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Permanent link to archive for Sunday, June 27, 2004. Sunday, June 27, 2004

A picture named grams.jpgRecent movies: Lost In Translation, In America, 21 Grams, Fog of War, Big Fish, Finding Nemo, The Ruling Class. Listed roughly in the order that I liked them. The last three were repeats, Big Fish was great to see a second time, but Finding Nemo seemed really shallow (the turtles were great of course) and The Ruling Class, a great movie for its day, is finally dated. Lost In Translation, which I had not seen, deserved all its accolade. A gorgeous flowing light story, more of a mood piece, richly photographed, emotionally grabbing, sweet. I wish the character with the bad heart in 21 Grams didn't smoke, that really hurt to watch. In America, just a nice movie. Etc etc.  Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Just for fun, a table that ranks the free-hosted sites by the number of hits that were redirected to each. Gives a rough idea of where the traffic is going. Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A must-listen-to segment of NPR's On The Media about the new reality of the music industry and the role the Internet plays in keeping fans of Wilco and RadioHead supplied with the latest tunes from the bands. Do they pay if they like the music? Yeah they do.  Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Screen shot of Bush website with Hitler image. Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named bush.jpgBush is an awful leader, but so far there's no indication that he's comparable to Hitler. But he's running an ad with pictures of Hitler, between pictures of John Kerry, Al Gore, Richard Gephardt and Howard Dean. How could someone want to win so badly that he would be willing to do that? What are we supposed to think about this? Does he know that Americans have families who were murdered by Hitler? Is this what compassionate conservativism is? What does he stand for? This should be question #1 at the next Bush press conference. Permanent link to this item in the archive.

The mail I'm getting says that Bush is responding to MoveOn. Okay, let's consider that. If there was a need to respond to MoveOn, why did they interlace images of leading Democrats and why is the response coming now? And why not just respond, say it's wrong, instead of using the pictures of Hitler? It's a horrible ad, kind of a joke, with the sweet music in the background at the end, and the word Compassion at the top of the screen. I don't care who went first, that's a school yard argument. Bush is President of the United States. What's next, images of concentration camp victims? Millions of people died at Hitler's hand, many relatives of Americans. That imagery does not belong in that space. Period.  Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Scott McNulty raises a valid question about my comments here today and in January. Permanent link to this item in the archive.

One of my favorite blogs is Geek News CentralPermanent link to this item in the archive.

Next question. There's a vacancy to fill on the RSS Advisory Board. I just had a talk with Rogers about that. Do you have any suggestions? Send him an email, or send one to me. It's mostly advocacy, helping people get their feeds up, answering questions, trying to helping users.  Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Postel and XML Permanent link to this item in the archive.

One reason to keep the number of formats small, and require strict XML compliance, is to keep the barriers to entry low, so that little hacks are possible. For example, three years ago we were working on ways to circumvent Microsoft's Smart Tags, a horrible idea. It was one of the few times I've ever seen a company being so openly evil, thumbing their nose at the legal system, the Bill of Rights, publishers and writers, and any semblance of fair competition. I had to write a filter that would process every page to add a meta tag that would tell Microsoft to keep their "smart" tags off the page. Because HTML was such a bloody mess, the script couldn't just parse it and add the metadata where it was needed, it had to use string pattern matching and guess where to put the data, and usually it was right, but sometimes not.

When I first learned about XML in 1997, I thought I understood that we were going to fix this problem with HTML, and require that processors be strict about rejecting not-well-formed feeds. I was surprised to find that not all developers feel this way. I think it's wrong that some aggregators work around well-formedness problems in feeds. These guys are building barriers to entry. They say users don't care, but the users should care, and if we state our case clearly and respectfully, they can.

I've seen people say there's no harm in having a third syndication format, so I tried out an idea, what about a fourth? They say no, we don't need it. I agree. I didn't think we needed a second or third either, and still don't. The more formats, the more chance for lock-in. Watch out for companies that only care about interop with Microsoft, that's how the promise of SOAP was destroyed. And watch out for Microsoft, when they come into this space, let's be sure they don't invent their own format and make vague promises about interop. I'm sure even my friends at Microsoft can appreciate the concern. Not everyone at MS understands why the developer community is important. If ever it was in doubt, pause at this moment, and reflect on how the pub-sub application came to be. None of the big companies had anything to do with it. Sure, some of them will buy their way into it. And some are going to bully their way in. But maybe some will get in by producing excellent software that performs great, and doesn't try to win by locking out individual developers.

Postel's Law has two parts. This is something a lot of people don't want you to look at, they only want you to think about the first part, the part which XML says is not a great idea -- be liberal in what you accept. This tends to favor the big guys who have the resources to catch up, and then the chutzpah to throw a big fat hairball into the middle of the market, one that no one else can handle. Maybe Postel didn't live in a world where these big companies could create such big messes, but I have had to deal with them, many times in my career, and they usually end competitive markets. A lot of well-intentioned people in the syndication community don't have the benefit of this experience, and we may have to learn this once again for their benefit. I hope not.

But the second part of Postel's Law is brilliant, and if we believed in it and bet on it, we'd never have to deal with the flaws in the first part. If we looked for ways to reduce variability, to do things the same way whenever possible, we'd keep the barriers low, keep the flow of cool hacks high, and be prepared to face any challenge that might come our way. Then we could compete to empower users, not own them.

1996: "How much happier we would be if instead of crippling each other with fear, we competed to empower each others' creativity."

PS: Watch out for people who make this personal. If you accept that kind of discourse, you deserve the technology you get.


Last update: Sunday, June 27, 2004 at 7:17 PM Eastern.

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