaller pieces which require smaller investments of time and attention. These are new things; are they good things? [Warning: long.] ... [15 comments]
Less Like Oration
· Nothing is more worth studying than human discourse. We are the language-using species and if we don’t understand how we use it we’ll never understand anything. Recently, courtesy of the Net, we’ve been using it in smaller pieces which require smaller investments of time and attention. These are new things; are they good things? [Warning: long.] ... [15 comments]
Carl for Printer
· Check out Yes We Scan!, where my name appears among those supporting a bid by Carl Malamud to drag the United States Government Printing Office into the current millennium. Carl is an honest and brainy guy whom I’ve known for a while, and the list of things he wants to do looks awfully smart to me. Obviously I’m not speaking for my employer and also I’m not even an American. So in this context I’m a self-appointed representative of the Internet-using citizens of the world, who want the governments we pay for to make saner use of the Net, and would be happy for the United States to provide us all with a good example. [2 comments]
· I got a book in the mail today that made me very happy. But the future of anything on paper is obviously limited. My feelings about this are complex ... [17 comments]
Better Feed Reading
· Like many infosphere natives, I deal every day with a massive contradiction: On the one hand, I want to know what’s going on out there, and on the other, I want to get actual work done. Recently, the getting-work-done side has been suffering. So I massively reorganized my feed-reading setup, and it’s helped ... [26 comments]
The HTTP Sweet Spot
· We seem to have pretty widespread consensus, these days, that HTTP, or perhaps the RESTful approach it exemplifies, offers a pretty sweet substrate for pushing and pulling data around at Web scale. We got further evidence this week when a bunch of smart people stepped slightly outside its sweet spot, into deep tangly weeds ... [8 comments]
· This month has been nasty in the blogosphere; as in sudden-death nastiness, best summarized by Shelley Powers in With Sadness. One of the departed, Anita Rowland, was an occasional contributor here, writing me emails before there was a comment system, for example to identify a crocosmia and an iris. Bye, Anita. What, then, about blogs and death? ... [9 comments]
· Last week I gave a talk at the 16th International XBRL Conference here in Vancouver. XBRL is an XML-based system for packing up companies’ financial information, and I think it’s real important. But its take-off has been kind of protracted and arduous. I was there as an Ambassador From the Web. Here’s a quick XBRL news overview ... [5 comments]
All About Electric Text
· This is not exactly a review of Yannis Haralambous’ Fonts & Encodings; that would be the work of years, and I doubt there’s anyone in the world qualified to discuss the whole thing, except its author. This new O’Reilly book is about a thousand pages in length. It’s impossibly ambitious, irritatingly flawed, and probably only comprehensible to a single-digit number of thousands of people world-wide; but for those people it’s an essential book, you just have to have it ... [3 comments]
· Rob Scoble is reporting Google-Reader subscriber counts for popular sites. These are interesting numbers and (I suspect) a reasonably useful metric of relative popularity. But some of the evidence is puzzling ... [1 comment]
· I got an email from someone, the ongoing comment system had blown up mysteriously. My logfiles were weirdly truncated. Then the whole site just vanished. The subject of the email from sysadmin Matt: “So much for it not being as bad as it looked....” ... [3 comments]
· It’s hard for corporate Web sites to be interesting. My feeling is that generally, you’d like them to make it easy for people to find what they need, and otherwise get out of the way. Having said that, there are two Sun-Web things that, just in the last week, gave me a big smile. First, FOSS Open Hardware Documentation. One of the major obstacles faced by the people who build Free and Open-Source operating systems (i.e. us, the penguinistas, and the BSDers) is getting the hardware builders to publish specs; historically, they’ve been frightened of those weird open-source hippies. Well, we’re a hardware builder, and that page is trying to aggregate all the specs that kernel-builders might need. Simon Phipps tells me that this is a big job, with lots of legal due-diligence, and it’ll never be complete. But at least a good start. Second, check out this screencast about wikis.sun.com. When this went by in the internal email I skipped it—who’d watch a screencast about a wiki? But hey, it’s good, check it out. [1 comment]
· The pictures here, in their inline form, are now all 400 pixels wide, not 300; I think that looks a lot better. Did resizing them all ever burn a lot of CPU. Also, the sidebar has been cleaned up, there’s a software link there that consolidates some bits of code I’ve emitted over the years; with a little homily in the first paragraph, even ... [2 comments]
Heard in Conversation
· We were talking about how to publish something or other, and Lauren said “Well, if there’s a Facebook app for that, there’ll be a WordPress plug-in, too”. Sounds about right.
Atomic Financial Publishing
· Well, the first-ever release of a major public company’s financials via the Web, in advance of the conventional newswire service, is history. It went OK, but we can do better. Obviously, these discussions have been going on for a while, and observant readers may have noticed I visited Washington last March. However, the go-ahead to do the numbers on the Web came very recently, and so the mechanism was an ordinary RSS feed. We should publish this in Atom, and do it over a TLS channel, and supply a digital signature. Stand by for next quarter ... [2 comments]
· People who are interested in the software shouldn’t have to read the acres of prose in the mod_atom intro, so I’ll just keep this one up to date ... [3 comments]
· This is a stripped-down implementation of the server side of the Atom Publishing Protocol as an Apache module, implemented in C. It felt like something that needed to exist and I am better-qualified for this particular chore than your average geek; having said that, I have no idea if anyone actually needs such a thing. mod_atom activity can be tracked on this blog, for now, here. If any interest develops, then I’ll transfer discussion to a blog at
mod-atom.net which will be driven, of course, by mod_atom ... [17 comments]
Good and Bad
· A question occurred to me while I was speaking at the really excellent Seattle Event Apart; if you’re a Web designer and there’s one in your neighborhood, I recommend it highly ... [8 comments]
Contrib: I Give Up on Comments
· I started a dialogue here and it went something like this. Tim: “I want to fiddle the feeds to make the comments more visible.” Tim’s commenters: “Go pound sand.” Well OK then, I won’t, for now. What I will do is, when I think there’s some unfinished business coming out of the contributions I’ll do a post like this with “Contrib:” in the title. Also, there were some good ideas that I’ll try to capture in an improved comments feed. Also, I’ll try and figure out a way to do some of what Sam wants. I’m looking for a metaphor to pin on Sam. Canary in the coalmine? Princess and the pea? Whatever, he has good taste. [2 comments]
· When I first threw the switch and opened the ongoing space to contributors, my Atom feed included comment counts. Thus, every time someone commented, subscribers saw the article again in their feed-readers. This was unpopular (check out the discussion here and here) so I removed them. But now I’m unhappy with that decision ... [36 comments]
· Some Sundays I make graphs of statistics from the ongoing web-server log files. I find them interesting and maybe others will too, so this entry is now the charts’ permanent home. I’ll update from time to time ... [5 comments]
· ongoing has had comments for a couple of months now; I’m really happy with the way it’s worked out, so, first of all, Thank you! to the people who are doing it; I checked this morning and there’ve been 449 contributions. The quality is by and large high; for example, in the last day, Kill Switch Nightmare got a really smart comment from Colin Jeanne pointing out that for the bad guys, there may be easier and deadlier attack vectors than the Vista/Office “Kill Switch”. And somewhat to my surprise, Bob Aman responded to On Attacking Iran, taking the other side of the issue and demonstrating that not everyone who’s considering this is a complete fruit-loop. Yes, they’re still moderated; I’d like to turn that off, but I watch everyone I know on commercial packages burning time and cycles battling the ever-mounting spam wave, and I get scared. Call me a chicken. Cluck-cluck. I’ve got a to-do list for a dozen minor improvements, all suggested by you (thanks!); I’ll get to them. [9 comments]
· This is Gosling’s latest hack, now online. Internationalization is a big hairy tedious ugly necessary job, and if we can turn some community mojo loose on it, that has to be a good thing. OpenOffice.org has done a good job of building a community around an internationalization effort, so we’re not starting from zero. I’ll be keeping an eye on this. [2 comments]
On Comments (II)
· Thanks, everyone, for the high-quality discussion and suggestions about comments and dates and updates and so on; if this were an IETF Working Group, I’d be comfy declaring “rough consensus”. I’ve made the obvious changes; herewith a description, along with general remarks on how this whole commenting thing is going ... [13 comments]
· I’ve had comments running for a few days here now (I prefer to say “contributions”, but whatever). People are irritated at me because an ongoing fragment shows up as unread in their feed-reader whenever a new comment comes in. I’m not sure what the right thing to do is. This piece outlines a few options and asks the community for discussion ... [34 comments]
· I’ve put up an Atom Protocol Exerciser at www.tbray.org/ape. It might evolve to become a sanity-checking tool something along the lines of the Feed Validator. I don’t want to call it a “validator” because a feed can be said unambiguously to be valid, or not; but a publishing-system interface might be unusably buggy or slow or have moronic authentication policies; all the Exerciser (let’s just say “the Ape” for short) does is perform a bunch of operations that a typical APP client might, and report the results. Also I’ve taken liberties in reporting some things that aren’t covered by the spec that implementors might want to know about. One of the most useful things the Ape does is provide a complete trace of exactly what the client and server sent back and forth to each other; immensely helpful as a debugging aid. Quite a few interesting war stories have been coming out of the Ape-building process. I’ll keep this post updated with the current Ape status. [Latest: i18n is back, and Elias Torres has a guinea-pig APP end-point to try it out on.] ...
· I repeatedly advised Jonathan not to allow comments on his blog; “You’re an officer of a public company, dammit,” I said, “the trolls and stock-pumpers and nazi pedophiles will have a field day, you’ll have to have three shifts of watchdogs.” Shows you how much I know; check out the comments on A Roof in Midtown Manhattan. Yeah, some are obvious, particularly at the top, but there are real surprises as you read on down. Gotta get that ongoing comment corral on the air.
· The Microformats kids all have really great hair, and the coolest acronyms; still, up till now, it’s all only occasionally seemed plausible to me. But this new Technorati microformat search thing, I look at it and for the first time really think “This could be big”. For example, look at kitchen.technorati.com/event/search/vancouver (even the URI is interesting). It looks like some “sort-by” buttons and authority and keyword filters would improve things; and if this catches on some Monday the spammers will be there by Wednesday. But still, we could be seeing it happen: small pieces combining to produce something really, really big. [Disclosure: I have a conflict of interest with respect to Technorati.]
· I hope soon to begin implementing a comment system for ongoing. This space is my notebook where I’ll work out the design. Since, as of this writing, the system exists only in theory, if you have a suggestion you’ll have to send me an email. I’ll publish the helpful ones. [Update: Tons of super-intelligent comments, informed by (sometimes bitter) experience. Thanks! I’ll publish them, but a couple of things emerge. First, I do have to plan to fight spam. Second, I should have a look at camping.] ...
Astounding, As Usual
· Dave Sifry’s back with another State of the Blogosphere and the numbers are, well, see the title. We remain on track for everyone in the world to have a blog by 2009 or so. A mild gripe: Dave says “blogs” but he really means “feeds”, a lot of them aren’t blogs at all. Still, we’re up to 3.9 million of them being updated weekly or better. The media spectrum is getting awfully smooth, whether you’re talking about the output of a multibillion-dollar media empire or news from your brother’s family, they’re all just tabs in the aggregator.
The Magic Middle
· Dave Sifry’s posted Part 2 of the State of the Blogosphere and this may be the most interesting chunk ever. There’s a lot more than just numbers in there; what particularly caught my eye was the notion of the “Magic Middle”, 150 thousand or so blogs with between 20 and 1,000 inbound links. These people tend to have a lot of very specific topical authority and to be, in general, good. Perhaps a new thing in the world?
· I ran across a couple of blog pointers to nbextras.org and thought it looked kind of cool and kind of useful and kind of lightweight, and I wondered how it came to be here this week when it wasn’t there last week. So I chatted with Trung Duc Tran (he’s one of the senior people over in our Prague NetBeans shop) who put it together with a couple of other co-conspirators and asked “How’d you do that?” Well, it turns out that they found a cheap hosting service and rented a fake Xen-based server and cobbled together the Jetty server and the Pebble blogging engine. “It’s amazing”, Trung told me, “how much work you can get a servlet engine to do when you have all the data in memory.” I asked whether it was a lot of development time and he seemed surprised, they’d discussed it over lunch one day last week and set it up over the weekend and now it’s up. This Java/Web/Open-Source technology, it’s gonna catch on, you just watch.
· People have been asking for it since forever, and recent releases of Roller now have a group-blogging feature. I’ve always been skeptical of the idea, which redefines “blog” from being about an individual voice to being about a shared interest; because people are bigger and more interesting than their interests. But over the last couple of weeks, my attention has several times been drawn to pieces in The Aquarium, which is a group blog about GlassFish. While I’m not really an EE kinda guy, I can see how someone who cares about that stuff could find this kind of a resource useful. For example, check out this pointer to an over-elaborated but nonetheless useful article about doing REST in in JAX. Maybe “group blogs” have legs.
· Subtitled How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. I got an advance copy of this a couple of months ago, with a note saying “Can we have a quote for the cover by Wednesday?” But I didn’t get around to reading it until several Wednesdays later. Summary: Lots of people will benefit from reading this; especially “Communications Professionals”. Most people who read ongoing won’t learn much, but they might enjoy it anyhow. Read on for more details ...
· BlogPulse says that my little It’s Not Dangerous squib was the twentieth most popular blog post of 2005. That’s nice, but I tossed that off in about fifteen minutes in a flash of irritation at the wave of moronic “fired-for-blogging” stories. I suppose it matters that it got translated. Still, it’s lightweight. Want something more substantial? A few days later, I wrote On the Absence of Women, put my heart and hours of my time into it, then it sank like a stone, hardly a ripple. Or, go back to that BlogPulse list—interestingly, quite a few of the links are gone already—and for something with actual meat on it, check out #6 for an emotional wrench, #10 for a life lesson, or #25 for a wickedly good laugh.
· Herewith a report on a fairly-typical week of Google Analytics numbers. I was going to work this into the regular weekly statistics report, but I’m not at all sure I’m going to go on running analytics, so as a separate post this will remain available either way. [Update on screen sizes.] ...
Word Processing Blues
· What happened was, my manager wanted a recent resumé for some internal admin processes. So pulled up
TB-Resume.doc in MS Word; I first wrote it over ten years ago using one of the standard Word templates pretty well out of the box, and it’s grown over the years, following me from computer to computer. It’s becoming increasingly irritating to edit; in fact, it turned out that I couldn’t. [Update: Posted a template.] ...
· Jon Udell, in Beyond office document formats, speaking of office-suite software like Word and OpenOffice Writer, voices a dream that I’ve heard time after time: “A mere fraction of the power of these multihundred-megabyte behemoths suffices for basic communication; the rest is overhead. Software delivered as a service through the Web—simple, lightweight, and universally available—is clearly the better way forward.” Well, yeah, but... authoring software is hard. I’ve used a lot of different programs over the years, and written some myself, and I’ve never seen software, designed for use by human authors, that has good usability and isn’t a great big honking monster. And usually, they’re not only big, but they take years and years to get working properly. So I really hope Jon’s right, but I’m not holding my breath. [Update: David Berlind is pointing in the same direction. I hope he’s right, too.] [Update: Jon follows up.]
· Holy cow, I just wrote about splogs and over this weekend, they’ve exploded. At eight when I looked at my PubSub feed, there were 31 entries, 30 splog. Just now at 9:45 there are 15 more. Technorati and Google feed search are similarly infested. The total numbers must be mind-boggling; this particular surge is using blogspot as an attack vector. The software that’s generating these things is pretty sophisticated, you might think they were real at first glance. Uh, ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, I think we have an emergency on our hands.
Browser Market Share, Redux
· As threatened, I re-ran my Browser Market Share numbers, but restricting the analysis to people who came to ongoing as the result of a search. It shows a pattern much more like what others in the industry are reporting: Internet Explorer has a large but steadily-diminishing lead. Here’s the chart, plus some notes on methodology and believability ...
On the Badness of MetaWeblog
· Henry Story has been struggling mightily to turn Bloged from a weekend hack into a real blogging tool, because near as I can tell, there isn’t such a thing that’s in Java and works about the same everywhere. This is good; what’s bad, as Henry is finding out, is MetaWeblog; few APIs in my recollection have drawn such a unanimous chorus of boos from implementors. Henry lays the problems out in gory detail. Fortunately, we’re working on the problem.
Blogging Client Round-up
· We’ve been funding work on bloged, originally a Gosling weekend hack, and needed to checkpoint how it’s doing; so I went and tried out a bunch of blogging clients, with very mixed results. So far I’ve tested basic writing-in-the-browser, bloged, Ecto, MarsEdit, and w.bloggar. [Update: I’d misconfigured Ecto.] [Update again: I changed my mind and totally rewrote the conclusion; ain’t this medium wonderful?] ...
Aggregator Market Share
· In reply to one of my Browser Market Share postings, Ian Brown wrote to point out that with an increasing portion of the traffic going through newsreaders, it might be interesting to do some breakdown on that. So I did. [Updated to say the results should be taken with a large grain of salt.] ...
· Near as I can tell, pretty well every somewhat-visible website in the world is seeing its logfiles fill up with with bogus page fetches there only as a vehicle for a spammish “referrer” field; whether or not the site posts referrer data. This high-volume flood is a fairly recent phenomenon, and what makes it weird is that the vast majority of the bogus referrer sites are off the air due to some terms-of-service violation. It would appear that a sleazebag somewhere launched a really ambitious assault on the whole world—using, I can only assume, a few zillion zombified drone machines—only to be found out and have their hosting yanked while their mindless slaves continue to spew vacuous venom into logfiles everywhere. Damn, the Internet is a weird place. [Update: This was a big one, and lots of people studied it.] [Update: I think I may have spoken with the perp.] ...
· We’re out there talking to people about Enterprise Blogging, and one of the things we keep hearing is “We want to do group blogs.” Well, the customer is always right, so groupblogging is looming larger and larger in the Roller to-do list. I’m surprised and unconvinced; out there in the world, group blogs are the exception rather than the rule. I suspect that there may be some excess caution at work; people a bit reluctant to start talking to the world feeling that doing it in a group context will be somehow less exposed. On this one, I’d advise going with the flow, and the flow today is mostly about individual voices. But I learned long ago not to tell people what they should and shouldn’t want to do with technology.
· Jon Udell suggests a new documentation strategy for technology vendors; rather than going on publishing incomplete, out-of-date, poorly written manuals, they could just set up a per-product Wiki and let the customer base fill it up with problems, fixes, workarounds, tips & tricks. As he points out, most of us have gotten used to searching the Web for user reports, rather than cracking product docs, to help us solve problems. He suggests doing it at the Wikipedia, but I don’t think it matters that much where the thing lives. Like many great ideas, it’s obvious once you think of it. I’m quite sure it’ll happen.
· I may not entirely get it, but I can’t ignore it, so herewith some thoughts and predictions on the subject, plus obviously, a teeny little podcast ...
Weblogs.com Needs Help
· As anyone who pings it knows, weblogs.com is not holding up well under the strain of the blogosphere’s growth curve. Today Dave Winer is asking for help in getting it re-engineered. He seems to be convinced that it has to be done in C; I wouldn’t be surprised if a smart PHP or Java (Velocity maybe?) implementation could carry the load just as well. On the other hand, for someone who’s never written an Apache module, this would be a simple one, it’s a useful skill, and that’s about as close to the metal as you can get. In any case, I’m pretty sure Dave’s right that it wouldn’t be a good idea for a big company (like Sun, for example) to step up and say “we’ll do it” because the suspicion of cheating from outsiders, and the temptation to tilt the table a little for insiders, would both be a real issue. A pity, because a big company (like Sun, for example) already has the infrastructure to support this and wouldn’t even notice the bandwidth. And a pity because I already know how to write Apache modules and would like to learn Velocity. I’m dubious that the notion of “one central place that everyone pings” is going to hold up for the long term, but for the time being it’s useful and would be a good project for anyone with the cycles to spare.
· Would it be an oversimplification to say that Podcasting could turn the Net into a great big PVR? Only it’s not just video, for me the value would be about music. So how about PAR? (Personal Anything Recorder.)
· I’m not, but ongoing is now, having moved three timezones over from Vancouver to a comfy new Athlon 2200 with, they tell me, good connectivity. Matt carried off the transfer with only the slightest of hitches, we’ll see how it goes. Should make everything much cheaper, which was the point. Since we’re in metapublishing mode, read on for my latest browser-market-share numbers and some notes on Google AdSense trends ...
Blogs and Wikis
· Lots of people, both here at Sun and out there in rest of the world, like to talk about “blogs-and-wikis” like it’s one word or they’re one thing; I was reviewing the text of an upcoming book about the space today, and it asserted that “Obviously, the two are converging.” Huh? Granted that they’re both about people placing content on the Web for other people, but in their essential nature, it seems like they couldn’t be more different. A wiki is a collaborative construction engine, with refactoring and edit-in-place being the dominant forms of activity, and many equal voices singing in a chorus. A blog is more like a content faucet, a source with one voice, always growing at one end; while updates to existing content are OK, the dominant activity is pouring new text and pictures and whatever in. I suppose you can apply syndication technology to both, but I don’t see that much similarity or convergence. At a deep level, I don’t think blogs are really a new thing in the world; but wikis are.
Rolling Out Roller
· Back in September I had a lot of fun speaking with the US Intelligence Community. Talking offline, they mentioned that they were looking into deploying blog infrastructure and I told them we’d based the Sun infrastructure on Roller, that it was working out well, and that we were hiring its inventor. The intel guys said “Could he drop over and talk to us about it?” Seemed like a good idea, so Dave and Will Snow dropped by “somewhere near DC” and it turns out that what they want is sensible and doable, so we’re going to do it and they’ll probably use it. We’re very interested in Corporate Blogging (this is an example, even if intelligence pros don’t incorporate). Is there anyone else out there thinking about deploying some enterprise blog infrastructure? Give me a holler.
How About a Date?
· Over in Atom-land, we have all been educating each other at incredible length (365 email messages so far) on the subject of the dates you attach to the electronic what-nots you publish. It has, like most educational processes, been painful. I frankly can’t imagine who out there would care about this, but I need to get it out of my system. Plus it has a humorous rhyming couplet ...
· When everyone from Lauren to Aaron Swartz is whining at me to make the #-marks go away, I have to listen. I’ve adapted Simon Willison’s brilliant hack, and a couple of remarks are worth making ...
· I’m listening to Steve Gillmor, Doc Searls, Jon Udell, Dana Gardner, and Dan Farber talk about SOA via “The Gillmor Gang” at ITConversations. Herewith some observations on the form and content ...
Purple Number Signs
· Until this weekend I’d never heard of “Purple Numbers” but they’ve been across the radar twice in the last day, first in some commentary by Chris Dent on the Atom-Identifier issue, then again over at Jonas Luster’s place. First I thought, why not? Then, why numbers? [Updated: Backed ’em out for now, needs more work.] [Updated again: put ’em back.] ...
· Herewith three sets of 256 planes, each 256-by-256, representing slices of the 24-bit RGB color space along the red, blue, and green axes. There is a reason for doing this ...
How Fast is This Thing Growing?
· A lot of people would like to know exactly how fast this blogging/subscribing thang is actually growing. Lots of people have seen the chart the Hummer Winblad people are keeping of the “Feeds Watched” number over at Technorati; about two and a quarter million on this first of May 2004. But the number of people reading, as opposed to publishing, is at least as interesting. I decided that Bloglines.com (which, by the way, anyone who watches this space ought to be keeping their eyes on) could be used as a surrogate for the general growth of the whole area, and drew a graph ...
RSS Stock Ticker
· I’ve said more than once that I’d like an RSS feed for my stock market portfolio. I even cobbled one together a few months ago, but I lost it somehow in the laptop-to-laptop transition. Now Walter Higgins emails me: “prompted by your post last june on rss stock tickers, and being a dabbler in stocks and rss myself, I’ve been maintaining a feed that monitors stocks and portfolios. e.g. this will display current values for sun, microsoft and oracle while this will return a rss feed for a portfolio of 1000 shares of sun, 200 of microsoft and 500 shares of oracle. This feed includes a total portfolio value. This ticker feed is responsible for most of my site traffic.” [Update: Someone identifying himself only as “Mick” writes in to tell me about the recently-arrived RSSQuotes.com, which claims to offer real-time quotes. Doing that for free is a neat trick... I wonder about the business model, but the site is information-free about who they are.]
I’m Internal Too
· For those of you who work at Sun, there’s now an internal version of ongoing at http://webhome.sfbay/ongoing/; check it out. Scoble says internal weblogs are intrinsically less interesting than external ones; we’ll see.
Cleanup Plus Search
· Another batch of ongoing housekeeping. I added a search field up and to your right, which just outsources the problem to Google. Eventually there’ll be something with an ongoing look coming out of this. Also I fixed a long-standing bug in the date display, which convinced me the whole date-hierarchy subsystem was basically broken so I re-did it, check it out. Quite likely I broke something, if so let me know, my email address is on the front page of a Google search for my name. Also, IE6 was refusing to render
' properly for reasons I couldn’t figure out, so I skated around that.
· I got email from Rich Skrenta asking me to take a look at Topix and maybe write a word or two about it. I have immense, huge respect for Rich, since he was the main man in cooking up Dmoz, and it had the potential to turn the Web inside out before AOL bought and pissed in it (Disclosure: I got fired as a dmoz editor for attitude problems). He’s a member of the small Tribe Who Make Things Happen. As for Topix... I dunno. I’m pretty sure it’s worth the time it would take you to follow that link and look at it. It’s got a local-news feature that might be great only it doesn’t work for anywhere unAmerican which I am, so I dialed up my favorite place in the US, namely Portland OR (the best bookstore in the world and many microbrews, what’s not to like?) and that seemed pretty neat. As for the top page, it looked like a newspaper, a good newspaper, in fact a better newspaper than the local offering for most people living outside a huge metropolis. Topix hasn’t yet earned a spot in my visit-every-day list, which is pretty damn short since RSS came along... Rich tells me there’s a feed for every category, too. Hey, Skrenta himself has a blog, and it looks good. Subscribed. He’s the only other person I’ve seen so far that’s noticed the insanely-expensive Google snippet service and drawn the right conclusions; been meaning to blog about that but now I don’t need to. Skrenta he da man. Topix? Have your own look.
The Web Death Penalty
· There are a few things that a Web site can do that are unforgiveable and should not be forgiven. For example, I just unsubscribed from MacNN (as in CNN, get it?) because on one too many occasions, I followed a pointer there and there was this violently offensive banner ad, flashing multiple colors at a high rate of speed, and saying “If the link above is flashing, you have been selected as a Winner! Claim here.” First of all, this is a lie, I have not been selected as a winner. Secondly, it hurts my eyes. Any Web site that runs this ad will receive no more visits from me, it is way, way, way beyond the bounds of what’s acceptable.
· A couple of minor changes to ongoing in recent days, all in the CSS. First, if you cast your eyes to the right the nav stuff and picture are no longer encased in soft green, that’s been tidied away in favor of just a line, which is typographically necessary because of the ragged-right column. That’s a one-liner:
border-left: 1px solid #040;. Also, I switched the font to Georgia and twiddled the sizing a bit for the serif presentation; if you sneered at it before, give it another try, I think it’s looking way better than the sans-serif version (you have to hop off this front page into one of the articles to see the difference). This CSS stuff is going to catch on one of these years. Next, I need to decorate that picture a bit, soften the edges or drop-shadow it or something, it feels a bit naked hanging there in white space.
· I observe that many who like me hand-craft their publishing setup are kind of absessive about taxonomies, both their contents and construction. Consider examples chez Walsh (taxonomy, machinery), Pilgrim (taxonomy), and Winer (taxonomy). Of course there’s also that link to your right labeled What (but these days, I’m increasingly conscious that I need to run through the whole essay farm here and do some taxonomicleanup). So, a reasonable person might ask: “Why all this taxonomy work? What is it being used for?” And I wouldn’t have a good answer. I’m not stopping, though. Intuition is a perilous guide to engineering action, but for now, this certainly feels like the Right Thing To Do.
· I just noticed the essay counter over at the top right had ticked past 500. Let’s count... something over two hundred thousand words since February 27, don’t ever let anyone tell you this writing stuff isn’t addictive. And thanks for reading.
· I have just switched over the ongoing software. It uses ImageMagick instead of GD (better but slower, there’s no free lunch). Also there’s a print stylesheet, which has caused me much grief. It works kind of OK on some browser/OS combinations, but most members of the Mozilla family present the print stylesheet on screen nicely, but blithely ignore it when you actually print, producing a facsimile of the narrow-columned default page. Windows IE, when asked to print, simply ignores all the CSS and produces unstyled HTML, which while irritating actually works OK if you want to read one of my lengthier excursions on paper. I’ll shake it down eventually ...
Pardon the Breakage
· If ongoing is acting weird, it’s because I’m trying to switch in a new rev of the publishing software, and the same identical HTML pages are acting weirdly different on my staging server and on ongoing and I have no idea why, and when I figure it out, I’ll replace this note with one telling you, of course, how great the new software is. Later: almost got it to work; now Debian ImageMagick is inexplicably failing to deal with some but not all of my JPGs; OS X ImageMagick likes ’em all. We’ll get there eventually.
RSS, Advertising, Cheating
· I recently started reading the RSS feeds from Infoworld, which contain advertising, my first experience with this. Some general impressions and a complaint, but I think this may be the future ...
· In San Francisco on that anniversary, attending the Seybold conference. So far an OSCOM hackathon, a bomb threat, and some pure-California visual poetry ...
· I’m taking off bright and early Wednesday to go to the Seybold event in San Fran. I’ll spend some time tomorrow at the Pie/Echo/Atom/Whatever Hackathon/Sprint, about which I know basically nothing; on Thursday Seybold is taking a cautious look at Weblogs and RSS, I’ll be spending quite a bit of time at that. Interestingly I’m using Apple’s Keynote PowerPoint-competitor for the first time, it’s pretty nice (except for I can’t drag pictures from my Apple-supplied browser into my Apple-supplied presentation); in particular the positioning control is excellent and things generally just look better, which is saying something considering that I started with an imported PowerPoint template.
RSS Flow, Measured
· Between midnight and 11:07 AM on Saturday August 2nd 2003, ongoing’s RSS feed was fetched 4,512 times, which is 6.76 times/minute, i.e. about once every 8.8 seconds. Add it up: that’s just over 128 MB/day. This weblog isn’t even in the top 100, if you believe Technorati. Yow. [Update: Follow-up questions from Bill Seitz and Brent Simmons]. [Update Aug 6: Fixed bug, better numbers] ...
Schemaware for Pie 0.1
· I cooked up a RelaxNG schema for Pie/Not-Echo or whatever you want to call it, in its 0.1 snapshot form. Which, as a side-effect, generates a W3C XML Schema. This note includes specific conmmentary on this schema, general commentary on schemas (summary: Why would you ever use XML Schema?), and some recommendations for pruning Pie/Not-Echo ...
Escaping and Learning
· This entry is specifically about a particular technical issue in the next-gen syndication-format design exercise, but more generally about the wonderful experience of getting a better understanding of complicated things. The lesson continues... update #1 (skip to end). ...
Stamp Out Creativity Now
· I am worried that the next-gen syndication process rooted in Sam’s Wiki is in danger of going seriously off the rails, because some of the participants have got the idea that it’s about trying to invent new technology or improve RSS ...
· Sam Ruby decided that the way to design the next generation of Web syndication was to create a Wiki, a dynamic website that can be edited by, well, anyone, the only restriction being, er, um, in fact there aren’t any restrictions. As any fool can plainly see, this can’t possibly work, except for it sorta kinda seems to. It’s my first exposure to the world of Wiki, and it’s been a brain-bender. Herewith some impressions and deductions and a close up view of a creative explosion in action ...
I Like Pie
· Sam Ruby has, over the last week or so, been quietly at the center of a lot of intense discussion with the goals of clarifying what a “log entry” is, and now building a roadmap around it. Now they’re asking people to put up their hands and say whether they support this or not. I support it strongly, with (a typically lengthy list of) caveats, amplifications and digressions ...
How to Identify a Log Entry
· One of the more interesting pieces of the discussion on the Buddha-nature of log entries (blog entries, whatever) that was launched by Sam Ruby is the notion of how to identify one. Various versions of RSS have struggled with this one, and I’ve finally developed an opinion: URI and Version. (Update: Maybe
#fragments are a bad idea.) ...
RSS: Promise and Peril
· The smart people already knew this, but I’m still just picking up on it: RSS has huge business potential. Here is a laundry list of a few things you could (and I think should) use it for. There are big-money implications. But there’s at least one big obstacle too ...
· Extension? The notion of having a base set of required components and a bunch of optional ones grouped into modules makes all sorts of sense. But why the word “extension?” Also, the phrase “Standard extension” grates a bit. Why not just say “optional modules?” I’m not a Wiki veteran, if I were would I just go and bung this change in? ...
· I spent a couple of days last week in Orlando at the Thomson Corporation Technology Summit; 120 or so leaders from the many far-flung outposts of the Thomson empire; I did a keynote and talked up Visual Net. It was kind of a thrill for me, because these are the people that XML was actually built for, and they live in the world of Information and nothing but. Herewith a few words on the loudest drumbeats in a tribe that feels like my own ...
By Tim Bray.
I am an employee
of Amazon.com, but
the opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.
A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.