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.

Slashdot load graph

A Lot of People · A lot of people read Slashdot. In the 24 hours after they pointed to that entry, it was fetched 27,000 or so times, the pattern graphed above (thanks Matt).

How Many, You Say? · So how many people read it? It's awfully tough to tell, measuring things on the Web is far from an exact science. The Web is full of caching machinery and intermediaries; you can measure unique IP addresses, you can stuff cookies into browsers, but it's hard to know for sure.

Linux Boxes Sure Can Serve Files Fast · ongoing is served off an NCIX box, 1.8Ghz Celeron, 256M RAM, nothing special; the system load never went over 0.3 (for non-Unix-geeks, that mean it never came close to breaking a sweat). The secret is that ongoing doesn't use any filthy databases or templating or application servers, it's just Apache scraping HTML files off a Linux filesystem and stuffing them down the wire, boy that sure does run fast.

Talk About Interactive Media · So I watched the logfiles and noticed everyone was reading that XML article and nobody was reading any of my other deathless prose. In fact, here's a snapshot of the most popular items as of now:

  31123 200x/2003/03/16/XML-Prog
    551 200x/2003/03/11/Not%20Scared
    503 200x/2003/03/17/SmallScreen
    440 200x/2003/03/18/AOL
    434 200x/2003/03/16/LastWeekend
    383 200x/2003/03/17/FastAlwaysOn
    311 200x/2003/03/15/PerlGrind
    194 200x/2003/03/03/Spam
    166 200x/2003/03/18/Cities
    156 200x/2003/03/08/Mileage
    151 200x/2003/03/14/Kurds
    140 200x/2003/03/11/xml-dev
    139 200x/2003/03/13/Data-Ink
    103 200x/2003/03/06/Termdef
     88 200x/2003/03/14/Mplus10

Upon popping the page up, I realized that unlike a conventional stream-of-consciousness blog, ongoing does a lousy job of putting the piece you're reading in context, either temporal or taxonomic. Hmm, we'll have to work on that... but hey, this is the web! So I maneuvered down through the output directory tree where the webserver lives, opened the article with vi, and dropped in a little note:

[Hello there, visitors from /. - there's a whole lot of feedback out there; give me a few days to soak it up and I'll follow-up with some more on the subject, since obviously people care. In the meantime, there's other stuff here you might find interesting.]

All this is before breakfast. This helped get people to poke around a bit, but not (as you can see by the numbers above) all that much. Maybe XML geeks don't care that much about the War or my moaning about my satanic camera.

Slashdot and Stupidity · I visit Slashdot once per day, sometimes more, because they seem to do a really good job of relaying the geek zeitgeist. It's a long time since I read much of the follow-ups, but I thought I ought to this time, and I'm reminded why. How can a publication that caters (on the face of it) to smart people attract the attention of so many shallow, drivelling morons?

Interactivity Again · There were a few smart things there in among the chaff on /., and by following back the links in from other blogs, I sure did learn a whole bunch about the state of the programming art as regards XML. Some of the things I said were wrong (or at least open to challenge), and I got fodder for a really substantial follow-up piece, which I'll get around to soon. I don't suppose it's mathematically possible for everyone to get their theses batted around by some tens of thousands of well-informed people, which is a real pity.

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March 19, 2003
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