· · Web
· · · · Services (62 fragments)
· · · · TAG (12 fragments)
· · · · Web2.0 (1 fragment)
· The blog you are now looking at is looking a little different (better I think), especially on mobile devices, because the CSS has been improved. I have a report on the details, and unexpected lessons ... [8 comments]
Google Memory Loss
· [Update: As of Jan 1, 2023 this is fixed! Thanks to Danny Sullivan and John Mueller of Google for figuring out what was going on. Yay!]
I think Google has stopped indexing the older parts of the Web. I think I can prove it. Google’s competition is doing better. [Update, Feb. 2022: It’s still happening.] ... [39 comments]
· At the end of September, AWS announced a big new feature for its Step Functions product, and my tweet noting the announcement got a shocking number of impressions for something way out at the geeky end of Cloud tech. In retrospect, a design choice we made back in 2016 turns out to be working very well, and there’s a lesson to be learned here: If you need to integrate an arbitrarily large and and diverse set of software capabilities, URIs are the best integration glue ... [4 comments]
The Sacred “Back” Button
· Younger readers will find it hard to conceive of a time in which every application screen didn’t have a way to “Go Back”. This universal affordance was there, a new thing, in the first Web browser that anyone saw, and pretty soon after that, more or less everything had it. It’s a crucial part of the user experience and, unfortunately, a lot of popular software is doing it imperfectly. Let’s demand perfection ... [4 comments]
Welcome to the Podcast
· I was wondering if podcasting is still a thing, so I tweeted “When do people listen to podcasts, now that nobody is commuting? Housework? Exercise?” Newsflash: Yes, it is. The tweet got lots of traction and only very few of the responses said they were listening less. Given that, I decided to make an audio version of what you are reading and call it a podcast. Turns out to be pretty easy ... [4 comments]
Safari Tabs Are Weird
· Recently I switched from Chrome to Safari because on a 2019 16" MacBook Pro, Chrome has nasty video glitches; apparently Apple and Google are blaming each other for the problem. My first impression of Safari is decent, subjectively it feels faster than Chrome. But browser tabs act in ways that that feel somewhere between “weird” and “badly broken”. Here are a few of the issues I’ve encountered ... [10 comments]
· My recent Amazon-exit piece got an order of magnitude more traffic then even the post popular outings here normally do. Which turned my mind to thoughts of blogging in 2020, the why and how of the thing. Here they are, along with hit-counts and referer data from last week. Probably skip this unless you’re interested in social-media dynamics and/or publishing technology ... [3 comments]
· More or less all the big APIs are RESTful these days. Yeah, you can quibble about what “REST” means (and I will, a bit) but the assertion is broadly true. Is it going to stay that way forever? Seems unlikely. So, what’s next? ... [7 comments]
Refresh Is Sacred
· There are two kinds of client applications: The first kind has a “refresh” or “reload” button to make sure your app’s in sync with its server’s view of the world. The second kind is broken ... [8 comments]
· I did some recreational programming over Christmas and the blog I wrote about it is now guesting in Jeff Barr’s space for your amusement; try the software at IsItOnAWS.com. What I didn’t do there was relay the lessons I picked up along the way; one or two are around AWS, but most follow from this being my first nontrivial expedition into the land of NodeJS. So (acknowledging that only 0.8% of my profession aren’t already Nodesters), here they are. Spoiler: I don’t like Node very much ... [5 comments]
The REST Report
· We were talking at work about Serverless: What’s the right tooling for developers building that kind of app? One of the businesspeople in the room said “Won’t developers need s special UI construction kit for Serverless apps?” The technical people all looked blank, because REST. Browser code doesn’t care (nor does a new-fangled React thingie, nor an iOS/Android app) what’s hiding behind that HTTP POST. REST is more or less totally dominant among app builders today. Is there any prospect of that changing? ... [3 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]
Web Decay Graph
· I’ve been writing this blog since 2003 and in that time have laid down, along with way over a million words, 12,373 hyperlinks. I’ve noticed that when something leads me back to an old piece, the links are broken disappointingly often. So I made a little graph of their decay over the last 144 months ... [16 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]
Trusting Browser Code
· It would be useful if you could really trust code running in your browser. It’s not obvious that this is possible; but it’s not obvious that it isn’t, either ... [2 comments]
LifeSaver Works on KitKat
· The 4.4 release of Android broke my LifeSaver 2 app, which migrates phone-call and SMS logs from your old phone to a new one. It was my fault not Android’s, because the API for the SMS database was undocumented and thus unofficial. With KitKat, now it’s official. And slightly different ... [2 comments]
· 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]
Is This Page Safe?
· What happened was, Paul Hoffman, Lauren, and I were sitting up talking about privacy, looking at a WordPress blog, and this weird thing happened: We typed in its address with “https:” at the front, and it showed up as locked/HTTPS in some browsers but not others. It took quite a bit of poking around to figure out ... [5 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]
FC9: Social Sign-in
· This term gets bandied about quite a bit in the Federation Conversation. When it comes up, developers tend to strong emotional reactions: On the one hand “We really need social sign-in to make our service work” and on the other “Ewww, no way; I don’t want our users worried about what’s being shared.” I’ve been digging around the subject; sometimes I think there’s no there there ...
Why the Obamacare Website Sucks
· Not a great launch. Wonder how many people with serious Web street cred are surprised? I’ll tell you: zero. But it’s amazing how many political commentators are suddenly overflowing with site-building chops ... [12 comments]
Canvas is Easy and Fun
· I’ve been fooling with a favorite-color app as an Identity-tech testbed, and I wanted to reward people just a little for making the effort to pick and save and maybe share their own faves. I’d seen some of the flashy stuff that the cool kids are doing with HTML5 and even though I’m really a server-side guy it looked like fun, so I poked around ...
IO in the Rearview
· I enjoyed it more than any other so far. More APIs, less hardware. More sessions, each shorter. One keynote ... [16 comments]
How to Think About OAuth
· I’m not a deep OAuth 2.0 expert yet; at this point that label is reserved for the (substantial number of) people who wrote the specs. But I’ve worked with a few implementations and talked it over with smart people, and I have opinions. Summary: It’s a framework not a protocol, it has irritating problems, and it’s really very useful ... [8 comments]
· It’s a new thing on the Internet, a planetary-scale augmented-reality game being played on a real planet: ours. It’s fun to play, particularly if you have kids. And interesting, I think, for anyone who cares about issues of Life Online, even non-gamers ... [10 comments]
Sending and Receiving
· Yes, this is about “social media”; is that still a thing? I depend on this blog and syndication feeds and Twitter and G+, all at once at the same time, and in a complicated and messy way. But life isn’t terrible ... [6 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]
Rebuilding the Foundation
· If you’re a geek, you know what “HTTP” is. If you’re not, you’ve still seen those letters, lurking at the front of URLs everywhere. It’s one of the two or three things that makes the Web actually work. It’s being redesigned, perhaps. This telling of the story is mostly for geeks, but for the rest: If this effort is successful, you might notice some things run a little quicker. If it fails, you might notice some things running slower, or getting more expensive, and the Net growing a little less private and safe ... [6 comments]
Browsers and Apps in 2012
· It’s like this: The browser’s doomed, because apps are the future. Wait! Apps are doomed because HTML5 is the future. I see something almost every day saying one or the other. Only it’s mostly wrong ... [12 comments]
A Million Lives Saved
· Well, not really. But my LifeSaver 2 app has now uploaded over a million calls and messages for a temporary stay in the cloud and (in theory) transfer to other devices. This is not as impressive as it sounds since the number of unique users is still just a few hundred; but it pleases me nonetheless. I observe that the number of downloads is quite a bit smaller; it seems that people upload, and then it takes them longer than they thought to get their new device brought up and LifeSaver installed; long enough for the cloud scrubber to have erased their upload, so they have to do it again ... [4 comments]
· A person watching over my shoulder asked “How are you switching around so fast?” and I realized that while most readers here know this trick, some may not, and it’s awfully useful ... [11 comments]
· Back in early 2010 I wrote an immensely long piece called HTML5; a section called How To Spec? took a baffled look at one of the many HTML5 sub-projects, WebSockets ... [6 comments]
Network App Macroeconomics
· A friend of mine is working on a complicated publishing app; the data is XML, perfectly appropriate when your objects are documents. She told me they were thinking about automating some of the work by running XSLT transformations out there in the client with libxslt. I said “Well yeah, as long as the client’s a PC not a tablet”. The category of “things you can do on a PC but not a tablet” is interesting ... [13 comments]
· Way last fall, I took my old LifeSaver app and re-wrote it to store histories in Google App Engine back-end as opposed to the SD card, mostly because lots of modern phones don’t have SD cards. Then I had an attack of fear about deploying it, then I went on a world tour and got sick and took vacation and got distracted. I just published LifeSaver 2.0 ... [7 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]
· I don’t spend that much time thinking cloud these days, although there are interesting machinations here at Google that might suck me in should I get bored with Android. But the topic isn’t going away just because I’m ignoring it ... [4 comments]
· I wanted to hit my browser’s “home” button and for a baffling moment couldn’t find it. This remains a rare experience, but I found it a worrying symptom ... [20 comments]
· We expect streams of text to scroll down in our browsers. But almost all of them scroll incorrectly ... [39 comments]
Wrong on the Internet
· I was lying in bed this Sunday morning, checking the Net before coming downstairs to make scrambled eggs (with mushrooms and snap peas, yum) for the family, and ran across a bit of random snark from Aaron Swartz. Any Sunday morning is improved by a chance to argue about markup languages and how the Web works ... [7 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]
Android App Engine Client
· Recently I wrote a scary App-Engine back end for an Android app. I wanted it to be secure, which should be easy because Androids have Google accounts and App Engine knows about those. I got it to work, but the process irritated me enough that I decided to package it up as a public service. So now there’s a little open-source library called App Engine REST Client. It offers GET and POST methods, includes an Authenticator class, and tries to be as simple as possible to use ... [4 comments]
Cloud Lifesaving and Fear
· Last year I built (and of course blogged) this nifty little Android app called LifeSaver, which would copy your telephone-call and SMS logs onto an SD card, so you could move the SD card to another phone, run LifeSaver again, and get ’em all back. Calls and texts aren’t migrated by the excellent Android backup system ... [26 comments]
· For some years, Safari has been my default browser. I generally prefer its choices in framing and ergonomics and shortcuts over all others. But I’ve had to stop using it ... [26 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]
“Web” vs. “Native”
· Back in February of 2010 I interviewed for a new job. It was the typical Google hiring-process siege; I talked to six or eight people over the course of the day. At least half of them asked me “Native vs Web apps on mobile; what do you think?” ... [37 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]
· The official statement is: The +1 button is shorthand for “this is pretty cool” or “you should check this out”. This blog now has ’em. If you’re one of the (vast majority of) people who are looking at this in one feed-reader or another, you can’t see them, but you might want to glance at the home page to get the feel. Or just open this article in a browser and look down at the bottom ... [38 comments]
Me and My Browsers
· I use Safari, Chrome, and Firefox simultaneously. But I’m not sure I’m doing it right. Here’s why and how ... [13 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]
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]
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]
Publishing Video in 2010
· My nifty new Canon S90 shoots reasonable video, and it comes to mind that I’d like to video-blog from Google I/O next week. So I embarked on an HTML5 video adventure, and am here to tell the tale ... [12 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]
HTML5 and the Web
· I am an unabashed partisan of the Web — its architecture, culture, and content. I’m proud to have played a very small part in shaping bits of the machinery and having contributed probably too many words to that content But as for HTML5? It’s a good enough thing to the extent it turns out to work. But nothing terribly important depends on it ... [35 comments]
· I’m a little irritated that all those preaching about Flash are ignoring the history — how we got here — so this is by way of filling that in ... [45 comments]
· Suppose you want to use Flash on your website. I think this is a bad idea, but I accept that some are going to ignore my wise advice and do it anyhow. If you do this and you’re not careful, you can make it absolutely impossible for some people to see your show ... [9 comments]
· It’s all over the news these days, because it’s A Good Thing: the Web will be smarter and faster and better. And for other reasons involving politics and vituperation. I love parts of HTML5, but it’s clear that other parts are a science project. And as a sometime standards wonk, I’m puzzled by aspects of the way the spec (not the language, the spec for the language) is put together ... [30 comments]
· For the past couple of weeks I’ve been participating in the Dailyshoot project, a gift to the world from James Duncan Davidson and Mike Clark. Now I’m feeding that photostream into this space. Apologies to subscribers for the 16-picture backlog; in future it’ll be a dull rumble. This raises some interesting issues in photography and publishing policy and mashup technology ... [3 comments]
Google vs. Gmail
· We’ve had our Textuality.com domain since dinosaurs stalked the earth, and I’d like
tbray@ to be my personal email handle right into the grave. But our current ISP/host is kind of lame and slow and has fourth-rate spam filters that get in the way. So Lauren suggested Google Apps for Email, and the buzz around it seems good. We’re about to pull the trigger, but it seems to be harder than it should be ... [25 comments]
Power Web Site
· I propose a new definition. A site which is designed as the primary Web property for a person, place, or thing is a power site if the person, place, or thing has a Wikipedia entry but, in popular search engines, the site ranks above that Wikipedia entry. There aren’t very many. But they follow simple patterns ... [14 comments]
On the Blankness of Google
· Today, without planning to, I visited the Google home page, then also Yahoo and Bing. They don’t look like each other at all. I think, first of all, that Yahoo is the past, Google the present, Bing the future. And second, that it doesn’t matter much ... [17 comments]
· In full, that’s the First International Workshop on RESTful Design, abbreviated as (sigh) “WS-REST”. It’s next April in Raleigh, NC, co-located with WWW2010, and I’m on the program committee; the call for papers is now open. I wish I’d been the one to think of setting this up, and I’m happy to be part of it. In the REST space, there are a ton of people out there Just Doing It, and I’d be happy to see a lot of submissions which report on lessons from that, rather than diving into hypertext casuistry. Get ’em in. [1 comment]
· Which is to say, It’s Sunday and I just wired up my little publishing empire here to the new hotness in Web syndication technology, PubSubHubbub. If you’re running a hub and you’re not evil, let me know and I’ll ping you ... [12 comments]
· Possibly you’ve never heard of it. But if you know anyone who knits or crochets, ask him or (more likely) her about Ravelry and chances are you’re talking to an active member. It’s big. This is an interview with Casey Forbes, who constitutes the whole engineering staff ... [6 comments]
· 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]
The Sun Web Stack
· Boy, there’ve been a lot of releases go by, but officially, this is Web Stack 1.5. The Web Stack is a product I’ve been encouraging and cheerleading for quite a while. What’s interesting, of course, is the list of ingredients, especially including the Continuous-Integration Suite Formerly Known As Hudson ... [3 comments]
· I have comments, but no spam in my comments. Here’s why ... [20 comments]
The Web Curriculum
· I propose that the World Wide Web would serve well as a framework for structuring much of the academic Computer Science curriculum. A study of the theory and practice of the Web’s technologies would traverse many key areas of our discipline. Furthermore, there is a natural way to structure such a traversal to support a course of study stretching over many semesters ... [22 comments]
· We’re working on a fairly substantial revision of the Sun Cloud API, motivated by this problem: In a RESTful context, how do you handle state-changing operations (POST, PUT, DELETE) which have substantial and unpredictable latency? ... [26 comments]
The Web vs. the Fallacies
· Here at Sun, the Fallacies of Distributed Computing have long been a much-revered lesson. Furthermore, I personally think they’re pretty much spot-on. But these days, you don’t often find them coming up in conversations about building big networked systems. The reason is, I think, that we build almost everything on Web technologies, which lets get away with believing some of them ... [12 comments]
· There’s a study out from McKinsey, Clearing the Air on Cloud Computing; many readers will have seen the commentary here & there around the Web. I’d recommend taking the time to page through the 34 well-put-together pages of the original. Its conclusion is deeply wrong ... [7 comments]
Minimal Rack + JRuby + GlassFish Recipe
· I’ve been working on a little piece of Ruby-and-Rack-based Web integration goo, and it’s done enough that we have to figure out deployment. One reason I picked Rack is that it’s advertised as deploying on anything. The environment where this will live has some of this and some of that, and we’re using GlassFish to tie it all together, which seems like an appropriate choice. So, the problem is: How to plug a simple Rack application into GlassFish? ... [2 comments]
· I’m referring not to an instrument of torture, nor industrial furniture for computers, but to the increasingly popular Rack Web server interface. I’ve found, first, that the explanations of what it does aren’t that great, and second, that it’s ideal for my current at-work project. I bet it’d be useful for lots of others too, so here’s my shot at an introduction ... [16 comments]
· Here it is Friday afternoon, and my efforts to lash my brain into actual technology creation are becoming less and less effective. So let’s dabble in meta-REST instead, shall we? ... [25 comments]
The Sun Cloud
· Today at CommunityOne in New York, we’re announcing a bunch of Cloud-related stuff. Some of it has my fingerprints on it. This is my personal take on the interesting parts ... [22 comments]
PDML + Twitter
· I made a Twitter feed called @PDML. The letters stand for Pentax-Discuss Mailing List, which I read with pleasure; a high-volume, rowdy, enjoyable gaggle of camera geeks. One of the things they do is post nice pictures, which are identified with a subject line starting “PESO:” for Picture Every So Often (and sometimes “GESO:”, G for Gallery). @PDML has those posts’ first hyperlink and as much of their content as can be stuffed into 140 bytes. It’s a nice low-volume Twitter feed, less than five pix a day on average. I believe this is what the cool kids call a “Mashup”. A very slow one, but still ... [17 comments]
· Gosh, it seems like I’m not writing anything here about Web tech or servers or clouds or programming. That’s because I’m in the unusual position of not being able to talk about what I’m working on. But not for long; unless something goes terribly wrong we’ll be able to decloak some things at CommunityOne East on the 18th in Manhattan. People who know my opinions will be unsurprised I think. But they might well be pleased. This Cloud thing; the hype is beyond extreme but there really is a there there, I’m pretty sure. [5 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]
· Believe it or not, I didn’t know about Flash-blocking until recently. If you’re Firefoxy, you need FlashBlock. Safariers want clicktoflash. I’m one of the few, the proud, the Camino users; for us it’s just a tick-box in the standard preferences. (And what is this “IE” of which you speak?) It’s amazing, first of all, how many little gobs of Phlash Phlegm there are all over commercial pages, and second, how much lighter-weight the whole browsing experience is when you just Turn ’Em All Off ... [17 comments]
State of the World
· There’s a lengthy (31:58) audio interview with me over at JavaWorld; it’s entitled What’s next in Java Web development but ends up covering most of the things I worry about, from concurrency to the Cloud. People who’ve been reading this space for a while will be unsurprised. Thanks to Andrew Glover for taking the time.
On Production Systems
· Lauren recently posted Re-routing, sketching out how we reconfigured our home network. The redesign wasn’t terribly deep or interesting in and of itself, but it made me think about the characteristics of “production” systems ... [1 comment]
· I was asked to help out with work on a bunch of Cloudy APIs and naturally I’m trying to make them RESTful. It dawns on me that, very often, client-to-server messages can be expressed as name-value pairs, and that doing this is on balance A Good Thing ... [19 comments]
· Sam Ruby is always worth reading; today his Half Full took me on a (rare) visit to HTML5-land. Among the many things I feel guilty about, not having the strength to follow HTML5 is prominent. Ian Hickson and his posse have repeatedly proved that they can effortlessly overrun my input buffer; I wonder how W3C stalwarts like Dan Connolly are holding up under the strain? ... [5 comments]
· Check out Olio over at Apache.org; it’s a sample Web app, three implementations, a load driver, and an invitation to build more. So all of you who are talking up your hot new Web frameworks, about how they’re simpler than Rails and faster than Java: Prove it. On a level playing field. What a great idea. [5 comments]
How Fast is Fast?
· In preparation for my mod-atom presentation at ApacheCon next week, I’ve been running some performance tests with the help of a gaggle of client machines rustled up by some good people in the Sun engineering-lab group. The first numbers are trickling in, and I’m a bit at a loss both on what to measure and how to evaluate the results. Is 180 POSTs/second on a T2000 good?
[Update: Make that 320/second; have some better data presented in a table.] ... [7 comments]
· This is a lengthy note to myself. I initially wanted to capture the thinking that went into the construction of mod_atom while it was still fresh in my mind, and dumped out the first dozen or so sections. Then as I expanded and refactored the code, I find that I’m keeping this up to date. This mostly by way of putting it in a place where I won’t lose it. I can write stuff for ongoing faster than for any other medium, and “On the Net” is a good place not to lose stuff. If mod_atom eventually gets picked up and used, this may be useful to me or anyone else who’s maintaining it; and if it doesn’t, there’ll still eventually be an AtomPub server module for Apache, and this might be useful to whoever builds it. But this is not designed to be entertaining or pedagogical; among other things, it’s in essentially random order ...
On Tough Times
· As the clock ticked toward my Friday-morning keynote at FOWA London 2008 I was seriously tense, because late Thursday I’d torn up my nearly-cooked speech. What I gave instead was a dark-hued scary message entitled Getting Through the Tough Times. Because, you know, I’m scared ... [19 comments]
· What’s the single most important thing that can help us all get by in tough times? Other people. And if it takes an effort to get out and build a network, well that’s an effort we all need to be making. [This is part of the Tough Times series.] ...
· If you want the Web to help you earn a living during tough times, you’d better be giving something back. [This is part of the Tough Times series.] ... [13 comments]
· What can you, as an individual, do to maximize your chances and minimize your pain during tough times? Suggestions: lose your religion, look over the fence, and learn something. [This is part of the Tough Times series.] ... [14 comments]
Understand Your User
· We’re hearing that lousy times are good times for creativity, for building new things, precisely because the mainstream things aren’t working. Well, and maybe you’re out of a job too. If you’re building something new, who should you build it for? [This is part of the Tough Times series.] ... [11 comments]
Answer the Phone Call
· I think that if you’re looking for opportunities in tough times, the telecoms market is a really good place to look. [This is part of the Tough Times series.] ... [3 comments]
· Almost everyone in this business has put in time working on crufty, calcified old software deployments; the polite word is “Legacy”. Well, they’re not going away any time soon. And in tough times, there might be some real opportunity lurking in these dark, dusty corners. [This is part of the Tough Times series.] ... [6 comments]
Tab Sweep — (Sun) Technology
· Another sweep across the several dozen browser tabs I’ve built up in recent weeks, thinking “worth writing about”. As I was building this up, I noticed that almost everything was Sun-related, so I focused on that stuff. Yep, my interests are conflicted all right, but I think it’s interesting stuff ... [1 comment]
· [This is part of the Tough Times series.] In the series so far, I’ve been writing generally about organizational behavior aimed at getting through the ugliness. I’d also like to offer some suggestions for areas that are likely to be fruitful growth opportunities in tough times. The most obvious one, a no-brainer, is the tools and technologies we’ll need to comply with a massive change in the regulatory climate ... [4 comments]
No Venture Capital
· Doing a startup is always tough (been there, done that) and the economic meltdown isn’t going to help; well, unless you’ve found a works-great-in-bad-times niche. Every startup considers venture-capital investment. For most Web startups, this is a lousy idea, and I think the current business climate makes it worse. [This is part of the Tough Times series.] ... [4 comments]
Join the Conversation
· If your business is hurting and money is tight, I have an idea: How’d you like to deploy an application that lets you get closer to your customers, hear about trouble before it gets serious, and doesn’t cost much? [This is part of the Tough Times series.] ... [8 comments]
· Google’s DeWitt Clinton, in a comment on my Get In the Cloud piece, asserts that both Google App Engine and Amazon EC2/S3 are already lockin-free by my definition. That’s not quite consistent with the word I’m hearing on the street. I’d appreciate testimony and pointers from others, because this is a really important issue ... [14 comments]
Get In the Cloud
· When times are tough, money is tight. Which means, you’d think, that the golden era of Cloud Computing, as in pay-as-you-go infrastructure, is upon us. It should be, but we’re not there yet. [This is part of the Tough Times series.] ... [24 comments]
Free Software Now
· I’m talking, sans ideology, about “free” as in no-money-up-front. When business is already hurting, up-front software license fees hurt especially hard, and I just don’t believe that Enterprise Software, as currently priced, has much future, in the near term anyhow. [This is part of the Tough Times series.] ... [5 comments]
A Good Time for Agility
· When business is lousy, getting projects approved and budgeted is challenging. Which means, tough times are good times to be agile. [This is part of the Tough Times series.] ... [5 comments]
· I’ve got a touch o’ them old autumnal-financial-meltdown blues, so I’ll post a couple of garden shots as therapy ... [1 comment]
Enterprisey but Good
· In the old days I was a Perl guy and now I see the Web through Ruby-red spectacles. Like most people in the open-source and dynamic-language communities, I never really warmed up to Java EE; tons of moving parts, too many layers of indirection, too much XML configuration, and anyhow I didn’t want to use that language for writing Web apps. But it turns out you don’t have to like EE to be real interested in app servers.
[Update: Check the discussion in the comments; there’s more to this than meets the eye.] ... [4 comments]
· I’ve been using RSpec in a way that’s probably inappropriate, but has got me thinking about Test-Driven Development and REST ... [13 comments]
· We launched Project Kenai very quietly last Friday. It’s a developer hub with SCM and issue tracking and forums and all the other stuff you’d expect. We built it because we needed it, but it’s open for use by the world for free. For a newborn infant, it looks pretty good. Anyone can visit, but to create a project requires an invitation, which I have some of; contact me if you want one. There are lots of interesting things about Kenai; among other things, it’s a Rails app. Herewith the details.
[Update: Nick Sieger responds to heat over “control”.] ... [14 comments]
Tab Sweep — Technology
· I’d kind of gotten out of the habit of doing tab sweeps, largely because my Twitter feed is such a seductive place to drop interesting links. But as of now there are around 30 tabs open on my browser, each representing something I thought was important enough to think about and maybe write about. Some are over a month old. Some of them have been well-covered elsewhere. All I assert is that after I read each one of these, I didn’t want to hit command-W to make that window go away. Unifying theme? Surely you jest ... [1 comment]
Build One to Throw Away
· This is a maxim from Fred Brooks’ The Mythical Man-Month. These days I’m thinking it’s the single most important lesson there is about software. It’s been brought rudely home to me by my recent work on mod_atom, whose design is terribly simple; but I still got the first cut wrong in important ways ... [9 comments]
Tasty Rails ETags
· This piece is provoked by Ryan Daigle’s What’s New in Edge Rails: Simpler Conditional Get Support (ETags). I think it’s an important subject. I realize that many readers here understand what ETags are and why they matter, and will see right away how the API Ryan describes fits into the picture. If you don’t, and you build Web apps, it’s probably worth reading this and following some links ... [6 comments]
Sun Web Server Open-Sourced
· [This is one of four pieces of Sun news from last week; I actually got to make the announcements at OSCON but was too busy to blog]. We’re open-sourcing Sun’s own Web server (formally the “Sun Java System Web Server”), using (and here’s a surprise) the BSD license; I don’t know if we’ve gone BSD before ... [2 comments]
Sun + Joyent + Facebook
· [This is one of four pieces of Sun news from last week; I actually got to make the announcements at OSCON but was too busy to blog]. The news is that we’re partnering with Joyent to offer one year’s free hosting for Facebook apps. I don’t really understand the Facebook-app ecosystem, but anything that reduces the barrier to entry has to be good, right?
Sun Web Stack
· [This is one of four pieces of Sun news from last week; I actually got to make the announcements at OSCON but was too busy to blog]. The Sun Web Stack, shipping later this year, is an agglomeration of Web stuff (“Formerly known as CoolStack, also known as LAMP/SAMP”), and a fully-supported Sun product on both Solaris and GNU/Linux. Read on for details and discussion; this raises some interesting issues ... [8 comments]
· It started innocently enough; someone mailed the internal bloggers’ list saying “We’ve got this Beyond LAMP article on SDN, might be good blog fodder.” Which constituted an opportunity for geeks to have fun with acronyms ... [19 comments]
Not an OS
· Last Thursday I tweeted: “I strive to maintain an open mind when nontechnical people talk about the ‘Internet OS’ or ‘Web OS’. Sometimes it's tough.” I got some grumbles by email and I think the subject is worth more discussion. Let me be more specific: Neither the Internet nor the Web is much like an OS. And even if it were, that’d be the wrong way to think about what’s going on right now ... [24 comments]
· I tend to liking simple things, and to suspicion of big “enterprisey” software frameworks. I am dimly aware that up in the clouds there are platforms built on platforms built on platforms built on Java, towering edifices where acronyms like “JBI” and “ESB” and “SCA” live. Except for, I could never figure out what they actually, you know, did. Let’s be honest; the complexity and the high-level arm-waving about “Integration” scared me away and I never really tried. Well, I’ve stumbled into a closer look and am beginning to think there’s some there there ... [6 comments]
· I like Twitter. I hope it lasts. So I want it to have a business model. This week, I was in a discussion on that subject with really smart people, some even with useful experience. Afterward, I had a really radical idea for a business model: Ask people to pay for using it. Read on for discussion, and a survey ... [40 comments]
Over Two Thousand
· That describes the number that appears, on the page called @timbray, with the label “followers”. I’m finding it kind of intimidating, and while I’m no more confident about What It All Means than I was when that number passed one thousand, I’ve been thinking about it more. Plus, I thought I’d throw in some Twittertainment ... [5 comments]
Java in 2008
· I’m glad I went to JavaOne. I want to go again. In order of increasing importance: The Java language is looking stale. The Java platform is looking interesting. And the Java community, well, it’s something special ... [2 comments]
Changing Your Address
· I’m tired of typing my postal address into Web sites. Furthermore, it’s stupid, wasteful, and a little worrying that so many of them out there have stored copies of it. Wouldn’t it be better just to give them the address of my address? ... [23 comments]
OpenWeb and PHP and Women
· I had fun today speaking at Open Web Vancouver 2008, and even more fun listening to Zak Greant, who was on just before me. He’s a fine speaker, I recommend him for any geekfest. Here’s what caught my eye: there were way more women in the audience, proportionally, than I’ve seen at any Ruby or Rails or Java event ... [9 comments]
Tibet and Twitter
· On the plane home from San Francisco, I was sitting among a bunch of Tibetans who’d been down from Vancouver for the big protests around the Olympic Torch relay. I was honoured to be with them. The day before, I’d been following the action mostly on Twitter: check out @teamtibet, where they were helping organize the protests. Twitter, it’s an activist’s dream. But I couldn’t find online video or photos of Majora Carter carrying the torch and the Tibetan flag. Oh, and China, here’s a reality we honkies internalized way back when: Imperialism, it can do wonders for your commercial position and in distracting the citizens from the regime’s domestic failings. But on the other hand, the bad PR is just never gonna go away. So, you want the upside, you just gotta suck it up and deal with the image damage. Public whining ill-suits a wannabe imperial power. [8 comments]
Silent Blogger FTP Failure?
· Dear LazyWeb: I tried to help my friend Alex Waterhouse-Hayward with some problems he’s having on his blog, and managed to completely screw things up. I would sure appreciate a word or two of wisdom from someone who understands Blogger.
[Update: Problem solved. I created another FTP-only account on Alex’s hosting service and told Blogger to use that and it seems OK. I gotta say, my first serious experience with Blogger has been kinda pukey.]
[And hey, Alex wrote about it, elegantly.] ... [2 comments]
· I’m writing this in an airplane to Vancouver from Chicago. When I get home and read my mail, if recent trends continue I will hear about a few new Twitter followers, bringing the total up over one thousand. I think that with Twitter, something important is happening. But I’m having trouble figuring out what ... [19 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]
Time To Twitter
· I spend quite a bit of time talking about leading-edge Web stuff to mainstream Enterprise types. I have a well-polished explanation for the rise of PHP and Rails and so on: Time To Market. Here’s the sound-bite: “If you and I have the same good idea for a community-based Web site on the same day, and mine is on the air in five months and yours in eight, then you’re dead. And it doesn’t matter if yours is better, because the community has gathered.” Well, Twitter would be the canonical example. They went with Rails because it let them build fast; and they built fast. They suffered terrible pain for months trying to take Rails places it’d never been before; but they fought through it and they’re in a very good place. Smart people tell me that Pownce and Jaiku are slicker and better but who cares? Apparently 140 characters, distributed appropriately, gives you what you need. [39 comments]
· I spent quite a bit of today at the O’Reilly 2008 Concurrency Summit. It was a congenial crowd, but at the end of the day kind of a downer, because we have lots of hard concurrency problems and not too many solutions. Anyhow, two subjects that came up were REST (which is concurrent at the largest possible scale), and, unsurprisingly, Erlang. And it struck me that they’re kind of like each other ... [4 comments]
It’s an Atompub World
· Today, via InfoQ, we see that Microsoft is betting on Atompub for Windows Live. Since Google and WordPress and big chunks of Java middleware are already doing it too, this really does feel like a bandwagon. For the last fifteen years, HTTP has become the dominant, overwhelmingly dominant, vehicle by which people and programs get things from the Net. With a little Atompub seasoning, it’ll quite likely be the way most things get put back, too. There is a fly in the ointment: tons of servers, not that many clients. Hello Moto? And Nokia and Apple and Samsung and all the rest of you? There a kazillion, and growing, publishing gateways out there waiting for someone to start shipping handhelds with an Atompub-powered “Publish” button.
[Update:] The Google Contacts Data API - Atompub based, of course.
[Update:] Writing Your First AtomPub Service with Abdera.
[Update:] Joe Gregorio: AppClientTest Update and AppClientTest - now with unit testing goodness; I particularly like the “drama in HTTP” analogy. [3 comments]
· There’s this guy named Nick Kew whom I’d never heard of till last year, when I started working on mod-atom. He’s one of the core httpd gurus, and wrote the book on Apache Modules, which is what mod-atom is. So he politely tolerated a flurry of clueless-newbie questions from me, and I feel guilty that I didn’t buy the book. Anyhow, he’s just come to work for Sun. I’ve already told him gleefully that I shall now feel guilt-free about the questions. But seriously, it makes me happy to be bringing some more httpd expertise on board, given that it’s perhaps the single most important software component of the whole World Wide Web. Welcome aboard, Nick! [1 comment]
· Herewith a few random Atompub pointers. Each month that goes by, I’m happier with the way Atompub came out ... [5 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]
· Today, at that Avenue A | Razorfish event (A A|R is owned by Microsoft, it turns out) there was a presentation from the people who built two different sites for XM Radio. The Online Store was built with Flex, the XM Program Guide with Ajax. They both look pretty good. I guess it means you can’t sign up for XM with an iPhone. I remain unconvinced that the extra sizzle and flash you get with RIA technology is enough better than Ajax to make it worthwhile—but then XM reported increased conversion rates when they rolled in the new site. Interestingly, they said that Ajax was a particularly good fit for the channel guide because HTML naturally handles grid-like structures well. True when you think of it, but I never had. [2 comments]
The RESTful Way
· I received the most charming email this morning from the owner of “therestfulway.com” domain name saying, in essence, “Anyone you know have a loving home for this domain? I don’t need it and it’s about to expire.” What a nice domain name. If you want it, drop me a line explaining why and I’ll forward the requests to the author. I think he’d probably give it to somebody with a good reason, but also wouldn’t turn down a reasonable monetary offer if one were forthcoming. [2 comments]
Autotools 1, Tim 0
· I’m going to do some more work on mod_atom, but I have a problem; it doesn’t work on Leopard. That’s OK, the Ape blows it up repeatably, so should be no biggie. Hmm, except for apr_global_mutex_create is acting weird, removing the lockfile while failing. Docs no help... OK, let’s look at the code. Urgh. Let’s use the debugger to see where it’s going. Well... that was a day and a half ago. Since then, been in a maze of twisty little passages. I’m beginning to think that Brian McCallister has a point in saying Autotools are the Devil. I used to know how to compile C code, sigh.
[Update]: Hey, check out the follow-ups. I think this Open Source stuff is going to catch on.
[Again]: Hah! Paul Querna’s suggestion not only made the compilation problems go away, the original bug vanished too. You know, that Apache community is first-rate. [2 comments]
· There’s been some New-year Ape tinkering. A few bug-fixes from me and David Calavera, and also I finally rolled in Joe Gregorio’s patch to make it work with Google’s semi-proprietary authent voodoo. Last and best, we have a new committer, Simon Rozet, whose first patch was a Mongrel adapter, so you can type
ruby go-mongrel.rb and there’s your Ape on port 4000. Simon will probably have checked that in by the time you read this.
2008 Prediction 1: RIA vs. AJAX
· What happened was, a sudden email from Sun PR went around about fifteen minutes to Christmas saying “SYS-CON wants predictions for 2008; right now would be good.” It happened that I was in the middle of doing three months and ten trips’ worth of expenses, thus bored out of my mind, thus happy to prognosticate. I gave them five, but, given the urgency, not much more than sound-bites. I think each of them is worth a little exegesis ... [23 comments]
Django on Jython
· It’s starting to happen. There’s a long way to go between successfully executing a bit of Rails and actually making the sucker run usefully, as the JRuby guys will tell you. But speaking of JRuby, there are some eerie similarities: a language-platform project that was promising, then drifting, now revitalized. The ecosystem gets more interesting all the time. [Update:] Frank Wierzbicki reports that Jython is rockin’ & rollin’, it’s not just Django. Good stuff!
Year-End Sweep — Tech
· Over the course of the year, in browser tabs, bookmarks, and del.icio.us, I’ve built up a huge list of things that I felt I should write about, at least at the time I saw them. Well, dammit, I’m not gonna let 2007 end without at least making a try. Here goes. Categorized, even ... [7 comments]
TV and the LazyWeb
· I have a problem: I want a new HDTV, I have very specific requirements, and I’m not which models match, or even how best to find that out. There’s always the LazyWeb, and it’s showing new signs of life, in the form of Dave Sifry’s Hoosgot. Let’s see if it can help me find the right TV ... [15 comments]
Message From the Web
· 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 what I told them ... [7 comments]
· That stands for Automated Content Access Protocol. It’s fiercely deconstructed by Andy Oram in An editor critiques the publishing industry's Automated Content Access Protocol. I’m really unconvinced, first that this is really needed, or second that there’s any good reason for the people running the big crawlers to adopt it. They say ACAP is set to become the universal permissions protocol on the Internet but you know, we already have one, you can access-control anything you want. In the developed world, we have a perfectly competent legal system that allows publishers to hold Web sites accountable for how they use the content they fetch. If the people advancing this included anyone who actually liked the Web, it might be more convincing.
· That would be Our Father, who art in heaven. Which is to say, when you a URI that has
#whatever on the end, what
#whatever means depends on what kind of thing it is. Up till now, if it was just a chunk of text (
text/plain in web-geek lingo), it didn’t mean anything. Now it does. I have a special interest in this one ... [9 comments]
Tab Sweep — Tech
· This goes back weeks and weeks; I’ve been wide-finding and doing Sun stuff and the Web-watching has suffered ... [6 comments]
· Today’s big Atom news is from Joseph Scott, who was on the long-weekend shift with Pete Lacey and Sam Ruby and I, pounding WP2.3’s APP-server code into shape. He has written HTTP Basic Authentication, A Tale of AtomPub, WordPress, PHP, Apache, CGI and SSL/TLS; the title is appropriately long, as this is a very meaty piece that I bet will be read many times in the near to medium future by someone puzzled and frustrated by some combination of Apache, PHP, and authentication requirements. Well, yes, the problems popped up in the context of Atompub and WordPress, but there’s nothing specific to the protocol or the product; it’s a big messy ugly corner of Web technology ... [1 comment]
· It’s out today. Now, I don’t work with app servers that much, and I’ve hardly ever touched GlassFish. But this is interesting anyhow, for two reasons: First, GlassFish is an example of a software product that was struggling in the market, and is doing immensely better after moving from closed to Open Source. Smells like the future to me. Second, check out that launch pointer: a blog cluster, with the marketing basics and a ton of highly-technical detail. I just don’t think there’s any other sensible way to launch a modern software package whose users are developers. [3 comments]
· I just did a massive check-in on mod_atom, and it’s now not just an Atom Store, it’s also a basic blog publisher. This fragment is about how it works, and includes a confession; I did one fairly awful thing along the way ... [6 comments]
The Sunday Contests
· Who needs the NFL? The 0.00001% of the population who think Syndication Semantics and Web Architecture are all about fun ought to cruise by Sam Ruby’s space and take in the discussion around One More Step Forward?
Tab Sweep — Tech
· In this issue: P-languages, operating systems, projecting, URIs, and online medical resources ... [1 comment]
· Are there any Facebook apps that aren’t pathetically lame? Just wondering. Also wondering, why do I have to update my Facebook status, my Twitter status, and my chat status in three different places? Which means that usually I don’t. [Update: Wanna change your status just once for everwhere? MoodBlast is da bomb! Thanks, Dion.] [20 comments]
Tab Sweep — Tech
· There were a few here that I wanted to do a whole piece about, but I just gotta clear some space on these decks. Today we have pushing and pulling and queueing and Ruby.next and Java hate and PHP-vs.-Rails. What’s not to like? ... [9 comments]
· I’ve decided that mod_atom really needs to be a blog-publishing system, not just an Atom Store. And furthermore, based mostly on the comments to that Sanitation piece, I’ve made two design decisions. First, the sanitizing happens only on the HTML output; the Atom-store part will persist the data as close as possible to the way it was sent upstream. Second, I’m going to try using the TidyLib parser to pick apart
type="html" text constructs so I can clean ’em up ... [4 comments]
Tab Sweep — Tech
· Today we have some Atomic Apple love, iPhone Web friendliness, RelaxNG praise, and JVM Language widening ... [6 comments]
On Being for the Web
· This thread starts with Bill de hÓra’s excellent Design for the web, which has useful links and commentary about problems with Java web frameworks. Coté follows up with Java’s Fear of Commitment, also very good, and interesting discourse breaks out in both parties’ comments. Obviously, Bill and Coté are correct; embracing the Web is going to get you a better result on the Web than not embracing the Web. If you want more evidence, look no further than PHP, a deeply-flawed tool whose success is based on (admirably well-done) Web-centricity. Normally, I’d leave it at that, but Coté is wrong about Java and Bill is wrong about both ETags and MVC, and I think all of those things are important enough to push back on ... [16 comments]
· Check out The New Web War, the first of Rob Scoble’s Fast Company columns. It’s a nice compact summary of the Apollo/Silverlight/JavaFX arena. There’s a startling sentence in the conclusion: If your competitor builds a more interactive site than yours, customers will flee to the “flashier” foe. Uh... Google? eBay? Amazon? Facebook? All plenty interactive, and pure non-proprietary native Web technology. The evidence seems clear to me: quality content and useful functions trump both flash and Flash. All these people keep saying that “Rich” Internet Applications win, and they’re right: but I do not think that word means what they think it means. [14 comments]
· Well, well, we now have two freshly-baked HTTP-based Web Resource CRUD protocols which advertise themselves as being RESTful. Microsoft’s new Web3S is designed to support remote update of Live Contacts, which is, and I quote: “the central data store in Windows Live for address book information. All Hotmail contacts, Messenger buddies and Spaces’ friends are recorded in Live Contacts. There are currently approximately 500,000,000 active address books in Live Contacts.” See Yaron Goland’s intro APP and Dare, the sitting duck (read the comments too), then the draft spec Web Structured, Schema’d & Searchable (Web3S) and its FAQ. There’s a reaction from David Ing, Not Your Father’s MData; the comments below might be a good place to aggregate more links. [Update: Yaron Goland has addressed the issues I raised here, FAQ-style, in a comment below.] ... [8 comments]
Tab Sweep: Web Tech
· These are eventful times in the world of Web technologies. First, Paul Querna has a couple of tasty little morsels for us, the freshest being mod_never_expire. Then there’s the W3C’s Web of Services for Enterprise Computing Workshop Report; I thought the pungent smells of failure on one side and optimism on the other mixed oddly, but still worth reading. On the lighter side, check out DeWitt Clinton’s excellent Monoball. Finally, Doug Purdy, longtime shaper of Microsoft’s view of the Web, is back with his own APP engine (subscribe to that in your feed-reader rather than your browser, and Doug, you should serve that as something other than
application/xml). Finally, all the machinery that the Java-EE people pulled together to play as nice as possible in the WS-swamp has a new name: Project Metro. Eduardo has the narrative, which seems sensible to me. [1 comment]
· It turns out that sometime in recent months, I made a little adjustment to the comments system that locked some but not all users of Microsoft Internet Explorer out. It was a major pain in the butt to track down, but I think I have. I don’t have that many Windows configurations in the house to test with, so I’d sure appreciate it if a few of you out there looking at ongoing through IE would, first of all, go here (just the standalone version of this entry, please go there now); and once you’ve gone there, cast your eyes at the bottom of the page and see if there’s an invitation to contribute a comment. If there is, I’d then appreciate it if you could you click on it and submit a couple of witty words to see if they show up. If there’s no invitation or the comment won’t submit or something else weird happens, do please drop me an email (remember, firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know the symptoms and what versions of IE and Windows are in play. [Update: OK, thanks. I watched the logfiles as dozens of people popped up the comment form and a handful or two actually submitted comments; I stopped approving the ones of the form “Yep, it works” after a while. I have no complaining emails. Thanks all!] ... [12 comments]
What an iPhone Looks Like
· I noticed a bit of traffic, starting with David Berlind, about people looking for visits from iPhones in their web-server logfiles. I looked in mine, and found a couple. I thought I’d reproduce the actual Apache logfile entry, which is kind of interesting; do your own interpretation ... [7 comments]
“X Me” is a Facebook Virus
· A friend on Facebook invited me to try the “X Me” application. It sounded a little silly but it was a person I respect, so I clicked on it. As soon as it installed, it popped up a list of more or less everyone I knew asking if it was OK to mail invitations to them. I said “no”, and then (weirdly) it popped up one other name and I said “no” again. Now I’m getting messages from people asking if I really think they should install “X Me”. This, obviously, is a virus ... [11 comments]
I’ve Seen This Movie
· It turns out that the Atom Protocol isn’t good enough for whatever part of Microsoft Dare Obasanjo works in, he says. Three things should be said: First, Dare’s arguments are bogus. Second, if you were paranoid and cynical, you might wonder what Microsoft’s up to (I’m paranoid and cynical.) Finally, this is actually good news. [Update: Check out Dare’s GData isn't a Best Practice Implementation of the Atom Publishing Protocol and Microsoft and the Atom Publishing Protocol, and especially Joe Cheng’s Microsoft is not sabotaging APP (probably). It looks like Microsoft will be joining the APP party after all; excellent! On GData: as of April’s interop event, GData, based on an early draft of the APP, was far from being an interoperable drop-in implementation. But that’s what the event was for; Kyle Marvin and the Googlers gathered tons of hands-on data and, last time I checked, still say they intend to do APP straight-up.] ... [18 comments]
· On Google Gears, I’m definitely in the skeptical What is this “being at work while offline” of which you speak? camp. I wasn’t convinced when Adam Bosworth was singing this song five years ago and I’m still not. Doesn’t mean having programmable persistence in the browser isn’t a good idea, though. Browsers already cache heavily, of course, but not in a way that’s sensitive to the needs of any particular Ajax code. I mean, consider a mapping app; if the computer knows where I am, why shouldn’t the browser pre-populate the cache with a few hundred local map tiles? They don’t change that much. And so on. Gears at least seems pretty lockin-free. [17 comments]
NetNewsWire, Children, and Caesar
· The problem is, these days, that my input queues are jammed up. I’m reading Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy and it’s very good, but it’s awfully big and thick and dense. And my time for reading is tight because, after all, I’m married with two children and also I’m trying to read the Internet, or at least that huge little piece of it where people care about the things I do. And on that subject, once again I just have to plug NetNewsWire. I’ve tried a ton of newsreaders on a ton of platforms. Google’s blog reader is pretty good, and so are a couple of the other clients, but NetNewsWire just shows you more stuff in less time with fewer keystrokes. Years ago I predicted that feed-reading would have been sucked into the browser by now, but I was wrong. So between that and Caesar, and day-to-day job work, and a grungy unexciting complicated fill-a-hole-in-the-ecosystem programming project, well, I have Wikinomics and Everything is Miscellaneous and RESTful Web Services and the Programming Erlang PDF staring accusingly at me from the shadows. Blame Julius Caesar and Brent Simmons. [7 comments]
· Now, this is what I’ve always wanted. I’m feeling kind of unhappy with myself; time after time, Dave Sifry has showed me some new frippery they’re rolling out at Technorati and I’ve said “Yeah, that’s kind of cool, maybe you could twiddle X” even though it didn’t turn my personal crank that much. My problem has been that I was assuming that the way I want to use Technorati is unusual. I use it for vanity feeds of course, but the when I go to the site, I only ever want to ask two questions: “What are they saying about <insert recent event>?” and “Where was that article I saw recently about <insert subject>?” The new, very Google-flavored search.technorati.com does those things, and that’s all it does. Plus, it seems a whole lot faster ... [4 comments]
· Here’s the nice one: PragDave a.k.a. Dave Thomas launched an effort to get the RailsConf attendees to give something back; something as in hard cold cash donations to charity. I plugged it during my keynote, as did several others, and Chad Fowler really got behind it. It came out pretty well. And on a lighter note, Big Jimmy Kane offers cogent insight on my appearance waving a Sun banner in Rubyland.
RailsConf Day Two
· The first hour and fifteen of the day was Cyndi Mitchell of ThoughtWorks and me in keynote mode. The interesting part, though, was the hallways and lunch ... [15 comments]
RailsConf Day One
· [Thursday] Sitting in the airport getting ready to head out; it’s been a while since I’ve spoken to over a thousand people (well, I do every day here, but that’s different) so I’m nervous. Happy, too; I’ve managed to schedule my Sun-related work so I can get to a few sessions that sound super-interesting; I expect to get my brain upgraded. [Friday] I’m filling in conference notes and pictures as the days go by ... [3 comments]
· Perhaps a little more all-over-the-map even than is usual: GPLv3 clarity, Functional Pearls, raina bird-writer, Java credits, framework programmers, and hacking my Canon ... [4 comments]
· I’ve been talking recently to traditional Java EE shops about “Web 2.0” in general and modern Web development frameworks in particular and Rails in particular particular. What I’ve ended up saying (speaking only for myself, this isn’t Sun dogma) is along these lines: “Rails isn’t going to sweep the other Web technologies away. But those other technologies are learning its lessons; so it’s worth checking out.” ... [4 comments]
OpenID at Work
· On both the Internet and behind the firewall, the identity problem gets uglier every year. How many passwords do you have? If you’re in IT, how much pain do you go through getting your all your apps to share a notion of who someone is? There are a lot of smart people working on these problems, but progress has been crushingly slow. We’re doing a little something with OpenID this week that won’t turn the world inside out but I think shows that progress is possible ... [11 comments]
· Mostly technology-centric, this time ... [4 comments]
How Big is the Club?
· We who read (and write) blogs and play with the latest Internet Trinkets (and build them) have been called an echo chamber, a hall of mirrors, a teeny geeky minority whose audience is itself. Let me explore this notion a bit using Twitter ... [24 comments]
Upcoming Gig: RailsConf 2007
· I’ll be heading to Portland, Oregon for a keynote at RailsConf 2007, May 17-20. I gather that like most Ruby-related events it sold out more or less instantly. There’s a funny story about how I came to attend ... [2 comments]
· Wow, a whole lot of news by/about/from Technorati recently. [Disclosure: I have a conflict of interest.] First, a company snapshot. I really don’t know what “media company” means, but the traffic numbers are decent, and my experience matches with Scoble’s: they’re ahead in live-information search, this month anyhow. I have no inside information about the money. Second, the State of the
Blogosphere Live Web; the world needs Technorati to exist if only for these reports; fascinating, deep, stuff. Finally, Dave’s thinking about stepping sideways. I did exactly this with two startups, and it worked once. I have no fear whatsoever that Dave will drop off the radar. Ruby Servlet Dispatching
· I’m wiring the Ape up so I can run it with JRuby in a servlet in a real Java App Server, and while Marcin Mielżyński’s first-cut RubyServlet works fine, I suspect it’s not the only approach to dispatching. So I’m doing some research and thinking, and I’ve collected it here for anyone who cares ... [4 comments]
Mashing with Mike
· Today we had that Mashup event at the Sun campus with Mike Arrington. There were somewhere between 100 and 200 people there; I had fun and learned things ... [4 comments]
· Check out The Web 2.0 Address Book May Have Arrived by Tim O’Reilly, passing along (with approving remarks) David Pogue’s pitch for GrandCentral; it gives you a single phone number that rings all your phones wherever you are. Says David: “Its motto, ‘One number for life,’ pretty much says it all.” Since I have a similar service through AccessLine courtesy of Sun, I can appreciate a resource like this. But there was something about the announcement that was bothering me ... [8 comments]
· It’s been leveled up to the Protocol-13 draft level and the source is available. While I’m still massively unsatisfied, the Ape as it stands today is actually pretty useful ... [5 comments]
Upcoming Gig: WDW SF ’07
· To be exact, Web Design World San Francisco 2007, March 26-28 at Moscone West in San Francisco. I’m up first thing on Monday morning. I haven’t any idea what I’m going to talk about, but still, it’s been too long since I’ve spent time hanging out with designers; so I’m looking forward to it.
Upcoming Gig: Mashup with Arrington
· The Sun marketing person said “We’re doing another startup outreach event, think you could come down on the 19th and pitch in?” I said probably and asked for more info. “This fellow named, uh, Mike Arrington, has agreed to do a panel, do you know who he is?” So I said I’d come. It’s called the Mashup Event and it’s an afternoon thing, basically just Mike and me talking a little bit about Web 2.0 and Venture Capital, followed by cocktails and schmoozing. I’ve never met the ubiquitous Mr. A so I’m looking forward to it. If you’re in the area and can spare an hour, drop by our coolio Menlo Park campus and join in the fun. Our entirely-unhidden agenda: find out what’s going on, & listen. [1 comment]
· I gave it a try, and now I’m switched over. Camino is a Mac browser that’s based on the Mozilla Gecko engine, but doesn’t use the Firefox XUL front-end. Previously, I used Camino 1.0 as my main everyday browser because it was the only one that felt like it belonged on the Mac, was acceptably fast, and didn’t periodically balloon out of control. (Yes, I use Firefox too for its developer tools.) The 1.1 beta has fixes for pretty well all the things that irritated me about 1.0: it saves your tabs in case you crash, text-edit controls now support the control-F/B/N/P/A/E idiom just like everything else, and resize-to-fit works properly. I think that for almost any Mac user who spends a lot of time in the browser, Camino would be worth a serious look. [13 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]
· On Wednesday in Frankfurt at the PHP International Conference I gave a fairly general talk on issues in Web frameworks. I had fun making a graph comparing Java, PHP, and Rails, and you might enjoy it too. [Update: Theserverside.com has a grossly inaccurate flame-bait take on this, and won’t let me sign in to comment; won’t take my password, and also won’t take the one they email me when I say I forgot. Grr.] [Update, February 2007: There’s now a Korean translation by CHOI Jae-Hoon; thanks!] ... [32 comments]
· In Atom, categories have schemes. What scheme should we use for tags? ... [26 comments]
· This is going to be big and have month-old news in it; a consequence of the long southern-hemisphere posting interruption. I’ll even group ’em into paragraphs ...
· In a recent ongoing piece, I mentioned the “Canada Line”, a huge construction project currently disrupting Vancouver. Motivated in part by the 2010 Winter Olympics, it’s a subway/elevated train connecting the city core, the airport, and everything on the path between them, including a big strip of central Vancouver and Richmond, the suburb with the airport. (It’s called the “Canada Line” because the biggest chunk of funding is from the Federal, as opposed to provincial or city government). Since I’m writing for the Net, I wanted to link to it. I did a quick search for its Web site, which also turned up a pretty good Wikipedia entry on the subject. The question is, which to link to? The answer isn’t obvious ... [31 comments]
· That would be the twelfth draft of the Atom Publishing Protocol spec. We’ll be asking for IETF last call on this draft. I’m pretty sure that the final product will look about like this. I wouldn’t be surprised if the IETF process patched a couple of security oversights or uncovered a couple of corner cases; nor would I be surprised if it didn’t. But I think that implementors who run with this will be pretty safe; mind you, there are a lot out there who didn’t wait this long; and they deserve our thanks. As do the editors and the good people in the Working Group; this has been mostly a pretty good trip. [Update: Some Atom-protocol news I had hanging around waiting to blog: Dave Johnson links to several implementations, and Elias Torres tells of a quickie.] [3 comments]
JSON and XML
· I hear people saying “JSON is great, XML is over”, but I don’t hear XML partisans saying anything bad about JSON. There are two arguments that are over, though ... [15 comments]
· Perhaps someone who knows this subject can explain. Given some of the comments here (yeah, there are lots of morons, but some savvy-sounding hands-on PHPfolk too), and stories like this, I have a question: why isn’t this part of this? [10 comments]
What I Search
· Most people use computers mostly for information storage. Which means that most people do a lot of searching. My most common search is the Web as a whole, via either Google or Yahoo!, I try to switch back & forth from time to time. Next most common would be email via GMail, my own slow mailgrep, and maybe some year Spotlight. After that would be the Web Event Stream via Technorati (for me, text all the time, tags almost never). Bringing up the rear would be a certain amount of filesystem searching (Spotlight sort of works, except for my email) and grepping source code. I wonder if I’m typical? [9 comments]
· I guess there’s no harm in an occasional links+commentary dump; after all, everybody does it. Item: Bits at the Edge is the blog of Motorola CTO Padmasree Warrior. The entries are too long and dip into marketing-speak, but there’s good writing and original thought in there too and I’ve subscribed. How could anyone in computing not need to know what Motorola’s CTO is thinking? Item: Via Joe Gregorio, PDF slideware on The EBay Architecture. This ought to be required reading for everyone in this business whose title contains the words “Web” or “Architect”. I wonder if this sort of wisdom is being taught in universities? Item: Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) Specifications has crossed my radar a few times recently. If you really believe in loose coupling and asynchronous messaging (as we all claim to), then you believe in something like this. Item: How to find out which font has which characters; something I’ve never known how to do on OS X. Item: Ugandans grab ‘pig-for-name’ deal; it’s hard not to have complicated feelings about this one. [3 comments]
· Check out Framed! by Lauren Wood. There’s puzzling low-grade Internet scamware afoot. Here’s a slightly more detailed description of what’s going on; if you have any ideas, please leave a comment on her blog, not here ... [2 comments]
· For years, I’ve had two email addresses; the current job and the long-term personal one. The latter is unfortunately one of the world’s most public, appearing among other places on the front of the XML specification, and thus gets a lot of spam. I mean really a lot. Which was causing some pretty severe pain, but I’m using the Gmail dodge, and that helps quite a bit ... [24 comments]
· There’s a new thing in the world. Since I got mixed up in the Web a dozen years ago, there’ve always been groups of people trying to standardize HTML (at the IETF, at the W3C, wherever) and as long as I can remember, they’ve been genially ignored, mostly, by browser makers. Maybe no longer; it seems that the WHAT-WG has broken through and been noticed. Mozilla engineer Rob Sayre tells us that WHAT-WG is better than the previous contenders to the HTML-standardization throne, that Firefox has already picked up one piece of their draft-ware, and will be implementing more. Meanwhile, Sam Ruby is doing outstanding work, apparently persuading the WHATters of the virtues keeping what they’re calling “HTML5” somewhat compatible with the rest of the world’s markup. [2 comments]
Web Application Security
· A pretty fierce debate has broken out on how to do security for Web-applications (REST, WS-*, whatever). I’m gratified that it seems to have started in the comments to S for Simple. The proponents are Gunnar Peterson and Pete Lacey, and what they have to say is interesting. I think Gunnar didn’t do a good enough job of filling in one of the bases of his position, although in private email he sent me a link to a PDF from eBankingSecurity.com which is worth a look. The point is that a significant proportion of Windows PCs are compromised with trojans and keystroke-loggers and other flavors of bad-ware; significant enough that the pretty-decent transport-level security provided by TLS is immaterial. Those of us who are technically-competent and don’t use Windows can feel individually secure, but that doesn’t mean Gunnar doesn’t have a point. [5 comments]
· The animation in Web display ads is outta control, outta control, I tell ya! They slither and shake and squirm and flash and jitter and morph and I’m gonna start bleeding from the eyeballs. I’ve always eschewed ad-blockers and Flash-blockers, because advertising should be part of the ecosystem; but things have gone too far. Ads in magazines don’t offend me in the slightest, I even enjoy some, have even been informed about something I might buy. But on the Web... my instinct tells me that these things not only hurt my brain, they can hardly be achieving the intended effect. [12 comments]
· Unifying theme: none. Item: Excellent Rails-vs.-Django study. No axe to grind, apparently. No obvious winner, which is news given the Rails hype. Item: Dana Blankenhorn’s Means and ends in open source; very thought-provoking. My guess is that the immense licensing fees driving the bloated sales infrastructures at Oracle, SAP, and friends are small in relation to the whole software acquire/deploy/maintain monetary pie, so the size of the whole industry isn’t likely to change that much. Item: Irving Wladawsky-Berger, grand IBM technology poo-bah, speculates about the future of the 3-D Web in An Unusual Meeting. Speaking as one who’s made two concerted efforts to build a 3-D representation of the Web, I sure hope he’s right. Item: I can read Takashi’s cat’s mind. He’s 100% focused on how he can get in between Takashi and the computer. (Takashi’s amusing post is about “Engineer's 2.0 day-life in the midafternoon”.) Item: From Clay Shirky, Social Facts, Expertise, Citizendium, and Carr; a careful, level-headed thought piece on what it means to be an expert, in the context of Wikipedia and Citizendium. Item: From “jbischke” at Learn Out Loud, a handy list of The Top 10 Arguments Against DRM; we already knew most of this stuff, but it’s useful to have it pulled together, well-argued and in one place. Item: Everyone’s blogging Test your musical skills in 6 minutes!; I only got 72.2%, sigh. [11 comments]
Streaming-Only Hah Hah
· You really have to snicker at YouTube trying to suppress tools that let you capture video to disk. Lessig is amusing on the subject. Uh, just in case there are one or two people in the universe who still don’t know: if you post video to YouTube (or to anywhere else on the Web), it can be captured and downloaded and it will be captured and downloaded and no lawyer in the world, however expensive and threatening, can stop this happening. Deal with it. [4 comments]
Out With the Old
· Check out Reinventing HTML by Tim Berners-Lee. There’s going to be a new HTML Working Group, with a new chair, new charter, new staff contact, new everything. There’s no point me reproducing Tim’s narrative about the charter, but it’s interesting; go read it. I have had a very poor relationship with the existing HTML WG, so I’m hardly unbiased; but given the that the W3C’s impact on HTML over the last few years has been essentially zero, I think that this has to be A Good Thing. [Update: There is related TAG discussion afoot.] [3 comments]
One Way or Another
· Don Park makes his blog go fast by applying WhirlyCache to the DAO layer, slipping in a transaction layer to reduce database integrity corruption, and using aspect-oriented programming technology via the Spring framework, with the help of Java annotations to mark transactional methods and classes. Yow! My approach is to have Apache serve static data out of the filesystem. Whatever; faster is better. [1 comment]
Web Hacking With Real Money
· Looking for some new data for your next mash-up? How about playing with real money? The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Interactive Data Initiative has an RSS feed of company financial filings; not just the text, but in a highly-structured XML format called XBRL. I glance at the feed this morning and see data from ADP, Dow Chemical, Molina Healthcare, Xerox, GE, Infosys, 3M, Bristol Myers Squibb, and lots more. XBRL isn’t the world’s easiest format to grok; that’s partly because the formalisms that govern accounting are non-trivial in the extreme. But I’m quite sure there are fortunes to be made by people who combine hacking chops with financial savvy, and figure out how to automate digging insight out of this data. Of course, in most gold rushes, the best business angle is selling tools and entertainment to the miners; so there is obviously more than one way to work this territory. And a great big tip of the hat to the SEC for getting this stuff on the air. [1 comment]
· 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.] ...
· The W3C Technical Architecture Group, on which I had the honour to serve for a couple of years, is working on a document called URNs, Namespaces, and Registries. Norm Walsh, longtime TAG member, has written a human-readable version, and I recommend it. The question of how to name things is persistently one of the hardest in Computer Science, and one of the reasons the Web succeeds is that it does a pretty good job, using URIs. If you’re thinking “Doesn’t he really mean URL?”, check out The Universal Republic of Love). However, every so often a group of people says “Hey, URIs beginning with
http: are addresses, not names, and we need names, persistent names, so we’ll invent a new URI scheme.” They are nearly always wrong; it takes a whole lot of thinking about the notions of names and addresses to achieve clarity, and wanting a new URI scheme is usually evidence that you haven’t. I’ve tried to explain this dozens of times, but I think Norm does a better job than I ever have.
· Recently, in discussion of a design for a comments system, I noted that I wasn’t planning to use a database, and I even allowed my self a little fun sneering at the idea. I got several reasonable-sounding emails from reasonable-sounding people saying “Why on earth wouldn’t you?” Here’s why ...
Comments on Camping
· Last month I said I’d make a comment system for ongoing, and I got lots of good advice. Several of the people who wrote suggested I consider Camping, so I decided to give that a try, and started today ...
Measuring the Web
· This is the title of a talk I gave on May 7th, 1996 (over ten years ago!) at the Fifth International World Wide Web Conference, at La Défense in Paris. It won a gold medal from the Mayor of Paris (one of two at the conference thus distinguished) which I display in my office; I worked awfully hard on that paper. I wanted to cite it recently, but the WWW5 Web Site has been AWOL the last few times I’ve tried to go there. Coincidentally, I ran across the conference CD in a recent basement re-organization. So I’ve staged it here: Measuring the Web. It’s no more than a historical curiosity now, but it’s a history that’s not that well documented. Plus there are some pretty pictures. Occasionally I wonder what might have happened if I’d been smart enough to follow up on the significance of the notion of “visibility”.
· Once again I’m drowning in little tech-news tidbits that I think the world needs to look at: hence a Friday linkfest: Item: John Cowan’s TagSoup has reached 1.0. This is going to be an essential tool for so many people. Item: Assaf Arkin, in Why Blogs Work, explains it all. Item: Kimbro Staken provides 10 things to change in your thinking when building REST XML Protocols. Item: InfoQ has launched; does the world need another software-news site? Quite possibly. Item: From Mark Nottingham, HInclude; this is pointing in the same direction as Ingy’s Jemplate, and unless I’m missing something obvious, it’s an important direction.
· We push technology along slowly, gaining a bit here and a bit there. Most improvements, in anything, are incremental; the big advances, every one of ’em, are rooted in the fertile soil whose grains are all those little steps forward. Here are a few grains. Item: Bruce Eckel squeezes XML into a single Python class. Item: Niall Kennedy pulls together all the syndication specs you might need; for example see atom.feedspecs.com or itunes.feedspecs.com. Item: Peter Thomas pulls together a spine-chilling graphic mapping what happens around a Hibernate
storeItem call. Question: is what this picture shows a problem or not? Item: Charles Nutter pushes the JRuby Gems along, interestingly (and read the comments).
Drunk Men On Bots
· Yet another piece of good work in irritatingly-anonymous webspace. On Bots is at once instructive and beautiful.
Stop the Metaphors!
· Rich McManus says the Web is a platform, and reports that per Arrington, it’s an OS. I think this whole menagerie of metaphors around the Web has never been helpful and we should just stop dreaming them up. The Web isn’t a platform or a database or an API or an OS a cloud or a clickstream or any other of those things. In fact, the Web isn’t even a thing, it’s a mesh of agreements with a nice straightforward engineering rulebook. Play by the rules and you can be part of it and build something great, struggle against them and you’ll look lame and you’ll fail. But don’t try to analogize it; sometimes the world has new things in it and you just have to deal with them as they are.
Go Visit Phobos
Credit 2.0™ Where It’s Due
· James Governor grumbled at me about repeatedly crediting Hal Stern for the “Web 2.0 = Writeable Web” meme, specifically pointing out Read/Write Web by Rich McManus (which is excellent). He’s got a point, but if we’re going to start down that road, we’ll end up with Tim Berners-Lee, who has repeatedly made it clear that he always thought of the Web as a place to write, not just read. And if we’re going to talk about practice not theory, you’d end up looking at Dave Winer, who pushed RSS in everyone’s face and, more important, proved that a fast-writing ornery geek could gather an audience and wield influence by, you know, doing it. And as a geek myself, I’ve always liked James Snell’s
chmod 777 web. Until this minute, I’d thought Hal was the first to nail the 2.0 connection; but now I think that James got there first (May vs. October 2005).
· I already wrote about how the NetBeans and EE guys are learning lessons from Rails. But when Roman Strobl asked me to look at his latest on instant persistence, I realized that they’ve learned the really important lesson; it’s all about instant-app screencasts featuring guys with cute European accents. Dig the way Roman says “scaffolding”. Clearly Django, Grails, and the other Web-framework wannabes need to go recruit some appealing Europeans... now here’s a radical idea: how about a woman? [Update: Django has a Eurowebcast too!]
Continuations and GUIs
· Gilad Bracha asks Will Continuations Continue? in an excellent essay about whether the JVM needs continuations. Personally I have never found them idiomatic so I have no quarrel with Gilad’s reluctance, but I entirely disagree with the line of argument he uses to back it up. He points out that Web frameworks like Seaside make excellent use of continuations, but argues that that’s a red herring because the current style of Web-human interaction is a temporary anomaly and “the future of Web apps will be different”, with AJAX signposting the way. This notion, that the Web GUI is insufficiently interactive and we need something richer, is widely held among developers and almost never among actual users of computers, and it’s entirely wrong. I can remember when people were forced to use compiled Windows and X11 applications, and most of them were extremely bad because it’s really hard to design a good interactive UI; when the Web came along, more or less everyone abandoned those UIs in favor of the Web, almost instantly and with shrieks of glee. Yes, Web UIs are drastically constrained, offer a paucity of controls, and enforce a brutally linear control flow; and these are good things. I remember, in the early days, people saying “Once you know how to use one Windows app, you know how to use them all”. Ha ha ha. But you know what? Once you know how to use a browser, you are well on the way to being able to use most Web apps. The best AJAX apps are still very Web-like (as in, the Back button always works); but they’re faster and more responsive and nicer to look at. The worst AJAX apps are like bad Nineties VB. Having said all that, I suspect that Gilad’s right about continuations. [Update: More good stuff on the subject from Don Box and (especially) David Megginson. Plus a few remarks, in a superior tone, along the lines of “That silly man, can’t he see that users really want more complex user interfaces?” All, of course, from developers.] [Further: Some pro-complex-interface remarks that are actually coherent from Simon Brocklehurst (but Simon, a good browser should pre-fill forms for you and get it right almost all the time; Safari does). And there’s more solid thinking in HREF Considered Harmful; I know who writes it but he seems to be trying to hide his identity, hmm.] [Hrumph. Curtis Poe says I’m a Sapir-Whorf victim, I don’t feel the need for continuations because I’ve spent too many years using pathetic, impoverished languages like C and Java. Well, OK then; I promise to find a way to squeeze ’em into my Ruby-based comment system.]
· 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.] ...
· Let’s consider Flickr, del.icio.us, and Technorati as canonical “Web 2.0” companies. Let’s suppose that Flickr is popular because it’s a good way to organize and publish pictures, which is useful. And that del.icio.us is popular because it’s a good way to organize and publish links, which is useful. And that Technorati is popular because it’s a good way to find out what people are saying right now, which is useful. And let’s suppose that the facts that they all do tags and are frequently described in sentences that include the word “social”, just suppose those things are ephemeral, and the success is about doing useful things for individuals. How old-fashioned. Every day that goes by I believe more and more that the only important new thing is that the Net is read-write. Everything that matters follows from that.
Making Web Video
· Yesterday I reported on shooting high-def video with the new Sony HDR-HC1, and the trials and tribulations of trying to generate computer-display output. When last I wrote, my PowerBook couldn’t manage to play the 800x450 MPEG-4 encoded QuickTimes unless they were encoded at “Medium” quality. Well, I’ve also got this Ultra 20 with a 2.66GHz Opteron and an NVIDIA Quadro FX 1400 (!) so I fired up the Nexenta α4 package manager and picked up mplayer. Bug: Mplayer wouldn’t play the
.mov files from the GUI; must report. Anyhow, that combo eats those QuickTimes for breakfast, I even made a High-quality 435M 1920x1080 version and they all ran without a hitch or a glitch. The fan fired up, so I guess things were working kind of hard. But still, something’s not quite right. When the picture’s moving I can see scan lines and pixelation, but I want that creamy smoothness that iMovie manages, and that I see in online movie trailers. So... Dear LazyWeb: Can iMovie be made to morph high-def DV files into something really good-looking? For encoders, it offers: Apple encoders including H.263, a bunch of DVCPRO variants, H.261/263/264, Motion JPEG A and B, and Sorenson Video. Or maybe I need to junk iMovie and get something else? [Update: Lots of input! Several people say “De-interlace!” and I have a pointer from Mike Curtis to his useful-looking HD for Indies. Stand by for more when I get a couple hours free.]
· Eek! A new acronym! Something our profession probably can do without, and (blush) I seem to have invented it. I have to say, though, the T-Shirt is OK. [Later...] And thus a micro-meme: MADD (and from its comments APPS, MADR); MAUDE (comments: FIDPAM, with none other than Mårten Mickos proposing MARTEN); WASTE; HATE; and PAID (where the comments are outta control, I tell ya, outta control: LAPD (“It Beats All The Other Frameworks”), MAID, PADL, RADKAWNP, POWNED, GLAPOD, “we're all gonna get Linux, Apache, Internet, Django!”, PDL, and PADD). I think it’s time to put a stop to this.
The Rails Lesson
· Over at Geertjan’s blog, The Best Feature Of The Upcoming NetBeans IDE 5.5 is the strongest evidence I’ve seen that the mainstream Java universe is really paying attention to that lesson. Sure, over at the excellent Aquarium, you can read about how they’re slaving away in the engine room trying to make Java EE.next simpler and simpler and yet simpler. But I haven’t been convinced that they’ve got to a place yet where they’re going to win lots of converts from PHP and Rails. But this GlassFish+IDE combo is really coming along: in Geertjan’s example, he makes what looks like a basic CRUD app with no coding and no file editing. In particular, it looks like they’re getting close to Rails levels of DRY (“Don’t Repeat Yourself”). Geertjan skips lightly over the database-selection wizard; I wonder how much more than “use these tables” it needs? [Update: He follows up with the details.] And the Rails people will be asking “What is this ‘Deploy’ of which you speak?” But still, we’re in interesting territory. [Update: Not ten minutes after writing this, I ran across Java web frameworks - the Rails influence, which in turn led me to the (excellent, albeit in PDF) Java Web Frameworks Sweet Spots. Did I say “interesting territory”? Interesting times, too.] [Update: It turns out that the infrastructure Geertjan showed off was by Pavel Buzek, who writes about the process and seems like a Major Force for Good. It’s guys like him who are going to cost Berlind the price of a nice dinner.]
LAMP and MARS
· At that Rails conference, when I was talking to Obie Fernandez, he asked, more or less “How can Sun love us? We’re not Java” and I said, more or less, “Hey, you’re programmers, you write software and there have to be computers to run it, we sell computers, why wouldn’t we love you?” Anyhow, we touched on parallelism a bit and I talked up the T1; Obie took that ball and ran with it, saying all sorts of positive things about synergy between Rails’ shared-nothing architecture and our multicore systems. Yeah, well, good in theory, but I’m too old to make that kind of prediction without running some tests. Hah, it turns out that Joyent has been doing that, and have 76 PDF slides on the subject. If you care about big-system scaling issues, read the whole thing; a little long, but amusing and with hardly any bullet lists. If you’re a Sun shareholder looking for a pick-me up, check out slides 40-41, 49, and 52-74. Oh, I gather that the T1, Solaris, and ZFS are OK for Java too. [Update: The title was just “SAMR”, as in LAMP with two new letters. Enough people didn’t get it that I was forced to think about it, and MARS works better anyhow.] [Update: Bryan Cantrill shows how to profile Rails with DTrace.]
Hyatt on the High-Res Web
· Check out Dave Hyatt’s excellent write-up on designing and rendering Web pages so they take advantage of the higher-resolution screens that may be coming our way. I emphasize “may” because I’ve seen how slowly we’ve picked up pixels over the years. The first really substantial screen I ever worked on was a 1988-vintage Sun workstation with about a million pixels. The Mac on my lap right now, which has 125 times as much memory as that workstation, has only 1.38 million pixels. Anyhow, Hyatt has some smart things to say on the issues, which are trickier than you might think. I suspect that sometime in a couple of years, if I still care about ongoing, I’m going to have to go back and reprocess all the images so that higher-res versions are available for those who have the screens and don’t mind downloading bigger files. Anyhow, Dave’s piece may be slightly misleading in that he talks about SVG as though it’s something coming in the future. Not so, check out this nifty SVG Atom logo, which works fine in all the Mozilla browsers I have here. Load it up, resize the window, and watch what happens. Then do a “view source”. [Update: Jeff Schiller writes to tell me that Opera 9 does SVG (and Opera 8 “SVG Tiny”) too.] [Dave Walker writes: Though the shipping version of Safari doesn’t support SVG, the nightlies do.] [Dave Lemen points to JPEG 2000 as possibly useful in a high-res context.]
The Cost of AJAX
Rails Asset Naming
· I said that I’d been nervous about one particular Rails innovation, rolling timestamps into the URIs of static assets, for example
/images/img23.jpg?20060412191322, because it had the smell of level-mixing about it. So I talked to DHH about it, and he swore up and down that when the timestamp (and hence the name) changes it’s because this really is a new thing (Resource, in Web terms), not a changed version of the same thing. This leaves one question in my mind; does the system allow for someone to link to the
?20060412191322 version after it’s been replaced by one with a
?20070223101354 timestamp? Because if the old one is automagically gone after the new one arrives, I wonder if it really is a new thing. The reason they do this is obvious; they can set this kind of thing cacheable-forever at the HTTP level and really cut down, first on needless traffic, but more important, on user-perceived latency. Which is a good thing.
Canada on Rails
· As I was picking up my badge from the slinky black-cocktail-dress-wearing women (huh?) at the registration desk, this guy came running up saying “We’re sold out! Don’t sell any more!” And the conference was packed, all right. Herewith notes on DHH’s keynote, the crowd, and BDD from Dave Astels ...
Those Cruel Irish
· People inside Sun were gleefully emailing around Colm MacCárthaigh’s big Niagara benchmark post and I was reading and found myself laughing out loud. The synopsis is: it’s a big serious benchmark and the box did great, pretty well slaughtering both a Dell Xeon and a Dell Itanium. But jeepers, those Irish dudes are heartless, I’m surprised there weren’t smoking shards of casing and silicon on the floor. I think most Apache & *n*x geeks would find themselves gasping and snickering a bit at Colm’s write-up, but there’s some real wisdom there too about filesystem and server tuning and so on, although some of the tricks are definitely don’t-try-this-at-home. Anyhow, here are some cute samples:
“Also, in each case, the system was pretty much unusable by the time we were done!”
“... about 83,000 concurrent downloads.”
[They managed to crash Solaris with the experimental event MPM]: “Then again, it was handling about 30,000 requests at the time, with no accept mutex.”
“Of course, no server should ever be allowed to get into that kind of insane territory.”
“Note: these are stupid values for a real-world server... really only useful if you are doing some insane benchmarking and testing.”
“...5718 requests per second.”
Hey Jonathan, let ’em keep the box. [Update: They’re keeping it.]
Sam Destroys the Internets
· Check out Sam Ruby’s latest... but only in a browser. His use of
<plaintext>, which turns out to be an obsolete HTML tag (I’d never seen it, and I’ve been doing this shit since 1994), has exploded Bloglines (no biggie, Bloglines is basically unmaintained these days) and demolished PlanetApache (scroll down a bit). PlanetJava has silent data loss, and del.icio.us is barfing angle-brackets. It’s only a matter of hours before the Web Implodes, Wall Street Crashes, and mobs of looters take apart downtown Topeka, Kansas. Stock up on dried foods. [Update: Lauren points out that
<plaintext> is defined, but deprecated, in the HTML RFC from 1995. How many more scary forgotten tags are lurking in the codebase, I wonder?] [Update: You might want to go back to Sam’s post and read the comments, which are instructive and entertaining.]
Styles: Beyond WS and REST
· There’s been a recent mini-flurry around REST and alleged subsets such as “Lo-REST” and “Hi-REST”. Initiator: Don Box. Responses: Obasanjo, Jonnay, Glazkov, Megginson, and Tomayko. My thanks to all of them for keeping this stuff in the front of my mind. I’m not sure that “Web Services” and “REST” are useful names for the interesting network-application styles. But I’m pretty sure I know what those styles are ...
· Hey check out the Feed Icons site. Now you, too, can have the Universal Feed Icon in any size and (with a bit of PhotoShop hacking) color that you like. Observe the sample here at ongoing, now smaller, color-coordinated, and repositioned. The idea of a simple uniform graphic that still has some room for customization, is that great or what? [Update: Ivan Sagalaev polished up the little green goober, giving it rounder corners; thanks!]
APP Test Suite
· No specification or standard is really ready for prime time until it has a test suite. The Atom Publishing Protocol already has one, and it hasn’t even shipped yet. Way to go!
· For my “Atom as a Case Study” presentation at ETech, I wanted to give the audience a feel for the endless, wearing nastiness in the syndication community. It wasn’t hard to find a couple of samples of ignorant childish vituperation from the week before the conference to hold up as examples, but I thought that a little light relief was in order, too. So I put together a photomontage slide show to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries, 25 pictures of battlefield panoramas, alien invaders, monsters fighting, Mexican wrestling, superhero combat, slavering vampires, frightened soldiers, crashing planes, fantasy warriors with big ugly weapons, and so on. It was kind of amusing, if I say so myself. After the talk someone came up and asked “What tag did you use to find that stuff?” It wasn’t like that; back at home on the weekend I was poking around Google and Yahoo image search looking for things like “combat”, “monster”, “explosion“, “battle”, “weapon”, and so on and the six-year-old cruised by and looked at my screen. Boy, was he ever hooked. So I settled him into the chair beside me and we spent a really enjoyable half-hour cruising the Internet for pictures of violence and destruction (Safe Search definitely on). He was quick to pipe up “Ooh, that one, Daddy!” but puzzled by a couple of my picks. Quality time, they call it, bonding, that kind of thing. Am I a Bad Parent?
The ASF Server
· Sun gave the Apache Software Foundation a server last year, and I kept hearing, over coffee and beer, that they were running some scary-huge number of projects on it, all independently via zones; really remarkable numbers. I kept asking them to write about it, and they kept not writing. So here’s an email interview with Mads Toftum, who does a lot of sysadmin-ing around the ASF. I don’t know how typical their workload is, but I’m an old sysadmin myself and I found this pretty interesting. Mads doesn’t blow his own horn much, but this is a remarkable installation ...
· I should really buckle down and try writing a PHP app because, at the moment, I have an attitude problem. I know that IBM now officially loves it, and Tim O’Reilly’s been charting the upcurve in PHP book sales, and everyone’s saying that Oracle’s going to buy Zend. If you want your ears bent back, have a listen to Zend CEO Doron Gerstel; he’ll tell you that half the websites in the world are powered by PHP and that there are 2½ million developers and that the war is over and PHP won. So here’s my problem, based on my limited experience with PHP (deploying a couple of free apps to do this and that, and debugging a site for a non-technical friend here and there): all the PHP code I’ve seen in that experience has been messy, unmaintainable crap. Spaghetti SQL wrapped in spaghetti PHP wrapped in spaghetti HTML, replicated in slightly-varying form in dozens of places. Everyone agrees on PHP’s upsides: it’s written for the web, it’s easy to deploy and get running, and it’s pretty fast. Those are important advantages. And I’m sure that it’s possible to write clean, comprehensible, maintainable, PHP; only apparently it’s real easy not to. But PHP has competition, most obviously Rails; and don’t write the Java EE crowd off, they’re not stupid at all and they’re trying to learn the lessons that PHP is trying to teach. So PHP has earned everyone’s respect by getting where it is, and Sun should reach out to it more than we have. But in the big picture, it feels vulnerable to me. [Wow, I regret not having comments. There’s been some first-rate discussion in email and on other blogs. On this occasion, I’m going to create a virtual comment section by posting the good ones here.] [There is a new, good pro-PHP rant from Harry Fuecks, and with that I’m going to stop adding to this discussion, unless somebody says something strikingly new. Thanks everyone! I’ve added a brief Table of Contents to try to bring some order to the chaos.] ...
Java EE 5
· We’re announcing all sorts of Betas today: NetBeans, Java EE, and so on. Blogs are being aggregated on The Aquarium. I think the strongest statement is Graham Hamilton: Raving about Java EE 5. A couple of days ago I wrote “don’t write the Java EE crowd off, they’re not stupid at all...” Check Graham’s bullet list under “wide ranging goals”; definitely my kind of stuff. Maybe I should try writing that comment system in EE rather than RoR; if EE’s entry level could be engineered down to the point where it’s plausible for one-man projects, that would be a game-changer.
Rails in Vancouver
· It turns out they’re holding what’s advertised as “the first ever 100% Ruby on Rails event in the world” right here in Vancouver, April 13-14: Canada on Rails. I’ll go for sure. Given the enthusiasm that built up around that PHP piece, I’m thinking that a comment system for ongoing is inevitable, and maybe RoR is just the ticket. [Snicker... the URI of the registration page ends in
· Camino 1.0 is out. I just switched it in as my default browser. It’s basically the latest Firefox code with a slightly better Mac wrapper than Firefox’s own. I’ve left Safari behind, then gone back to it, several times now, but its latest sin is random unpredictable spinning-beachball slowdowns (I have the impression that visiting any page at msnbc.com tends to start this, but that’s just anecdotal). Camino is really very very good indeed. I’ll let you know how this goes. [Update: I ran across an obscure little zooming buglet and sent a note to the feedback address; got email back within a few hours saying “Yeah, known issue, working on it.” Is that cool or what?]
The Real AJAX Upside
· People like it because it’s snappy and responsive and lets you do nifty interactive stuff in the browser. But AJAX may be a big enough network-engineering win that the UI sparkle starts to look like a fringe benefit. Herewith some illustrations by example and a snicker at history ...
· I did some fine-tuning. If you’re reading this in a browser rather than a feedreader, there’s a little picture in the margin that changes every so often; clicking on it teleports you into the archives. It should work better now and even tells you where it’ll take you. If I broke anything, do please let me know. It’s simultaneously brutally-minimalist and slightly-AJAXy, some geeks might be amused at the details ...
Ian Kallen on Web 2.0
· It turns out that Ian Kallen, one of the people responsible for the fact that Technorati is now reliably online, working, and responsive (whenever I go there at least), has a blog and it’s pretty good. Today, he calls for a Web 2.0 moratorium.
Hey Thanks, Firefox!
· Via Rob Sayre, word that Firefox 18.104.22.168 (will auto-update) will contain the fix for Bug 262222, which kept Atom 1.0 feeds that use
xml:base and relative links from working, notably including this one. We do make progress. Now if Bloglines would just get a clue...
PHP Calendar Fun
· Here’s the problem: Dr. Wood and I both have complicated jobs plus we have a family, so just like everyone else in the world, keeping in sync is a problem. Herewith a painful half-finished story of trying to solve it with technology. The conclusion is painfully obvious: whoever first provides a family-scheduling tool that non-geeks can use and Just Works with the tools most people run their calendars on is going to make a lot of money and do Humanity a major service ...
Upcoming Gig: ETech
· Sometime in the March 7-9 window I’ll be talking about “Atom as a Case Study” at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, which is billed as being about “The Attention Economy”. I’m looking forward to this just because I’ve heard good things about ETech, but never been to one before.
· What happened was, the new cat went in for that little operation to ensure that he will be the Last of the Marlowes, and the vet offered us the option of either the ear-tattoo or implanted-microchip for permanent identification, recommending the microchip as more reliable (tattoos fade). This Microchip is I gather some sort of RFID technology, and as of now, Marlowe has a permanent unique identifier. I feel a new URI scheme coming on: just call little Marlowe
pet:cat:982009102637565. My head is buzzing: Resource Description of Felines... POAF... cat semantics! The future awaits. [Update: It’s not that easy; I should have known, as I’ve often quoted Phil Karlton’s wise saying “There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things”. Including pets. (Thanks to Joe Pallas for the link.)]
Writing and Speaking
· Right now I’m working on my ApacheCon keynote. I decided not to use slides; actually, that’s not quite true, I have exactly four slides, which contain, in aggregate, five words. (I will, however, have props). This means that I pretty well have to write out the whole speech. I’m doing it here in ongoing as a blog entry, simply because I’ve got a highly-tuned writing environment where I can go fast. I’m not going to hit the “publish” button because unlike some people, I don’t have the courage to show the world half-baked works-in-progress, and anyhow, it contains a real actual Product Announcement. What’s interesting is that as I go back and forth editing the text, I’m conscious that these are words to be spoken, rather than read off the screen, and it makes a big difference. Among other things, it means that when I’m finished, if I decide to publish it here, I’m going to have to go back and do a major re-write, because while I hope it sounds natural coming off the stage, it sure doesn’t read like anything I’d write.
2.0 is Read-Write?
· Hal Stern says that if, wherever someone uses the phrase “Web 2.0”, you substitute “Read-Write Web”, you get a much more useful description of the same thing. Sounds plausible to me.
On Beyond Java — the Web
· Bruce Tate’s Beyond Java is really Web-centric; he argues forcefully that lightweight Web apps are one of the forces driving people towards things like Ruby on Rails and Seaside, as opposed, say, to Java EE. My observations are mostly consistent with Bruce’s, which as a Sun employee makes me think a lot about how we can haul the Java platform into the lightweight-web-app sweet spot. (So far I’ve failed to convince the Software organization to redirect most of the Java EE engineering resources into a radical pursuit of Convention over Configuration. [He’s kidding -Ed.]) But Bruce’s book had me all cranked up to write about the Right Way To Program The Web, and then synchronicity whacked me upside the head with a demo I saw today, and I’m bathing in Web-architectural angst ...
Seems Like Forever
· But it’s only Technorati’s third birthday. I don’t remember when I first stumbled across them, but I actually paid real money for a feed of pointers to my brand-new blog. Nobody who hasn’t been behind the firewall at Technorati or one of their competitors can grasp how pathologically hard it’s been to keep a service like that up and running in the face of the continuing insane growth of the blogosphere; they’ve had some tough times but it’s been a long time since they weren’t there when I needed them. Today, Nicholas Carr tries to explain the big picture that Technorati and their sector fit into. I don’t know, I think anyone who claims to understand what’s going on is being awfully damn brave. Interestingly, I’ve heard Dave Sifry make a compelling big-picture pitch several times that’s as convincing as anything I’ve read, and as far as I know he’s never actually written it down. Dave? [Disclosure: I may have a conflict of interest with respect to Technorati.]
Fair is Fair
· And borked is borked. A few days back, I flamed away at the egregiously-broken markup over at MSDN. Alex Barnett over at MSDN points out that our own Sun Developer Network site isn’t valid either. Not as bad as MSDN (I noticed the problem there because it misdisplays on Safari) but still borked. It’s pathetic, just pathetic, when two of the leading developers’ resources on the Web can’t get their shit together and emit valid web content. Guys, go buy Zeldman and Shea and, like I said before, get a clue. [Update: Make that “borked is borked is borked”; per James Snell, IBM too. Let’s those of us working for the companies behind those sites all do some more public shouting and private pleading, and maybe we can make ’em do the right thing.]
· I was glancing at my server logfiles, and was impressed, as always, by the huge number of feed-readers out there. So I made a graph of how often the ongoing feeds have been fetched so far this year, and the popularity of RSS vs. Atom 1.0 ...
Web Tracking Snapshot
· There are many services that claim to be “blog search”, but that’s the wrong way to think about it. There are a (very) few occasions when I want to go and search for “what’s new on X”, and there are lots of ways to do that (the new Sphere is looking good in that space). But what I want to do 24/7, as long as the computer is turned on, is what I call Web Tracking: being told right away when there’s something new on the Web that I care about. I subscribe to a lot of Web Tracking services; herewith a snapshot of my impressions ...
You’re Being Watched
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.] ...
· This week I had a pleasant, relaxed, sit-down conversation with Jimmy Wales, the main man behind the Wikipedia. The purpose of this note is to pass along some interesting facts about the project that I hadn’t previously known. This is timely in that there has been a recent flare-up of the usual Wikipedia controversies, with mostly the same old players flinging the same old slime; those who care might want to revisit my essay from last year, which takes a careful look at the project as contrasted to the world of conventional reference publishing. I stand by my conclusion: the Wikipedia dwarfs its critics. The rest of this piece is just a recitation of facts, but some of them are surprising. [Update: PHP@Yahoo!] ...
Bosworth in ACM
· I recommend that everyone go read Learning From the Web, a substantial essay by Adam Bosworth, in the latest ACM Queue. It doesn’t say anything new that Adam hasn’t been telling everyone for the last couple of years, but it’s nice to have a canonical version of his message written down somewhere, for the world to point to and learn from.
Measuring It All
· Dave Sifry has launched another State of the Blogosphere series; normally I’d wait till he’d finished up the whole series and point to them all. But Part 1 is worth highlighting because he has some numbers on the splog surge that got so much attention this past weekend. Dave’s numbers suggest that there’s less there than meets the eye; that the numbers and reach of splogs are limited. It’s just that their automated content generation managed to cause them to fill up the ego feeds of a bunch of loudmouthed widely-read bloggers, who all screamed simultaneously. Of course the real news is: yes, the ’sphere continues to double in size every five months. These are getting to be some big numbers, momma.
What’s Going On?
Scoble ♥ RDF
· Check out Scoble’s speculation on The Perfect Search: he’d like to find a hotel in New York with free WiFi, a good view, and good food, in a particular price-range. Rob, meet Tim Berners-Lee; Tim, meet Rob. Rob wants the Semantic Web. In particular, today’s freshest SemWeb flavor is something called SPARQL; see Kendall Clark’s human-readable intro. SPARQL is an answer to the question “What if I want to do SQL-like querying when I know perfectly well that everybody will be using their own incompatible database schema?” I’ve been a SemWeb skeptic, but I look at SPARQL and I think: Suppose you could assemble a ton of property-value pairs about web sites, and suppose on the front end you could build a nice responsive query page that allowed you to compose queries like Scoble’s hotel search; well then, SPARQL would be more or less exactly what you need to bridge the gap. Hey, isn’t Guha’s Alpiri project more or less that back-end? And isn’t Guha working at Google now? Hmmmmmm...
· Jonathan was giving a keynote and asked the audience: “Would you rather give up your browser, or all the rest of your desktop apps?” The answer is obvious, but the follow-on questions are real interesting. Most ordinary database-backed business apps have migrated into the browser and they’re not coming back, no matter how great Windows Vista is. Given that, what kind of apps justify the irritation and inconvenience of having to download ’em and update ’em and back up the data and so on? Jonathan lists a few, including the browser itself, Skype, Google Earth, OpenOffice. But what’s the pattern behind that list? From right now in 2005, I see three families of desktop apps that are here for the long haul: First the browser itself, including variations like news readers and music finders, whether P2P or centralized. Second, realtime human-to-human communication, spanning the spectrum from text to voice to video. Third, content creation: PhotoShop, Excel, DreamWeaver, and whatever we’ll need for what we’re creating tomorrow. And like Jonathan says, as does Tim O’Reilly way down at the bottom of Page 3 of his big What is Web 2.0? essay, as did the Government of Massachusetts: all those bits and bytes that are the numbers and reports and stories and poetry and pictures and music and video we’re creating and shipping and searching and sharing? They’ll be open, non-proprietary, re-use limited only by their creator and your imagination. Nothing else makes any sense.
· I just spent some of the afternoon rewriting a chunk of the ongoing code. If anything’s broken, do let me know. Read on for some notes on the process and the technology ...
· Starting way last year, I noticed occasional fetches of the big versions of the pictures here at ongoing from places like xanga, LiveJournal, and MySpace. Turns out it was mostly teenage bloggers using my shots as background images, it seemed harmless, but then the volume went up and up and I did the arithmetic, and it was adding up to many gigabytes a month. So I blocked ’em, but I feel a little sad; herewith some notes on who these kids are and what kind of pictures they like ...
· When we were out on the Prairies last week, we took the kid to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, which is generally very good, especially Megamunch. Much to my surprise, there was an exhibit on Internet Explorer, up through release 6, and I got a picture ...
· I just wanted to say how much I’ve come to dislike this “Web 2.0” faux-meme. It’s not only vacuous marketing hype, it can’t possibly be right. In terms of qualitative changes of everyone’s experience of the Web, the first happened when Google hit its stride and suddenly search was useful for, and used by, everyone every day. The second—syndication and blogging turning the Web from a library into an event stream—is in the middle of happening. So a lot of us are already on 3.0. Anyhow, I think Usenet might have been the real 1.0. But most times, the whole thing still feels like a shaky early beta to me. [Tim O’Reilly responds at length. I’ll have more to say, but Tim’s piece deserves some contemplation on its own before that; also, this would be a good time for others to enter the conversation.] [Here’s my follow-on piece.]
· That stands for “State of the Blogosphere”, a recurring multipart essay that Dave Sifry distills out of the Technorati numbers every five months or so; coincidentally, those numbers keep showing the space doubling in size every five months or so. The latest installment, tracking posting-volume growth, is in my opinion the interesting one. The number of blogs is interesting, but then quite a few are dead and quite a few more are spam; actual real postings are probably the closest thing we really have to a finger on the collective pulse. This piece talks about a posting volume around 900,000/day, and this morning I was chatting online with Dave and he says it’s hitting a million on weekdays. By the way, if you’re lecturing about this whole blogging thing, Dave’s graphics are a real good resource, ask him and he’ll probably be happy to have you use them. [Disclosure: I may or may not have a conflict of interest; read on for details.] ...
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 ...
Look This Way, Apple
· Per Sam Ruby’s request, this is an appeal for someone who matters at Apple to please look here. Obviously, there are people at Apple who understand the Net, but for the ones who seem not to, the ones who built the iTunes RSS, here’s how it works: The Internet isn’t a thing. It’s an agreement. A set of agreements actually, and when you go out and build software without trying to understand them, you’re damaging the Net and you’re damaging your own future. Because and simple-minded and platitudinous as it sounds, business works better when things work together, and we have agreements in place to make things work together, and we should use them.
Carlyle on REST & O-O
· You wouldn’t think there’d be much new to say on the impedance mismatch between the O-O & REST world-views, but Benjamin Carlyle has a very good piece on the subject, with lots of well-thought-out little side-trips. The blog’s called Sound advice and a glance suggests that there’s lots more there worth reading.
Long Weekend News
· While most of North America was offline watching fireworks or whatever, the row of tabs across the top of my browser has been getting thicker and thicker with little news nuggets that I thought I ought to write about. Time to houseclean, so here are some interesting things you might have missed. Item: Eric Raymond says we don’t need the GPL any more. Item: Davanum Srinivas points out that OSS implementations of WS-Security may be impossible, foundering on the same rock that Sender-ID did. Item: The WaSP and Microsoft, sittin’ in a tree (and as Scoble notes, ice is observed forming in Hell). Item: Rico continues to pile up buzz.
XML and Religion
· I suspect that most people who read me also read Adam Bosworth. But if you don’t, do.
Search Engine Rankings
· Recently, someone from a Google competitor told me that they were catching up, within a few percentage points. I didn’t believe that at all, but I decided that intuition is boring and hard data is interesting. So I went and ran search engine rankings for ongoing weekly through 2005. The numbers are surprising, to say the least. [Update: Thought-provoking feedback, and some conclusions] [And more feedback from Search Engine Watch.]. ...
TV and the Web
· I had a haircut during the Pope’s funeral. My hairdresser knows me well enough to switch it away from Oprah or equivalent and over to CNN or equivalent when I’m in the chair, so I got to watch a half-hour of that coverage. At one point they broke from the endless succession of talking heads and panoramic crowd shots to “visit with the bloggers”; they had two attractive young things propped up in front of flat-panels to tell us what the bloggers were saying about the late Pope. I found it disturbing. To start with, Andrew Sullivan, one of the top ten most popular bloggers in the world, is a gay right-wing anguished-Catholic type (and in the unlikely event that his theology is correct, will spend a couple millennia in Purgatory over some of his 9/11 commentary, but that’s another story); he was emitting multiple intense, erudite, from-the-heart bulletins on the Meaning of John Paul II every day. I’d also read a half-dozen really challenging papacy pieces on a bunch of other blogs; for example, whatever you may think of JP2, he presided over the possibly-terminal decline of his church in Western Europe, what does that mean? Did CNN cover any of those? They did not; they went to a half-dozen apparently random selections where the writers were saying things along the lines of “I’m like so sad.” They were pretty well all from blogspot.com. When the camera focused in, you couldn’t read anything. There was one that was mildly interesting and they read off the address but something went wrong because when I went there, I found no Pope stuff. So am I a filthy anti-Long-Tail elitist because I was disturbed by CNN’s apparent lack of concern for quality and intensity?
Talking to Yahoo
· I had a good talk yesterday with Jeff Weiner, Senior VP of Search and Marketplace over at Yahoo! I shouldn’t pass on what Jeff said; anyhow if he wants to talk to the world, he has a blog. But I can talk about what I said: first, Y! should be watching the Atom protocol work like a hawk, because they have two choices: either they try to beat everyone else out there and build the world’s greatest authoring tool, or they get behind a standardized protocol and let the cellphone guys and PDA people and let everyone compete to do it. Second, we were talking about improving search in general; near as I can tell, there isn’t a huge quality gap between Y!, Google, and MSN, and it’s hard to believe that any of them can sustainably get much ahead of the rest. On the other hand, I think Y! has a good chance to take on Google in the advertising space, both AdSense and AdWords, and maybe win. They know a whole lot of stuff about a whole lot of people; for example, they know my stock-market portfolio and what weather forecasts and maps I look up; they probably have more information about more individuals than anyone else in the business. On behalf of all those advertising sellers and buyers: it would sure be nice to see some competition. Maybe even some transparency.
Still Needs Measuring
· Here are some questions about the “Average Web Page”: How big is it? Does it have pictures? How many others does it point to? How many others point to it? Nine years ago I offered answers to those questions, with pretty pictures even (some included here), and those answers are still interesting, but it would be nice if someone would repeat the exercise for today’s Web. Plus, another reason to be mad at Microsoft ...
· Last month, Dave Sifry published three more installments in his continuing State of the Blogosphere series (parts 1, 2, and 3). Those are some impressive numbers, and Dave is doing outstanding work in digging into them from a bunch of different directions.
Sam Slams SAJAX
· “AJAX” is a convenient label for the architecture of applications like Google Maps and Visual Net from Antarctica Systems (which I founded). There’s nothing wrong with the idea. But Sam Ruby spots SAJAX, one of the first toolkits, going horribly off the rails, as in empowering the theft of money from your grandmother’s bank account. What Sam said. [Update: Thomas Lackner, SAJAX guy, writes on the subject of Sam’s note: “As per his suggestions I’ve added POST support to version 0.10 and posted a sticky thread on the message board advising users when it is best to use POST instead of GET. If you, as a wizard, have any other suggestions for the toolkit or know anyone who would like to contribute a Java/J2EE backend (sadly missing), I’d appreciate it.”] [Update again: Sam’s unconvinced.]
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.] ...
· After a day of severe blogospheric battering, I went and spent some quality time with the Google Toolbar beta. Summary: I went over the top, was too nasty, and shouldn’t have fulminated about legal action, and I’m sorry. But, I still believe this feature as positioned now is either evil or stupid or both. But, it could be fixed. But, it doesn’t matter that much because AutoLink is actually kind of useless and anyhow, the Google Toolbar is doomed ...
Google Is Wrong
· There’ve been a couple of weeks to think about it, and the more I think about it, the more it seems obvious that Google has gone seriously off the rails with the new AutoLink feature of their toolbar. On this one, I’m lining up with Dave Winer, Rob Scoble, and Zeldman. Google has established a relationship of trust with many millions of people: they provide a good service and they make good money doing it, and that’s just fine. It seems so obvious that this move is not only evil but stupid; I keep hearing that MSN is pretty good these days, but Microsoft isn’t trustworthy, so I don’t go there. If I don’t trust Google either, all bets are off. Anyhow, this is a policy problem not a technical problem, so here’s a suggestion: perhaps our friends at Creative Commons could have a look and develop a professional legal opinion as to whether their licenses, like the one I use, are infringed by AutoLink (my non-professional opinion is that Google’s damn close to the edge). If not, perhaps they could create a variant license that clearly rules it out of order. Then Google stops, or we sue their ass. [Update: This was controversial; a lot of people disagreed, publicly and one-on-one. So I researched some more and wrote this; check it out.]
· Jon Udell is really on a roll. He more or less singlehandedly invented screencasting (I first noticed here), and I guess I’m about the last person in the world to have visited his Walking Tour of Keene, NH, which combines Google Maps and GPS and other assorted magic... in case I’m not the last, don’t you be. Something new is happening here.
Dodging Thought Leaders
· At the Northern Voice party I was talking with Scoble about the Google “smart-tags”-redux mini-scandal. He was pointing out once again that Google doesn’t have to play by the rules that govern Microsoft. (For how long, I wonder?) I remarked that I hadn’t heard about any first-hand experiences since few people I work with live on Windows. But Lauren was there and I’d sent her a pointer to the Google thing, so I asked her what she thought. “How would I know?”, she said, “It’s IE-only.” The proportion of thought leaders who use IE on Windows is trending to zero. But you’d have to be really paranoid—more than me, even—to suspect Google of a deliberate dodge. Whatever; releasing anything IE-only generally sucks.
· The Net today is standing on slightly firmer foundations than it was a few weeks back. On December 15th, the W3C issued Architecture of the World Wide Web, Volume One as a “Recommendation”, i.e. as close as they get to calling anything a standard. If you read it, there’s a lot of focus on URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers, as in what we usually confuse with the Universal Republic of Love). Today saw the final publication of the URI specification as RFC3986, also known (even more impressively) as IETF Internet Standard #66; some of the IETF’s most widely-deployed protocols never make it to “Full Standard” status. I’m hopelessly biased because I helped write both of these documents, but I think that each is individually important and that the combination is really important. Most people can’t possibly imagine how much work it is to grind these things out, and how many revisions it takes to get one right. I originally wrote all of what is now Section 6 of RFC3986, and I think there are very few sentences in there that haven’t been updated a few times, almost all for the better, and almost all the work was done by Roy Fielding, who deserves a deep bow from us all. The Internet and the Web aren’t things and they’re not places, they’re a mesh of agreements that allow us to talk to each other and to be less stupid. These two documents are important links in that mesh.
· It’s nice to see that Google has taken up the cudgels against comment spam in what seems like an effective way. I can see another application: it allows me to express negative feelings hypertextually without collateral Google-juice damage. For example, the recent referrer-spam perps, who are pathetic losers, ineffectual morons, abusive predators, and probably deserve to be in jail. There, wasn’t that fun? Which suggests an enhancement:
rel="justlabel", which says “don’t count this link for ranking purposes, but do take its content seriously as relevant to the indicated site.”
· I live on a Macintosh, and on a Macintosh, the native browser is Safari, which is good. But a couple of times in the last week, I’ve cranked up Firefox for one reason or another, and I’m beginning to think it just may be better. Among other things, it seems to be faster. I’m about 80% of the way toward switching. Can anyone provide me with reasons not to? [Update: Some reasons: You can’t drag some pictures from Firefox, and you can’t seem to drag any to Keynote. Apparently sometimes it spins. The text-entry widget is less slick and doesn’t spell-check. Thanks to Stefan Tilkov, Steven Dieringer, Paul Beard, and Carl Robert Blesius.]
· I was idly watching my server logfiles today, pretty quiet on Sunday afternoon so it was mostly just the crawlers, and observed some puzzling behavior from the Googlebot. So I ran a few reports ...
· Scoble observed that many blogs are cruddy on cell phones. Curious, I emailed him asking how ongoing does. He wrote back “Your site looks great. One of the best I've seen so far on the phone.” I am absurdly pleased.
· At the Sells Conference, Jeff Barr just gave us an hour or so on Amazon’s latest web-services offerings. The one I liked was the Alexa Web Information Service, which gives you a programmatic hook into the big, nifty Alexa database. Here’s how cool raw HTTP+XML web services are: while Jeff was talking, I went and got myself an Amazon Subscriber ID and cobbled together a CGI script with
sed so you can type a URI into a web page and it’ll bounce back with a nice display of its Alexa rank. I’d post it here at ongoing for your pleasure, except for
curl doesn’t seem to be installed. Jeff didn’t get to AWIS until he was three-quarters of the way through his talk, but that was plenty of time. The point is, as several people here at the conference have said, it isn’t about REST or SOAP or WS-* or .NET or Java or whatever, it’s about easy.
· After an incredibly-long and twisted journey, with oceans of arguments and mountains of examples and endless testing and validation, with contributions from a crowd a people but most of the hauling-up-the-slope due to Roy Fielding (the world thanks him), RFC2396bis is an IETF Internet Standard. Read it here (to hell, I say, with the IETF’s idiotic 66-lines-by-80-column ASCII), and rejoice. There is now actually an official definition of what we mean when we say “URI” and when we say “URL” we really mean “URI” so it applies there too; an official definition, I say, which cleans up the fuzzy spots and goofy spots and absent spots, and on top of all that it’s somewhat human-readable.
· On a few occasions in this space I’ve bitched about Google, and I was getting ready to write another gripe, but I got an uneasy feeling, and here’s why: Basically, the site is great, and basically, the people who work there are great (insofar as I know them). Furthermore, I think they’re going to win the search wars for the foreseeable future. Not because of their inventiveness; I’m pretty sure that a good smart Web-savvy group of software engineers could replicate the PageRank machinery and the AdSense/AdWords marketplaces and Gmail and so on. They’re winning on the basis of execution: The site is always up and it’s always fast and you don’t get bit by bugs. That’s easy to state but it’s incredibly hard to do and it requires engineering virtuosity that I just haven’t seen equaled by anyone else. An outfit steeped in Web culture like Yahoo or Amazon or EBay might have a chance at turning the trick, but I don’t see Microsoft having the DNA for it. Note that I’m talking about the site and the people, not the company or its shares; but at the moment, I’d cheerfully bet that two years from now I’ll still be doing a lot of Web searching and that I’ll be doing most of it at Google.
· Danese Cooper has a remarkable story from the BlogOn conference, from which I quote: “Probably 99 times out of 100 when he asks that question all the hands go up, right? Well first there was a pause and then a giggle and then a whoop of laughter as the audience looked around and realized that NO ONE had raised a hand.” Don’t miss it. [Update: Make sure to read Danese’s comments, some people saw some hands go up, Scoble says 15%.] [Jonas was there too.]
· The person from the General Counsel’s office called to talk about some legal/regulatory stuff we’re pulling together, and she asked how it should be delivered. I said it would eventually end up on the Web, so why didn’t they write it as a web page. She sounded uncomfortable: “I don’t know how we’d do that,” she said. At the same time, I’m hearing private gripes from our internal writing community, from the President to the marketers to the Solaris geeks, about how their writing tools stink. The state of Web authoring tools is kind of like the state of what we used to call “Word Processing” twenty years ago when I was getting into this business. If everyone’s going to write for the Web (and it looks a lot of people are going to) we need the Web equivalents of Word Perfect and Wordstar and Xywrite and Microsoft Word, and we need them right now. The Atom protocol will give them a standardized way to push the content online, and the fact that it’s all open formats will make it real hard for a monopolist to scoop out the market. So, who’s building them? [Updated: Lots of feedback!] ...
The Lines Cross
· In the week ending Saturday July 10, 2004, for the first time, ongoing received more visits from browsers in the Mozilla family than from Internet Explorer. I’ve attached a graph ...
How To Grow HTML
· Following on some off-blog correspondence, Hyatt and the Safarians look like they’re willing to try a sensible semi-pseudo-namespaced approach. My earlier piece on this provoked a flurry of conversation. Herewith some technical notes, plus words on the culture and politics of adding new tags to our browsers’ diets ...
Party Like It’s 1996!
· I’m a major admirer of Safari and of its primary author Dave Hyatt. But a couple of Dave’s recent notes have caused me serious discomfort. Here he notes that Safari will support a new
"search" value for the
type= attribute on the
input element, and here he discusses a new
canvas element. Even more troubling is the opening phrase: Another extension we made to HTML is... I’d be really happy if someone explained to me how this is different from what Netscape and Microsoft did to each other so irritatingly back in 1996 (
<MARQUEE> anyone?). What the W3C and Web Standards Project were created to stop? [By the way, there are namespaces, there are
class= attributes, there are legitimate ways to extend HTML.] Someone please explain to me why I’m wrong, because I really hope this isn’t what it looks like.
Time with an English Accent
· I’ve been watching the new thing to see how it holds up on its first day in public, and one of the feeds was about a talking clock, something that actually I don’t want in the slightest, but it said click here for a Java WebStart demo. Frankly, I’ve had bad luck with that technology, but I gave it a whack and (after downloading a couple meg and ignoring the blood-curdling security warnings) there was this slick little app that looked entirely OS-X-native intoning the time-of-day at me Britishly. Hey, this Java stuff is gonna catch on.
Early 2004 Browser Market
· Previously I’ve posted graphs of the market shares among the browsers visiting ongoing, but I’ll skip the graphics this time because there’s no discernible movement. So far in 2004, the averages are 53% IE, 32% Mozilla family, 12.5% Safari, 2% Opera, they move up and down around that but not in any persistent direction. Go figure.
European Server Logs
· I’m visiting the OpenOffice people in Hamburg (first time in this town), and we were talking about web servers, and Svante told me that in Europe, some interpretations of the EU privacy legislation require you to either delete your webserver logfiles or ananymize the IP addresses out of them. Yow. Apache Software Foundation committers may want to check with their lawyers.
· Check out the Technorati Beta; several days each week I think Technorati is at The White-Hot Center Of It All, but that rests on the assumption that blogs are meaningful or even (dare I say the word) important. And I just don’t know; I’m too close to the problem. But I sure go there a lot.
Notes on Bosworth
· Adam Bosworth been discussing what he calls a “Web Services Browser” for months over at his blog, but I was really having trouble getting the point. After his speech here at XML 2003, I think I sort of get it ...
· While we’re on the subject of robots, a word about a particularly lame-brained idiotic abusive incompetent despicable example: I refer to the crapware known as “Que Pasa Creep” associated with the Spanish-language portal of that name, which gets no link from me. Their robot pounded ongoing unmercifully and stupidly and repetitively for the longest time till I asked it to stop via
/robots.txt, and it did, but now I’m being pounded repetitively and stupidly by something that identifies itself as
QPCreep Test Rig ( We are not indexing, just testing ) (gimme a break), which on top of its other sins apparently ignores
/robots.txt. Another day and I ask Matt to block the IP, but in the meantime, anyone who has a business relationship with these turkeys, consider not having one any more, unless of course you like dealing with moronic scofflaws. And if you’re their ISP, consider turfing them; I just complain in my blog, but some sites, when your robot breaks rules, call the FBI.
Debbie Does BitTorrent
· I had this vague idea that BitTorrent was a useful thing for snagging Linux distros and Lord of the Rings trailers, but then the Editor of a very well-known publication said, in casual conversation, that he thought it was a game-changer, something important. So I went and got it, and here’s an initial report. [Update: Good stuff from Raph Levien.] ...
Move On From the Web
· My title is taken from a recent Scoble post. To be fair to Robert, he really means “move on from the browser” since the RSS/aggregator technology that’s replaced surfing for him is in and of the Web top to bottom. He also draws comfort from the fact that a mere 50% or so of my readers have moved on from IE, noting heartlessly that nobody but a geek would read ongoing (sob). Fortunately, we don’t have to do the dueling-prognosticators thing about that, all we have to do is watch the browser stats over the next few years between now and whenever Longhorn comes out; I’ll keep posting mine. So, what about “moving on from the Web”? Maybe; could happen. But I’d bet against Microsoft doing the leading. The next big thing always comes out of the weeds where nobody’s looking.
Web Architecture in Yokohama
· I’m heading to Japan this weekend for a W3C TAG face-to-face meeting; the only really significant item on the agenda is whether we can take the Architecture of the World Wide Web draft to “Last Call”, basically an assertion that we think we’re about done. This step is important because many people are (like me) too busy to read successive drafts of standards documents, so they wait until Last Call. We’ll be reviewing the latest Editor’s Draft, which got posted yesterday. I personally think it’s getting very close to Last-Call quality. It’s a public document and you might disagree with me; if you’d like to get in our faces in Japan, go read it, subscribe to our public mailing list, and get your input in before Saturday morning. Do not under any circumstances email me privately; this has to be done in public for a bunch of important reasons.
Browser Market Shares
· Herewith a picture of the browser market shares observed visiting ongoing from May through October of 2003, with some remarks on methodology. [Updated: I got Opera wrong, and figured out another pattern in the data.] ...
The “Richer” Interface
· On more than a few occasions—most recently in the context of Avalon—I’ve observed here that both IT admins and end-users prefer browser-based apps to traditional compiled clients, for everything except content creation. Every time, I get emails and incoming pointers from people saying “You just don’t get it, the Web interfaces are so tired, we really need a richer UI paradigm.” The interesting thing is that these reactions are always—every time, without exception—from developers. Not once has an end-user type person written in saying they wished they could have a richer interface like the kind they used to have in compiled desktop apps. I work for a company that sells a damn snappy, highly interactive user interface that’s entirely in and of the browser (and BTW is very standards-compliant); so it can be done. I have all sorts of theories about whose interests are being served by these efforts to take us back to the client/server era, but I know for sure that it’s not about making users happy. Nor the IT staff either.
· The Net’s talking-shops are quivering, positively throbbing, as they try to synthesize the flood of technology bulletins—mostly Longhorn stuff—coming out of the Microsoft PDC. Jon Udell assembles the evidence and finds that it points more or less where Joe Hewitt says it points. Could be, but I propose we reason by allegory. Let’s step through Alice’s mirror into an alternate universe and see if we can learn anything about this one from what we find there ...
GUIs and Browsers, Again
· Jon Udell has another very solid piece on the GUI/browser tension. This issue isn’t going away, because I (and a lot of others) think that Microsoft has never really gotten comfy with a browser-centric world. For example read this, from Scoble last July, about all the ways HTML isn’t good enough and how they’re fixing it over in Redmond. My heart is on my sleeve; I think a modern standards-compliant browser hits such a huge sweet spot that it’s going to be hard to move the world past it. At Antarctica we’ve created a really rich, snappy, interactive and very graphical interface without pushing the edges of the browser very hard. Now if we could just get Microsoft to give IE a shot in the arm sometime between now and Longhorn.
CSS Print Argh
· I have received many emails telling me that I really ought to make ongoing easier to print. Given that I write probably the second-longest entries in the whole universe of blogdom (trailing only Chris Brumme) I thought my correspondents had a point. Through the magic of CSS, this ought to be easy to achieve. However, it has so far more or less entirely defeated me so far. This is an appeal to the CSS mavens out there; I know one or two of them are among my readers. After they get it working, I shall offer some payback in the form of a don’t-be-a-moron-like me tutorial so you too can make your deathless prose more printable ...
Setting up Mom
· Visiting my Mom, I drop into sysadmin mode and do some maintenance on her computer. Hours of Windows Update, check. Mozilla 1.4, check, so she doesn’t see spam any more (brought it on a CD, not thinkable on dial-up). Her 1999 Emachines Celeron500 box is still just fine for her, but the 64M isn’t cutting it, so I get into all sorts of trouble trying to install PC133 memory in PC100 slots, weirdly it sort of kind of works. Now she needs to get some sort of aggregation thing happening, she’s a news-hound (I come by it honestly). Hmm, I don't know from Windows news-readers, and can’t stomach the thought of any significant dialup downloads, so I set her up with Bloglines, which seems to do the necessary and get out of the way.
· At Antarctica, for version 3.0 of Visual Net, we added a Flash-based user interface to our traditional HTML flavor. For 4.0, which ships sometime before end-of-year, we’ll be backing it out and sticking to dynamic HTML. It’s the right thing to do, but the choice wasn’t a slam-dunk. Herewith a look at the pros and cons ...
The Revolution Will Be Bitmapped
· Yesterday I posted an essay on the fact that the user experience of the Net is ripe for revolution, and proposed that we start telling the world that if they use any browser but Microsoft Internet Explorer, they will have a better browsing experience. A couple of people proposed graphics, here they are, along with an invitation for more ...
The Door Is Ajar
· Today, the human experience of the Net stands at a crossroads, paths diverging into the future, and nobody knows which one we’ll be on in a year. A lot of people who will read this have the chance to make a difference in the decision. Let’s look at the options ...
· One nice thing about being slashdotted, as happened with my recent The Web’s the Place, is the quality and depth of feedback you get. Herewith a little bit more coverage of the issues. I made a couple of corrections in the original piece, ain’t the Web great? Also notes on sharecropping, the agricultural variety ...
The Web’s the Place
· I’ve been following some discussions about the future of software applications, and a phrase that came up in my dinner with Robb Beal has been echoing in my mind. What it comes down to is this: if you want to develop software, you can build for the Web and/or Unix and/or OSS platforms; or alternatively, you can be a sharecropper. Your choice, but I think it’s an easy one. Especially since the users out there want you to do the right thing. (Updated to fix a couple of inaccuracies. See here for details.) ...
A Web Interface for Web Publishing
· Today Sam Ruby launched a discussion of API options for weblogs, or more generally for Episodic Web Publishing, or even more generally for the Writeable Web. This is in conjunction with the ongoing effort to develop a next-generation syndication format aimed at the same problem. This essay considers the technical issues around a pure Web interface ...
· This one for web-tech aficionados only. Those of you who watch your webserver logs, go do a
fgrep msnbot access_log (MSNbot got to ongoing today). Unlike any robot I’ve seen or heard of, MSNbot tells you the
referer, so you can actually watch the trails it takes into and through your online presence. Neato. Ordinary people who are well-integrated with the real world can safely ignore this fascinating discovery and be fairly sure it will not impair their quality-of-life. Move along, now; nothing to watch here. (Update: I’m baffled, this makes no sense.) ...
Aggregator = Ticker?
· I don’t play the stock market a lot, but I have a few bits and pieces. This morning I had a look to see how I’m doing, and it occurred to me to wonder why my portfolio isn’t there in my aggregator? (Update: It is now.) ...
· James Herriot’s Yorkshire-vet stories include at least one about the early days of antibiotics, when the pathogens had no resistance and they routinely got miracle cures. This is a war story about when the Web was like a newly-arrived antibiotic; It’s here for nostalgia’s sake, because it’s kind of amusing, and because—something that means a lot to me—we achieved a good result by applying just a little technology in just the right place ...
DC, Day Five
· A couple of new online lifestyle lessons, and the moon at the tip of a virtual pyramid ...
What’s the RSS Soundbite?
· The problem is, it’s 1994 again. Back then, I would meet someone whose business or life or project would really work a lot better with this new Web stuff, and I’d try to tell them about it, and they’d get this blank look and say “Well, we really don’t have time to investigate speculative new technologies right now, we have to get the job done”—or something of a similarly “go away, don’t bug me kid” nature—and this would make me crazy. It’s happening again, twice in the last month, only what I was telling them about was RSS. The question is: how do we explain it to people who don’t need know that they need to know? ...
· Recently I talked about the difficulty of knowing how many subscribers there are to an RSS feed. Not much joy to offer on this one, but some new information and a startling (to me) bit of sociology. Plus one last exhortation for the aggregator guys: watch out or Redmond will get ya! ...
Bye-bye Home Page?
· My browser home page is an HTML file on my hard drive. It has 58 links on it, and I used to use all of them, but I use less and less all the time, and I think the importance of the “home page” is declining steadily ...
· By far the biggest names in the referrer-log are Radio Userland and NetNewsWire, with the other aggregators (Syndirella, Amphetadesk, and so on) well up in the list. Which is just fine, but we're missing a piece of information which will soon be really important, commercially. (Updated 'round midnight Sunday. And again Monday, more input.) ...
· Something happened to ongoing today that I haven't seen before. Suddenly, for a few minutes this afternoon, the Google crawlers were all over me, and I'm wondering if this happens often and what it means ...
Apple Store XML Shutdown
· Stefano Mazzocchi reports that those Apple Music store URIs which used to yield XML no longer do so, apparently it's all encrypted. I tried and he's right. A quick look at a couple of the issues ...
The SOAP/XML-RPC/REST Saga, Chap. 51
· Today Dave Sifry of the excellent Technorati announced an API for the world. The API, as announced, is about as purely Webby a thing as you can imagine. Dave Winer pushed back, suggesting a more SOAP/XML-RPC kind of approach. This is maybe the single central issue in architecting Web apps right at the moment, so I think it's OK to take a few more whacks at the supine equine. Furthermore, I think the issue is simple enough that anyone who uses the web, not just geeks, ought to be able to understand it. So I've provided an introduction for the non-geeks who read ongoing, all three of them, and looked a little more closely at the Technorati situation ...
RSS and the S-word
· Over the last month or two, there have been desultory swirls of conversation on What To Do With RSS? In particular the drumbeats are loud right now chez Sam Ruby. (Snicker: here it is 9PM Pacific on Saturday and all the geeks are rockin' out by debating RSS syntax.) I'm wondering if it's time to bring in the dreaded S-word: standardization. This will require a brief survey of what standards are good for and what writing a standard is all about ...
· It would seem to be de rigueur these days for anyone in this space to have an opinion about the use of CSS, so here's mine: using CSS is better than not using CSS. But sometimes you can't. I've got a couple of examples and a few general CSS gripes ...
iTunes Music Store and the WWW
· I should say off the top that I'm a huge fan of Apple iTunes Music Store (hereinafter iMS). There are so many things right about it, and once they figure out how to include in the indies and boutiques, it may just turn the music biz inside out in a good way. Unfortunately, I'm a pedantic geek and a lover of the WWW, and so I just have to point out a few ways in which iMS could be made a better Web citizen with benefits all around ...
Speaking of Browsers... Hooray!
· We had a meeting at work this afternoon and decided to drop product support for release 4 browsers! I'm so happy. If you do browser-based software, you should give this serious consideration too; it buys you a lot and doesn't cost very much ...
Browser Market Shares
· I guess one of the best measures of browser market share would be on the (very good) Google Zeitgeist page, and what I see there matches my perception of the conventional wisdom. The really good news on that page is the erosion of the 4.* browsers into invisibility. But it's sure not what I'm seeing here on ongoing ...
RSS Needs Fixing
· There are two big problems with RSS that aren't going away and are just going to have to be fixed to avoid a train-wreck, given the way this thing is taking off. They are first, what can go in a
<description>, and second, the issue of relative URIs. (Warning: yet another incestuous self-referential post by a blogger about blogging, of interest only to syndication geeks.) (Substantially updated 11AM Pacific time) ...
Lap to Lamp
· A slight rework this evening for ongoing, most visible in the sidebar material to the left and right. The previous cut was Linux/Apache/Perl, this one adds Mysql to the mix. But the LAMP acronym comes up short, there really ought to be an X in there for XML, time for Udell to think up something. I thought it might be interesting to write up some of the design issues, but then I decided no, that wouldn't be interesting at all, so this is just to ask for feedback if I've broken anything, make a couple of general observations, and note that I now hate SQL much less ...
· c|net is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Web browser with a pretty good series of articles. What caught my eye was the discourse on browser market shares in this one, which is well worth reading. But their snapshot of the current state of reality is way out of line with what I'm seeing ...
Anything to Say?
· If you spend any time at all watching Web server logfiles (and trust me, there's nothing like it) you learn that the Web Sucks. By which I mean, there are a lot of computer programs out there creating negative pressure around any remotely-plausible source of anything at all remotely interesting, that they may ingest it and then have it ready to deliver to somone who might care ...
Weblogging and Poetry
· There's been an amusing ongoing flame recently directed by the acerbic Andrew Orlowski of The Register at the mighty Google. Orlowski scores some points, but his take on the relationship between bloggers and their audience is backwards, he's missing the parallel with poets and their audience ...
· c|net says that Microsoft won't be including Infopath (formerly known as XDocs) in the basic MS Office bundle. This seems all wrong, I don't get it ...
Winning Business With a Good Web Site
· I just now this morning had to book a short little trip within the Pacific Northwest. There's this regional carrier called WestJet, and they got my business, among other reasons because their website is done right while the competition's are lame and irritating ...
TV vs. the Web
· I don't have a TV (ok, we do, but it only plays DVDs, it doesn't get any channels). I miss it every October during the World Series, and I miss it at times like now when hot news is breaking. Many fortunes have been lost betting on the notion of "convergence" and it was always silly; the Web doesn't need to be more like TV and TV doesn't need to be more like the Web ...
On Being Slashdotted
· There may be those who write in public and don't care who and how many people read, but I'm not one of them. So when I turned on the computer Tuesday morning and discovered by visiting Slashdot that they had a pointer to my XML Is Too Hard for Programmers piece, I woke up real fast. Herewith a bunch of random observations on the experience ...
W3C Patent Policy Draft
· The latest draft, published today, is a landmark. You can't possibly imagine the number of hours of hard thinking and nasty wrangling that have gone into producing it. My personal take is that it's about done and it's good enough and we're not going to end up with anything better. Warning: long and boring, but I think important. ...
Mosaic Plus Ten
· Slashdot has reported it, but it's worth echoing - ten years ago today Mosaic 0.10 shipped. It had the basically good underlying architecture due in large part to TimBL, and Andreessen's magic extra: the
IMG tag - Web pages with pictures! Web purists sneered then, and maybe some still do, but the arrival of pictures was (and remains) huge. The world in general and I in particular both owe these guys considerable thanks, because the Web is better than what came before, and, for the moment, better than the alternatives ...
Illustrated Conversation With the World
· Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?" [Lewis Carroll] And what is the use of a weblog, etc? ...
· When you're running a web site, as previously noted you can spend a lot of time watching your log files to see what's going on. One of the things that go on is that people do Google searches and one of the results points at you. I wrote a little script to run through the log and print out the Google queries that found ongoing ...
The Online Salesvoice
· This morning Doc Searls has a pointer to a real interesting attempt to use blogs to do viral marketing for a teen drink. They speculate as to how big this might be. At the end of the day, though, we're all here to sell something, aren't we? ...
RSS... Oops! What?
· (For RSS weenies only). Sam Ruby thoughtfully pointed me at the RSS Validator, which whined at me that my RSS was broken, which it was, so I fixed it, so if your feed reader is showing everything here unread that may be why. Except for I'm resisting one change that the validator wants ...
Is This Thing On?
· Over the last 24 hours I learned a lot about how the Web of A.D. 2003 works, and it's not like it used to be ...
The Universal Republic of Love
· There's No Such Thing as a URL Strange, but true, even though we talk about them all the time, those things that begin
http://... and are painted on the sides of buses and buildings everywhere. These things are designed to be used by computer programs, right? So ask your friendly local programmer to write a program to use them for something, and she'll go try to dig up the official documentation on what to do, and pretty quickly find that there isn't any for URLs; everything on the subject officially expired years ago. It turns out that all the official documentation is now about "URIs" not "URLs", so that's what you've been using in recent years, whether you know it or not ...
Udell on Infopath
· Jon Udell has a thoughtful piece on Microsoft's new Infopath. I can confirm that when I got my early demo from Jean Paoli, Jean confirmed that they really didn't have any interest in XForms. But I'm having trouble seeing Infopath's future ...
· As of today, Google is the premier player in the world of search. Is the game over? I really doubt it; Google's big innovation - ranking pages by the degree to which they're pointed at - is clever, and it's hard to implement efficiently, but it's not that original; academic citation analysis has used this technique for a long time. So I think we'll see new search players coming along and grabbing market share away from Google based on one innovation or another. Obviously, I'm prejudiced, but I think that the area obviously crying out for innovation is the user interface; I am tired of seeing
Results 1-20 of about 2382923452 ...
Apache Fan Club
· In the process of getting ongoing staged, a certain amount of server twiddling was called for. This process has further deepened my already-profound respect for the Apache Web server ...
Organizing Infomorsels for the Author
· I've decided that it's usually correct to organize information (Web information, anyhow) by date. For example, when I wrote the first few entries in ongoing, I was organizing them by category; see the layout under What? to your left. That turns out to be a bad idea for a bunch of reasons ...
· NetNewsWire 1.0, the pay-for-it version, came out this week. <Disclosure>Brent of Ranchero gave me a freebie, but I would have paid, honest.</Disclosure>. Actually, off the top there are no obvious differences from the "Lite" version I've been using for months. Except for the business of moving to the next-unread article ...
Center Dot (·)
· Unicode U+00B7 CENTER DOT like so: ·, I was trying to figure out how to render the date and taxonomy hierarchies, and fiddling with various kinds of lame line-drawing tricks (stretched GIFs and so on) when I realized that just about every font in the known universe has this thing and it lines up nicely in rows and columns and looks pretty good ...
Stupidly Repeated Text
· You will probably have observed that every entry in ongoing has the same material on the right side of your screen, the little homilies on Truth and Business and so on. Why can't I store them and serve them just once? ...
By Tim Bray.
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