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Scoble & PodTech
· I wasn’t going to write anything about this because so many others have, and I don’t know the first thing about PodTech. But then this morning they spammed me. Any email that lands in my inbox that’s written in marketing-ese and I don’t know who sent it, that’s spam. I conclude that PodTech needs some help; there’s something deeply, um, what’s the word I’m looking for here, to describe announcing a move in the blogging space by spamming press releases? Let’s use “wrong”. Some excerpts: “PodTech.Network Inc., a leading emerging-media company ... ‘Robert Scoble is a global brand and we are thrilled to have him as a member of the PodTech team’ said John Furrier ... provides a media platform of Fresh Voices™ that ignite the power of conversation among companies, their customers, and partners ... His media expertise and vision is in alignment with PodTech’s business strategy and extension of our developing media platform.” For their sake, let’s hope that Scoble represents a Cluetrain ticket.
· You know, it’s really awfully nice to have Mark Pilgrim back. A small but good debate has broken out in the comments over the merits of Red Delicious, Fuji, Braeburn, and other varietals. While the commenters are right that Mark is wrong to select Red delicious, it is foolish to dismiss the Macintosh for being too tart; a fresh well-grown Mac is about the best apple there is. But then Mark just gave up on Macintoshes.
· I recently upgraded to the 2.1 beta of NetNewsWire, and it’s kind of cruel software. In your subscription list, it classifies feeds that haven’t been posted to for a long time as “dinosaurs” and colours them brown. It’s kind of sad: Adam Bosworth, Pat Chanezon,
John Cowan, Jonathon Delacour, Michael Klassen, Mark Pilgrim, Rattlesnake, Cynthia Webb, Frank Wierzbicki, Xanada, JZ’s Apartness, BZimmer, voices gone quiet. Well, I’m loyal, I’m still subscribed to the ones that aren’t out-&-out gone. And there’s good news: half-a-dozen dinosaurs turned out still to be there, their feeds had moved or morphed when I wasn’t looking. But for most of them, when I visited the new digs I realised that I’d gone months without them and it hadn’t hurt too much so I just erased them. With the exception of Bram Cohen and Brad DeLong. [Update: John Cowan’s back!] Them Changes
· Goodness gracious, I go off to Saskatchewan for a few days, and when I come back, Don Box has come out as a (Lo-)Restafarian, Gartner’s WS-* faith is wavering, and David Heinemeier Hansson is now an Atom evangelist. I ought to spend more time on the Prairies.
· That would be the handle of Eliot Kimber, a member of the original XML Working Group. I count myself among the more prolific and pedantic members of the markup community, but Eliot sets A Higher Standard; indeed, those who know him find his entry to the blogosphere long overdue. His tagline: “All tools suck.” He has recently published a rant preview which may help you decide whether you want to subscribe, as I have.
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.
· Over at O’Reilly, John Mark Walker writes There Is No Open Source Community, and Nicholas Carr, who enjoys decrying, well, anything popular, chimes in with The Amorality of Open Source. They both paint a picture of misguided innocents who believe in some starry-eyed vision of post-capitalist intellectual collectivism, but are actually pawns in the hands of larger economic forces. They’re both really wrong. Granted: Open Source is not a nation or a corporation or a political party or a religion. (While there are “movement people”, organized into the skeptical-of-each-other Open Source and Free Software sects, they are a tiny—albeit noisy—minority.) Absent those things, what is left? A collection of people who like working on software and look for opportunities, preferably but not necessarily paid, to do so. If that isn’t a “community”, what is? And furthermore, I would recommend that Walker and Carr spend some time hanging out in the IRC channels and pizza parties and conferences and mailing lists and wikis where the Open-Source people actually, you know, are. They would discover, now what’s the word I’m looking for... people who actively seek out their own kind, who share jargon and jokes and tools and thought leaders and enemies. The word I’m looking for is “community”. And anyone who thinks that this community would go away if Sun and IBM and Novell and so on were to stop funding it is nuts. Open Source Software is its own reward; that, and hanging out with people who share our passions. We don’ need no steenkin’ economics. Or ideologies either.
· That would be Danny Weitzner, the Web Consortium’s legal eagle, who did a whole lot of the hard, dirty, slogging that led to the admirable W3C Patent Policy. I am quite certain that the benefits of keeping the patent trolls away from the Web infrastructure will be enjoyed by humanity long after Danny and I and almost everyone else now living are forgotten.
· I’ve been kind of busy, in part due to my employer having made some sort of announcement approximately every fifteen minutes for the last three months. I’m still behind on more or less everything, but here are some things that have built up in my tabs bar that I just can’t bring myself to bypass. Item: Quoting Simon Phipps: “It seems to me inevitable that eventually, the nobility of the old world will turn up at the doors of the frontiersmen of the new world and demand payment of tribute in the form of patents royalties.” Item: Br’er Rob channels Georg channeling God. Item: Zawodny: Do Search Engines Censor Bloggers? Good question; the one time I’ve dropped into unmitigated-flame mode here about a company, the result is that if you type their name into Google, my flame’s right there beside their homepage. I feel guilty even though they entirely earned the flame; people’s jobs are at stake. Item: Good Richard Pryor eulogy. I still think the original Richard Pryor Live video is maybe the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, comedy striving for the divine and not missing by much. Item: IBM licensing its patent portfolio to startups via VCs. This deserves more attention than it’s received. My initial reaction is visceral horror, does it mean you can’t safely start a company without taking VC money? Item: Beau Hartshorne has abandoned databases in favor of Atom. Item: Amazingly cool optical illusion. Unifying theme: None.
· It seems like my little thought experiment has touched a nerve. Scoble, Dare Obasanjo, and Randy Holloway all push back, amazingly enough all making the same argument: how can I be against duplication in office-document XML format while at the same time being mixed up in the Atom Project? The argument is fallacious, but at least Robert and Randy made it in grown-up, polite terms, leaving the childish name-calling to Dare. Now, as for RSS and Atom: When I came on the scene in 2003, RSS was already hopelessly fragmented, and there was exactly zero chance of any of the large-egoed thin-skinned proponents of the various versions deciding to make nice with each other. Atom is precisely an attempt to reduce the number of vocabularies that implementors feel they have to support. Turning to the office-document space: right now the world has exactly one finished, delivered, standardized, totally-unencumbered, multiply-implemented XML-based office document format. You are the guys who want to introduce another, incompatible one. And I think that’s OK; but restrict your invention to the specialized Microsoft stuff that ODF can’t do, and don’t re-invent the basics. Why is this controversial?
· He’s been working on XML since before it was invented, he knows approximately everything about XML and publishing technology, he invented Schematron (which you should be using if you need to validate XML in a complex or subtle way), he’s a nice guy, and he’s looking for a job. Go get him.
Lower than Vole Scrota
· ESR has cracked up. It’s kind of sad, Eric Raymond was one of my major influences with his essays on the culture and economics of Open Source. I didn’t always agree, but they were closely-argued and made you really think hard. Now he stands on his blog platform and argues that we’re in danger of surrendering to Al-Qaeda because of... wait for it... after-effects of the work done by Department V of the KGB, especially between 1930 and 1950. There are consolations; his refulgent nuttiness brings out the best in some commenters, for example a brilliant micro-essay by “Adrian”, from whence this fragment’s title.
· That stands for “Chief Open Source Officer”, and as of now, Sun has one, namely Simon Phipps. We are doing a whole lot of Open-Source stuff, and a lot of different groups are doing it, and we totally need a single point of contact and coordination. Simon’s the obvious choice, and now’s the obvious time. By the way, if you’ve never been to one of Simon’s speeches on things OSS, you should go, he’s always worth listening to.
· For those who haven’t been watching, there’s been a nasty little dust-up between Rob Scoble and The Register, an online technology-review publication. The Reg accused Microsoft, in an IE beta, of some anti-competitive nasties (to be fair, of exactly the kind that Microsoft has done before). Scoble hotly denied it, saying the problem was rare, he hadn’t seen it and, when it occurred, was a bug not a strategy. He had plausible-sounding support from the IE team. The Reg returned to the attack, specifically alleging that Scoble had experienced the problem and was doing a cover-up, and published an email with Scoble’s name on the “From:” line as evidence. Scoble apparently alleges the email is a fake, and has been slinging words like “libel” around. Since then, the Register has been silent, which is really troubling; they need to affirm that they stand by their story, or back down. Either Scoble was lying, or he wasn’t; either the Register was off the rails or it wasn’t. I’m not linking to the individual pieces, because this hasn’t anything to do with the Reg’s initial allegation. It’s about finding out who’s lying, and if there are any penalties for it.
The Atomic Tribe
· I just want to say, the Atompub working group has been outstanding. Not always polite, but intense and hard-working and insightful. Not selfish, either; we had to go prompt the mailing-list contributors individually asking them if they wanted to be in the acknowledgments section. The Net owes a thank-you to: Danny Ayers, James Aylett, Roger Benningfield, Arve Bersvendsen, Dan Brickley, Thomas Broyer, Robin Cover, Bill de hÓra, Martin Duerst, Roy Fielding, Joe Gregorio, Bjoern Hoehrmann, Paul Hoffman, Anne van Kesteren, Brett Lindsley, Dare Obasanjo, David Orchard, Aristotle Pagaltzis, John Panzer, Graham Parks, Dave Pawson, Mark Pilgrim, David Powell, Julian Reschke, Phil Ringnalda, Antone Roundy, Sam Ruby, Eric Scheid, Brent Simmons, Henri Sivonen, Ray Slakinski, James Snell, Henry Story, Asbjørn Ulsberg, Walter Underwood, Norman Walsh, Dave Winer, and Bob Wyman.
· I’ve been asked why I keep pointing to “that dude’s incomprehensible gibberish”, but hey, this is my blog. Anyhow, visit Tim Caynes’ Latest and either read it or don’t, but do follow the link at the end to a really remarkable picture labeled “cairn”.
· Today Claire Giordano has a nice piece on community-building, which is a real issue in these days of highly-distributed companies like Sun. If you’re not watching Claire, you probably should be; her fingerprints are all over Solaris’ Zones and SMF and Volume Manager, and she’s been the single most important person in making OpenSolaris a reality. Definitely one to keep an eye on. On top of which, she’s got a cool header graphic.
Watch This Space. Really.
· Which is to say John Cowan is online. He knows more stuff about more stuff than you do, which could give a person a big head and in fact he has one, but not that kind if you know what I mean. Subscribed. [Uh, for some reason, all my NetNewsWire blogspot subscriptions got dropped a couple of weeks ago... I thought John and Sass and many others had gone dark. Just me? Hmm.]
Democratic Reform BC
· My friend and former colleague Matt Laird, who, as a part-time ISP, hosts ongoing, is a candidate for the Democratic Reform party in the provincial election we’ve got under way right now. They’re currently mad because their leader isn’t being invited to the TV debates, and their gripe sounds reasonable to me. In this election, I haven’t yet taken the time to figure out who I like, but I’ve turned into one of those awful single-issue voters because I’ve got a kid in elementary school, and the level of underfunding is shocking, scandalous; unacceptable in as prosperous a society as we have here. It looks like being a real horse-race in my neighborhood too, so this should be fun.
Calling all Canadians
· Radio guy Tod Maffin just wrote up an impending redraft of Canadian copyright law. If this turns into a futile attempt to shore up failed business models by forcing the development of user-unfriendly technology, I’m not going to take it lying down. Other places to look are Michael Geist’s site and the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, which he founded. Canadians, please take note and get in the loop. With a minority government in Ottawa, we may even get some leverage. [Update: If you read Michael Geist’s coverage, it appears that the proposed legislation is a lot less bad than it might have been. We should still be vigilant, because the other side will be trying to tilt the table their way.] [Update: Raymond Lutz wrote me to point out Digital Copyright Canada, another advocacy site.]
· Here at the Northern Voice conference, it’s been mostly pretty nice. Then there was the “Making Masks” session by Julie Leung and it was exquisite, beyond beautiful; a nearly-hour-long prose poem about the relationship between the blogger and the world, with trips through family, death, love, and intimacy. Illustrated by fine photos (no bullet points) centering around Bainbridge island where she and her family live. On two occasions I found tears in my eyes; Julie’s talk, with a bit of polish and stagecraft, could be a one-woman show in a theatre. Don’t miss her if she’s coming your way.
Green On Search
· Care about search in general? Then you probably should start reading Steve Green; he’s in Sun Labs and knows more about search technology than just about anybody, way more than me. Plus, he’s amusing.
· This gentleman has just launched a kind-of-Vancouverish kind-of-Canadian kind-of-pop-cultural online presence, which looks pretty good so far; a little more weight on the top left corner of the blogosphere can’t hurt.
Jerome Can Go Jump
· That would be Jerome Lacoste, who writes “It was fun to see a guy of his age use vi to code some non mainstream language and put some CSS in HTML.”. Well, kiddo, my beard may be mostly white and my head mostly bald, but all ten fingers more or less work. Further, it occurs to me that this is a discipline in which skills are acquired as you go along, and as you go along, year upon year, you get better at it. And as for vi, well y’know, I would have used Emacs, but I didn’t want to scare the kiddies. Here’s how it is: Some people can’t not code, and sometimes the condition is long-lasting. (Actually, Jerome said kind things about my Javapolis talk. Seems like a smart guy, give him another decade or two and we’ll see.)
The Markup Tribe
· The three days of the XML conference are just an awfully good time. This is where I come from, and in the years since I first came in 1990 I’ve worked for different companies and done different things, but the same people keep coming around in parallel orbits. In this group of people, you never have to explain why it’s OK to be obsessive about markup, about text, about language, or about meaning. Plus we had a party where security came to shut us down. Mostly this is just an excuse to post a few pictures ...
Warm Antwerp Glow
· This idea of publishing your schedule is a winner. Since then, I’ve heard from Jim Heid, who recently spent some time there and recommends two excellent hotels, and Mik Lernout, who’s speaking at the conference and is going to be moving from Antwerp to Vancouver, and would like to have dinner. People are, you know, generally speaking, excellent.
· The title is Postmoderne Sprachspielen; I’m not exactly sure what that means, but the blog is by an old-time buddy of mine who for the moment wants to manifest as “Sass”. Definitely worth reading: She’s just getting started and has already written about love, drunkenness, Southern culture, and Elvis. It doesn’t work that well yet on Internet Explorer but she says she’ll fix that on the weekend and anyhow, who uses IE?
A Little Bit of Payback
· I found out last August that the the Votemaster was actually Andrew Tanenbaum, shortly after I met him online. I’d written him suggesting that Electoral-Vote.com needed a feed; RSS was new to him so I explained and helped debug his, it’s been a huge success (#79 on the Bloglines top 100 as I write). Those readers who never studied Computer Science may not know that Andy Tanenbaum is one of the top CS authors in the history of the world. He’s also the author of Minix, the educational OS that helped motivate Linus to write Linux. I personally learned networking from his classic Computer Networks and once taught a course using Minix and his companion text Operating Systems. Which is to say, he’s one of my major influences and one of my heroes. It was very sweet, explaining a little piece of our discipline to one who explained so much to me. Kind of amusing too... his half of the conversation included something along the lines of “It can’t be that simple; you mean the whole world just polls this RSS thing to see if it’s changed?” Plus, it’s worth saying that Electoral-Vote.com is a very fine piece of work, up to Prof. Tanenbaum’s high standards. If you haven’t been reading it, dig through the archives and enjoy his erudite but amusing commentaries on the course of the election.
By Tim Bray.
I am an employee
of Amazon.com, but
the opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.
A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.