Brian's Waste of Time

Thu, 17 Jan 2008


Nick and I had a good IM discussion last night about the social graph, data portability, etc. Timely in light of

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Wed, 22 Aug 2007

Google and OSS

I am continually not surprised by the FUD spread by outsiders about Google and open source. This morning it was triggered by an article in el reg claiming:

Beyond that, Google hardly stands as a model open source company - a point noted by Hilf. Google has become the poster child for the software as a service (SaaS) abuse of open source software. The ad broker uses copious amounts of open code but gets around returning changes to "the community" by claiming it does not redistribute the code. Instead, Google simply places the software on servers and ships a service to consumers.

The fascinating part about this is that it does not jibe at all with my personal observations. "Google" contributes craploads -- "they" just do it as individuals to a large degree. Of course "they" tend to use the Apache License, not the GPL, for new projects so maybe it is more conflating of Libre with Open on the part of people watching the industry but not actually participating?

anti-disclaimer: I do not work for Google, I have never worked for Google, I have never tried to work for Google, I do not own any Google stock, my last interaction with a Google employee was me bitching over IM about their interpretation of Jabber/XMPP in GTalk which makes it close to useless for federation purposes. I know a large number of people who do work there -- most of them being core contributors to open source projects you probably use.

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Tue, 06 Feb 2007

"Please Touch Me Internet"

So I am going to be talking at the Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise conference (March 28 & 29, in Philadelphia) and there was a really fun typo on the conference site for a short time:

The title is not quite correct there :-) It has since been corrected to "The 'Please Touch' Internet", but I kind of liked the typo -- it might bring in the crowds!

Regardless of the title for my talk, I think the conference will rock. There are a great collection of speakers, a couple bands, and a bunch of fun and smart folks!

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Thu, 28 Sep 2006

Pathway Wikipedia Browser

via Digg Pathway is a sweet wikipedia browser/visualizer.

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Mon, 19 Jun 2006

Java Conference '06

Hectic days! Somehow I missed mentioning that, like David, I'll be at the Italian Java Conference '06 next week. I'll be giving two plenary sessions, "Empowering, Enabling, Accelerating, Connecting," and "Enabling a new generation of interconnected people." As I haven't received permission to use the term "Web 2.0" (tm) (r) (wtf) in relation to a media event, the talks will be on social aspects of Web Candle+Monkey. Actually, I just like Web Candle+Monkey and will take any excuse to use it :-)

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Wed, 15 Mar 2006

Philly Emerging Tech '06 Warming Up

Erin (who I wish would start a blog) just told me that registrations for the Philly Emerging Technology conference (happening tomorrow) have topped 240. This is up from around 110 last year. Not too shabby! As it is free, I am sure some people registered who won't show, but... wow, not bad.

It's basically focused on open source tools which are "emerging" in the sense of new tools, or technologies which are just starting to see light in the traditional enterprise space, not to be confused with O'Reilly's ETech which tries to capture things really just emerging.

She also noticed that (accidentally) the schedule is almost neatly divided into two tracks, lightweight tools and heavyweight tools, except for that JSF thing that managed to sneak into the light track ;-)

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Wed, 08 Mar 2006

Live from ETech '06: Part 4

Yahoo! Developer Stuff Advertainment. "Tribal Platform" idea. Is interesting, and probably a good approach. They are trying hard at community development and the tribe metaphor. "Design tribe" and "Development tribe" and how you design interaction in this.

Heh, I'll call it "working class interface" as it sure as heck isn't rich, but it is a siginficant step up from stateles web interaction.

Back to Yahoo! guy. "Interactive patterns of attention." Immediacy -- autocomplete, livesearch, etc. He is trying to name patterns of interaction and create shared concept. Pattern as basis for shared concept and definition. [me] Pattern is popular term for definition of abstract idea[/me]. "If done correctly [ajax stuff] can be really annoying, eh, if done incorrectly."

"get rid of boundaries" infinite scrolling, search without paging from the live demo earlier, etc. 'Light footprint' -- ointeraction as subset of total interaction.

[me] be nice to finally get rid of the wizard and replace with an unstructured in time interaction coordinated visually instead of temporally.[/me]

Transitions to indicate relationships between elements ans symmetry of action (if it flows one way it can flow the other way). He mentioned microformats. Why micro? Sheesh, the word "schema" is too overloaded maybe? Ugh, the fight for names and the ego of creating the name.

Back to talking about creating a common vocabulary and patterns as a basis for common vocabulary (which is correct). Ugh, dislike this soundbite "surfacing a vocabulary." They have some smart DHTML hackers. Ah, cool the Yahoo UI stuff is BSD license. Kept meaning to look up what it was.

He's finished, nice talk.

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Live from ETech '06: Part 3

Dyson was good. Too dense to comment on live though.

Presumably search engines use the feedback loop created by which result is the exit point of a search?

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Live from ETech '06: Part 2

New keynote, attention economy stuff. Think of the world as a MMORPG called "Western Culture". There are three levels, 1) Feudal, 2) something else (Market/Money/Industrial) 3) attention economy. Grr, speaker is good, moves fast, hard to take notes. Level is of game, not of player. Interesting analogy. Going to go pay attention.

How much of this attention economy stuff is really a stage of industry maturity? Hollywood started focusing on stars how long after (not necesarily as time, but as maturity level possibly?) movies got started did the industry being driven by stars emerge? How about corporations and big-name capitalists? I wonder if it is a factor of the industry becoming complex enough that in order to manage it people abstract out totems which become associated with people (stars) or companies (stars) or whatever serves as the focal point of attention for the movement.

When we talk about complex things we need representative entities so they emerge as the field in which the complexity grows hits a point where it is A) sufficiently complex that the majority cannot comprehend it all, and B) enough people care about the field that there is a majority of non-specialists paying attention. Anyway, I will shut up, but I think there is no economic phase shift occuring, but there is certainly a growth in the engineering industry, and possibly the science industry.

Interesting that I use "industry" there. Anyway, time to shut up again, Dyson is starting =)

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Live From ETech '06: Part 1

Got to ETech late last night, and sat through the advertainment talks this morning. Oddly, this is my first O'Reilly conference. Suggestion, if you charge over a thousand dollars for a conference, you shouldn't give a medium conference T-shirt to a 6'1", 200 lb guy and you should have munchies at the mid-morning coffee break. Inexpensive and free conferences can do it, so can expensive big conferences =)

I am all bitter lately, kind of weird. That said, here is some more =) If you are going to geta fifteen minute "keynote" (product pitch) do your prep work so you look good on stage. The Plum guy was good, but despite having some really cool ideas, the EVDB guy presented really poorly. The ideas were cool, but good gracious, be ready for your talk!

Joel Spolsky's talk was great. He is perhaps more caustic in person than on the web. I have a different proposal for why everyone uses blue and green on their sites, however -- it is because those two colors represent about 70% (this statistic is vaguely remembered, but technically made up, if I had bandwidth I'd go find a source, oh well) of people's favorite colors. Blue is the most common favorite color, green is the next most common. People always tend towards blue and green. Arial, also, isn't used because it is used at Google, but because it is a font which renders well in most browsers (thank you Microsoft) and most importantly, is on basically every computer connected to the intertron.

I want to look at Plum to see how they are going to manage the exponential endpint problem. The EVDB sticker and demand stuff is validation of another idea, that embedded badges are the api's of the masses.

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Fri, 03 Mar 2006


Yes, Jon is evil.

GNU Emacs beats XEmacs 100%

All social software apparently devolves into ...

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Tue, 21 Feb 2006

Philadelphia Emerging Technology

Philly Emerging Tech '06 has their registration open! I'm really glad to see this happening again this year. Last year was awesome. Basically it is a one-day, free conference on the hot and emerging software development technolgies around.

The speaker lineup is amazing this year, except for one bozo talking about rails. Kim Polese, Kito Mann, Patrick Linskey, Jason van Zyl, Thomas Risburg, and others (if I left you off it is not because you are not as awesome a speaker, it is because I selected a bunch more or less at random).

Chariot Solutions is sponsoring the conference again, and because I no longer work for them I can say with a straight face that they rock.

Anyway, Philadelphia, March 16, Free. Have Fun!

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Sat, 31 Dec 2005

Scoble's Geek Dinner

I dropped in on Scoble's geek dinner thing down the street. I admit I had an agenda -- I wanted to catch up with Avi Bryant whom I have wanted to meet for a while as I think he does very interesting hacking, and as Dabble looks really cool. He demonstrated it for the Flock guys and myself and it makes gmail look like SquirrelMail in terms web applications compared to web sites. Very nice! I particularly like the hands-on data mucking aspect.

Along the way met at least one, possible more, of the Flock folks, who are all of a couple blocks away. Nice guy(s). Flock is actually much slicker than I had thought, too. They keep pushing it as a social bookmarking thing, which is not all that exciting to me. It is way more. I'm glad Andy showed me around the corners of it some. Need to break out the Javascript!

FInally, I may have conned Avi into giving me a Squeak tutorial. Apparently he suffered from the same "this cannot be serious" reaction I keep having to Squeak (and even Visual Works, though that is less glaringly obnoxious). Apparently when someone who is good shows you around things start clicking. I'll believe it after seeing what he's done. I would not want to write that in any kind of model 2 framework, period.

Fun time, hope to see ya'll again before too long!

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Mon, 05 Dec 2005

43FlockRz for teh Win!

This is brilliant:


Note that the image has been made available under the Creative Commons Share-Alike, Non-commercial license, which means that this article is also under those terms, not my normal more nebulous terms.

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BrainJam, Dec 3, 2005

Last night, Mike suggested I might enjoy this "one day confernce kind of thing" at SRI today, BrainJams. Unfortunate name, but interesting enough looking as I needed a change of pace and some more socializing =)

It was fun. Basically, it ran as an extended brainstorming session. Lots of creative people who were into ideas jamming (the name was appropriate, though still, I believe, unfortunate) and springboarding on each others' ideas. Topics ranged all over the map, with many interesting conversations and people.

Rather than rehash it in digest form, I'll just spew some of the fun notions that crossed my mind while there:

"Smiles per hour," is my favorite, the rest of the notions could wander away and I wouldn't be too sad. I'd feel a lasting loss at what I couldn't remember if I were to lose "smiles per hour."

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Sat, 19 Nov 2005

Skills that Count

Stephan Schwab talks about companies honoring your investment in skills. He pines that recruiters (and an implication about HR in general) don't respect skills learned on your own time.

Sadly, I think that it is a good observation that a lot of places don't respect anything you have done which doesn't look like it was done in an enterprise context. My view on this particular practice is somewhat mixed, though.

The first thing I think about is when I decided to quit teaching and go (back) into programmering. This was probably right after the bubble burst and the layoffs were going. My programmering skills were pretty rusty and I hit the same wall Stephan describes with every recruiter I talked to. It was quite frustrating. I sympathize with anyone in that position, to some degree.

Then a few things happened. First, I talked to engineers (sometimes with fancy titles) instead of recruiters at a couple places and landed a job at a small company which didn't use recruiters. Woot. Eventually I landed at another company which totally changed my view of software and economies, and I came around to seeing why open source really is a better way for a large chunk of software. That is a digression, however.

From there I have steadily moved in a different direction on my view of the "recruiter won't talk to me because my experience is [hobby|open source|user group|part time]". Really it was learning a little bit of economics (thank you Roy and Mike!) and changing my view of "work."

As far as I am concerned, every recruiter, HR person, hiring manager, or whatnot that feels this way is doing me a huge favor by weeding out a lot of motivated and smart people from their applicant pool. This has two direct effects, first it is an invisible damper on the company's capacity, second it enriches the candidate pool for companies I work for. Making your company easier to compete against is fantastic, as is making sure to not snatch up the most motivated candidates. That is my perspective from a business point of view.

From a purely personal point of view... well, I am colored by the fact that I have a reasonably good looking resume now. Most of the accomplishments that mean a lot, to me, on it relate to stuff I have done independently of my job description, however. Interestingly, my most recent work has grown mostly out of those things (hobby kind of stuff).

So, when confronted with this... places that eliminate you from consideration because you are self-taught are probably not good long-term prospects for you, though if you are not presently working you may not care about long term at the moment, so this is a bitter pill. More helpfully, maybe, look for places that don't recruit through technology check lists and resumes spammed from recruiters, it is more work on your part, but has a better success rate, I believe.

Oh yeah, on the "learned in user group" thing -- if you are active in the user group, tell people there you are looking for a new job. Smart companies recruit out of user groups, it is a self-selecting group of people who have proven at least a modicum of initiative and motivation.

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Sun, 16 Oct 2005

From RubyConf: Day 2

Matz offered a number of options for lambda (anonymous function) creation syntax during his keynote. Figure I can comment as some of the thoughts are subtle. My gut reaction was to stick with lambda but something itched. I think I figured it out, but let's look at options.

f = lambda (x=5) 
  puts x 

f = lambda (x=5) { puts x }

f = -> (x=5) { puts x }

f = (x=5) { puts x }

f = def (x=5)
  puts x

The thing that bugged me about *all* of these is that the default value for the parameter (x=5) looks like it is being evaluated, not like a default value. This highlights, for instance, a big difference between python and ruby, in python the (x=5) is a statement, not an expression, and isn't the default in that context. I dislike this about python.

Oddly enough, the syntax I like the least, f = -> (x=5) { puts x } is probably the clearest for this as, visually, the arrow looks like it pushes the parens into the function def, kind of. Really, I want the params to be inside the block, I think, like the current goal posts. One thing suggested by the audience was the groovy method, f = { x=5 -> puts 5 }, which I quite like, and Matz thought about, but dismissed as looking too much like a hash ( { :x => 5 }, which it does, I agree =(

Blocks and anonymous functions will remain different, and I certainly trust Matz on this, though I don't see the reasoning personally =) If they are, then... maybe something block like is good. Matz seems pretty set on having parens for the args outside of the block, and I cannot say I disagree -- I just don't want the confusion over whether (x=5) is an assignment in the scope of the definition, or a default value in the scope of the invocation (execution in aspectj terms).

Aside from that, fantastic presentations by Ryan Davis and Jim Weirich on cool ruby hacks in the afternoon, nice (and really interesting) case studies in the morning. I had the advantage of sitting next to one of the Io hackers (Brian Mitchell) most of the day, so picked his brain some, and played with Io. Interesting. Also installed Forth based on breakfast conversation. Have to muck with a language described as "kind of low level -- higher than assembly, lower than C" =) Slate still wins the "my brain hurts the most" award, so I doubt I'll stop focusing the majority my language muckery on it for the most part for a while =)

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Sat, 15 Oct 2005

From RubyConf: Day 1

RubyConf has been fun, sleepy (got in late, woke up early, still on east coast time, but great fun =) Obie has been doing good presentation-by-presentation coverage, so I'll let him cover that. ;-)

SASADA Koichi is a fantastic presenter, and seeing how he is designing YARV was very interesting. I just wish I'd had more sleep. I need to dig through his presentation and try to remember some more C. I agree with him about block syntax in Ruby 2.0 =)

JRuby's progress is really interesting, the fact that it is being modeled on CISC and will be stackless via CPS is really cool. JRuby is definately alive and kicking.

On the flight and in some downtime today I've been beating on the ruby stomp client as well. Finally got a grip and started doing it right -- most of the old code has been thrown away and am doing it properly TDD this time. Basic client exists (it is that easy), but am still working on a better rubyomatic api.

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Fri, 14 Oct 2005

Off I Go...

To RubyConf and then to Palo Alto. Flight left almost on time, but is long =( Will give me time to rewite the ruby stomp client on the plane, I hope to release this weekend =)

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Tue, 04 Oct 2005


Ning launched! Lots of folks have a lot to say about Ning if you haven't bumped across it yet, but I'll say my bit about what is most exciting technically to me =)

Ning is a public, schemafied, taggable, and free datastore for the web. The public content stuff is the exciting part -- any app can query across any app other app's data. You can fetch, say, every entity in the content repository which calls itself a Dog. You can only modify what you own, but you can see anyone elses. Oh, you can fetch them programmatically in Ning, or as an RSS feed, or via custom REST services, or... well, be imaginative. This is pretty cool. It is one of those things that if you think about for fifteen minutes you can come up with some really cool ideas, but... but... the best ideas are far over the horizon. This is enabling more than anything. Stuff no one has ever thought of will appear.

It's standards based, its open, you own everything you contribute (but license it under creative-commons attribution based licensing by default) -- both data and code. Cool stuff.

Oh, and I am totally into situated software, but that isn't a technical cool point, so will talk about that later =)

I could go on for a bit, I'm pretty excited by this. Of course, I am also moving to Palo Alto next week to work there, so I had better be!

Major kudos to the 24HL folks who have been working like crazy to get this out, I can't wait to join you.

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