Scripting News archive for June 2013

Feedly supports OPML, but not really permalink

Update: They changed their OPML, now it implements the spec, as far as I can see. My software can process the format. I think they should download the file to the user's computer like everyone else does.

I got an email from a friend with a pointer to an announcement from Feedly that they now support OPML export.

It's true, in a way, they do. However there's a spec that explains how a subscription list works, and theirs does not comply with the spec. You could not use their OPML to import it into my tools, and I don't believe it would work anywhere else either.

Also they produce the OPML in a bizarre way. Why not just download the file to the users' computer as an OPML file? It's not hard to figure out. We do it in Little Outliner. They could just do it the way we do it. View source to see. ;-)

Here's a link to an OPML subscription list that's properly arranged.

Posted: 6/30/13; 1:35:34 PM.

Blogger vs Journalist permalink

Margaret Sullivan, writing at the NY Times, tries to define what a journalist is, in the age of blogging.

I've been thinking and writing about this for a long time.

When I started at Berkman in 2003, with the mission to start the blogging activity at Harvard, possibly the first at an academic institution anywhere, one of the first questions I tried to answer is What makes a weblog a weblog?

The conclusion I came to is that it's the unedited voice of an individual. The medium and form is not important. You could write a blog post in print on the op-ed page of the Times. But as soon as another person is involved in the writing of the piece, we're not talking about a blog anymore.

The process continued over the years.

In podcasts with Jay Rosen, we talked about this a lot. Jay is a well-known journalism professor at NYU. I of course, am a blogger.

In that period I came up with this idea. Bloggers are what journalists call sources. Originators of information or ideas. People who make news, and not people who report news.

I think that distinction is very important when trying to decide who has the official shield of a journalist, protected from government prosecution when leaks are involved. As long as the person is reporting the news, and not making the news, then we're clearly talking about a journalist and not a blogger.

If this is what a journalist is, then Glenn Greenwald was most definitely a journalist when reporting the Snowden story, as long as all he did was report on the leaks. If he himself leaked, then he is a blogger.

Hope this helps.

Posted: 6/29/13; 4:44:56 PM.

Write a blog post with Fargo permalink

The howtos keep coming!


This one shows you how to write a blog post with our new outliner, Fargo.

Still lots more docs to write, but the product is feeling pretty good. :-)

Posted: 6/29/13; 4:28:20 PM.

I fucked up permalink

Why are these three words so hard to say?

Programmers, when they fix a bug, are implicitly saying exactly that.

And the process of building a piece of software involves the constant fixing of bugs.

When I write a piece of code, I write it knowing it has bugs. The first time I use it, I notice things I didn't see when I was visualizing the software before it existed. The process involves lots of I fucked up admissions.

I remember the first time I read the log of a professional tester who was evaluating software I had written. I was shocked, hurt, enraged, disappointed, troubled, felt inadequate, all these emotions -- but after I calmed down, I fixed as many of the problems as I could. Later, when I had my own company I hired people to write these reports for my programmers. Everyone has to face the reality of what their software looks like to people who use it, who don't know how to avoid all the traps. And some people do this so well they can do it for a living.

When I was young there were a lot of foods I didn't like. Cheese, fish, tomatoes, olives, to name a few. When I was 18, I made a conscious decision to try to eat all these things, and find out if it was still true. Turns out there were some things I still didn't like, but others were just the tastebuds of a child rejecting complex or subtle flavors or smells.

I tried the same thing, later, with apologizing and admitting mistakes. Like a lot of people, I didn't like to admit mistakes. I think this was the way I was brought up. In my family, if you admitted a mistake, or even changed your mind, this was used to invalidate your ideas, for years to come. I remember once you said something wrong, would be the response to a complaint. The implication is if you were wrong once, you're wrong now. So I learned not to admit it.

That was a mistake. I fucked up. I'm sorry.

Try it some time. See what happens. I bet with most people they will respect you more for it. I know I will.

No harm in making a mistake. We all do it.

Posted: 6/29/13; 1:02:49 PM.

Weddings in the news permalink

A picture named arrows.gifBeing rich only makes you rich. It doesn't make you beautiful, smart, nice to be around, happy, young, healthy, wise etc.

Being rich means, for a lot of people, that they buy lots of things that require other people to keep going. Companies, houses, cars, boats, planes, huge weddings. That means you spend a lot of time dealing with employees. And they are no substitute for friends. And sometimes rich people get the idea that their friends should be more like employees. That narrows the circle even more.

Becoming rich can be a disaster, especially if they are not yet fully developed as a person. They have the wrong idea of what being rich means to others. They're surprised and angered by the response they get from people who would like to be rich, but feel like it will never happen for them. Being on the receiving end of schadenfreude is tough, esp when you were expecting adulation.

So Sean Parker's wedding was a huge schadenfreude magnet. People who had been reading stories of Silicon Valley billionaires finally had something to attach their anger to. Parker stood up with a big target on his back and wonders where all the arrows came from.

Once when I had a company in nice office on Easy Street in Mountain View, I found out that a guy I knew, who had made a lot of money from some patents, lived in a modest middle-class house down the street. It was a very ordinary house. I asked him why not live in a mansion. And he told me something that stuck with me all these years. He liked living an ordinary life. I remembered his story, but I ended up having to learn it for myself.

A few years later I got hit by the Silicon Valley money truck. I had a big bank account, house, long driveway in the best neighborhood, and was young and beautiful, had everything one could possibly hope for, in terms of possessions, the things money can buy. And then the bottom dropped out of my life out at exactly the moment you would have thought I had it made. I realized I had believed in something that was wrong. That wealth would lead to a feeling of happiness and security. Almost exactly the opposite was true.

As long as I was poor, I had something to struggle for. A reason to justify my unhappiness. Once the struggle was over, how could you explain the empty small feeling inside? That was all that was left after the struggle.

The truth is that no matter how much you have, you still occupy the same amount of space and time. You can buy big things, but they are not you. That's the other side of the sadness of Parker's wedding. His anger isn't really with the Internet or journalists. He's projecting. His anger is with existence. Look, I got all this material stuff, and they don't love me. They aren't impressed. Which is just a trick your mind plays. What the anger really means is that there is no love in here, inside me. My soul is not impressed. All this crazyness isn't me. Help, I'm lost. Where am I?

My friend with his small house on Easy Street had the right answer. Money is nice, but if you let it be everything, you are nothing.

Me, years later, I still need to learn this lesson. I hope to reach a nirvana where everything will fall into place and happiness and security will result. Inside I know this is not true. But my heart very much still wants it to be true. I don't think it ever really gets easier. :-)

PS: There are other weddings in the news. Congrats to all the lovers who now can enjoy marriage. Many happy returns! :-)

Posted: 6/29/13; 9:01:20 AM.

The system I've been dreaming of permalink

I'm starting to blog more in Fargo, and less in the desktop-based environment.

Eventually I'll move my whole act over there, but in the meantime, here's a pointer to my latest piece.


Fairly quietly we shipped a very deep OPML-based content management system to run behind Fargo. It's written in Javascript and runs on Linux. Gradually we're smoothing out all the components, and will introduce them one by one to writers and designers who use the Fargo outliner.

This is the system I've been dreaming of, and finally it's coming into view.

I couldn't have done it without the incredible JavaScript, CSS and server depth of my young programming partner, Kyle Shank. He started programming in the mid-90s, and the first bit of code he conquered was in a website. After that he got a computer engineering degree, so he knows the techniques you need to create serious stuff.

It's very true that there are advantages to being young and starting fresh. I learned the web too, but at the time, I already had a couple of careers under my belt.

On the other hand, there are also advantages to having experience. The great movie Any Given Sunday is a perfect theme for how programmers work together, as it tells the story of the struggles of a coach and a young quarterback to win the Superbowl. Excellent acting and storytelling by Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx and Oliver Stone. If you haven't seen it, go. It'll open your eyes. I recommend it to all the programmers I work with.

PS: If you want to hook into my new feed, it's here: http://dave.smallpict.com/rss.xml. If your aggregator has trouble reading it, let me know. I'm sure we haven't worked out all the kinks yet.

Posted: 6/28/13; 9:30:58 AM.

The basics of reality distortion permalink

A picture named jobs.gifI once got a call from Steve Jobs, really -- out of the blue -- the phone rings, and the voice on the other end says "Hi this is Steve Jobs." I didn't dream it, it actually happened. I just listened as he ranted about how idiotic the people at Apple were. This was just after he took over, he was cleaning house. I never figured out why he called me, I didn't ask (it would be impolite) and besides, I was too star-struck to think to ask.

It happened again, almost ten years later, outside a restaurant in San Francisco. I was with Scoble and Dean Hachamovitch. Scoble worked at Microsoft then, and Dean was in charge of Microsoft's browser. Jobs was ranting, again he was the only one talking, saying how Microsoft was going to steal all the good ideas in Safari, he just knew it, and he didn't mind, because he's an artist and they're something else that's not an artist. I thought it was funny because the ideas he was so proud of were themselves stolen, and memorable because I got to watch the reality distortion of Steve Jobs up close and personal. Once again, uncharacteristically, I didn't say a word.

It must have been tough being a programmer working for Steve Jobs. He projected a distorted reality, but programmers have to exist in plain old reality. You can't lie to a compiler. Or you can, but the code won't work until you take the lies out. Garbage in, garbage out. Programs internally are rigid and inflexible and are not subject to Jobsian persuasiveness.

Anyway, there are two sides to reality distortion -- on one side is the purveyor and on the other are the people who are effected it. There are many RDF's out there, not just the one around Apple and its products. Android has a reality distortion field. At one point open source software had one, but it's not so strong anymore. Same with Windows and MS-DOS. Old school journalism is a total RDF, where the belief is that reporting has to be done the way it was in the 20th century or else everything will crumble. People like David Simon and Lowell Bergman are major purveyors of this style of RDF.

Having been a developer for many years, and having spent quite a few of them around Apple, I've had to deal with RDFs almost constantly. Only the other day did I realize something very important about them, that I wanted to share.

1. The people in distorted reality believe it. They don't know they're in a RDF.

2. When you you say something that conflicts with their RDF they feel threatened.

3. You can calm them down by saying very clearly, that your desire for something other than what they think is the only true way will not in any way effect their ability to continue to exist in their version of reality.

I learned this because people who believe in mailbox-style RSS readers are in a RDF. If I say "I like a river style of news" they almost explode in passion and sometimes rage. They tell you what they need. At length, in great detail. I never understood why they do this. But I have found the solution. Just say "Hey I can have a river and you can have a mailbox and the earth will still revolve around the sun, birds will sing in the morning, people will fall in love and have babies, etc etc." My getting what I want won't effect you getting what you want. That does seem to settle it, in most cases.

One more thing. When Jobs died the power source for Apple's RDF went with him. The last keynote, which was broadcast so I got to watch it, was a constant reminder of that Steve is gone.

The demo of the car-racing kids from Carnegie-Mellon at the beginning was the first clue. Yes, some of the execs have been taking Steve lessons. But none of them have the chutzpah, the self-confidence, the swagger, the ability to induce a drug-like euphoria. Having never experienced that myself (I never liked the Steve way of selling, I thought it was smarmy, I mostly wanted to slap him for being such a dork) I can only theorize.

Even so, I used to love buying new Apple stuff. I so totally wanted to buy something after watching the keynote. I even tried, subconsciously of course, pouring a bottle of water on my MacBook Air, but it booted back up a couple of days later.

They have nothing I want or need. I hope they get it together again, I'm still a shareholder, but I fear that was it. The man behind the curtain is dead, and we now go back to normal reality. Have to find someone else to excite us.

Posted: 6/27/13; 8:48:13 AM.

What would news do? permalink

A picture named ouija.gifGot an email yesterday from a reporter at BusinessWeek, wanting to know, if Google couldn't make RSS work, why are so many others interested. I decided to talk to the reporter, on the record, despite my rule of not doing interviews.

Truth be told I have been breaking the rule since launching Fargo, not often, but as a practical matter, the founder of a startup can't afford to be too shy when it comes to press. Things are different now, I now have a reason to talk to reporters, and hope for a decent quote.

Turns out I didn't get quoted in the piece. So I'll write a blog post about it instead.

The answer is simple. RSS is the way news is distributed on the Internet. That's why so many people want to be #1 in this area. News is big business. And starting in the mid-90s news has been on the Internet, and it's not going away just because Google is getting out.

I think Google made a huge mistake with RSS, and that's why the others are rushing in to try to be the new king of news on the net. Their excuse, imho, is as silly as it would be if they cancelled GMail because people are texting more. Google killed Reader because they're a big ouija board with internal politics, just like every other big company. They made a mistake. The mistake was getting into RSS in the first place, when they didn't have a love of news. They were rudderless. No sense of direction. The fairest thing they could do with RSS is what they did, get out. I often wonder why people take jobs as CEOs of companies that make things they have no passion for. Same idea. Google did not love RSS. So they shouldn't have tried to own it. Once that dawned on them, the only rational answer was to transition out.

In the coming competition the winner, imho, will be the ones who love news with all their heart, and have a clear intuitive way to answer this question when they have to -- What would news do?

A better question (which I asked the reporter): Why isn't Bloomberg launching a net-based news-for-everyone service to fill the void left by Google?

Posted: 6/26/13; 7:36:08 AM.

Say no to synching and RSS permalink

A picture named loveRss.gifJamie Zawinski wrote a fantastic rant about the demise of Google Reader. Go read it now and love the way he writes. But let's not jump so fast back into the synching mess that we got into in the Google Reader era of RSS.

We could be entering an era of low barriers to entry, competition, new ideas, innovation, and freedom from big tech companies. Things could get a lot better, right now, and keep getting better. Or, as Zawinski says, it could just be a more miserable version of what we're leaving behind.

To get better, we just have to give up on the idea of synching. That a special piece of software has to be written for every device you own, and that each of those apps needs to know what articles you've clicked on. That was the weakness in the old way of doing things. It made it ridiculously expensive to run an aggregator. It made it so that small companies or individuals couldn't experiment with a very simple technology. Why the largest of the tech companies came to dominate even though its heart wasn't in it. Because it took huge resources to run the central node in that network.

These days we can create beautiful software running in the web browser. It might not be 100 percent as elegant as what you get from an iOS app, but it comes without Apple's censorship and with no need to synch. If you use the same app everywhere, it can just store the information once in the same place it stores your subscriptions, and you're almost perfectly happy and RSS gets a chance to thrive.

It's still super expensive to run an aggregator, but we can make it easier, as users, by giving up this one thing.

Let's love the browser again, as we once did, and RSS can flourish again.

Posted: 6/25/13; 7:23:00 AM.

As July 1 approaches permalink

Evan Hansen at Medium asked if I would write a piece for them for the July 1 turn-over of the RSS market to the people. Who knows what's going to happen? I sure don't. But then I realized I have something to say at this juncture.

The last few years, as Google has come to dominate the RSS market, have been very bad for RSS, imho. I say that because a technology with tremendous potential for decentralizing news flow became one of the Internet's most singularly centralized technologies. We couldn't move in RSS-land because any change had to be implemented by Google. And their only ideas seemed to be how to most efficiently kill RSS, not to improve it, make it work better. As their involvement neared the end, all you would hear from the tech press were gloating cheers that RSS had died. Twitter was the new RSS. Never did they say how actively the other big tech companies had conspired to kill it.

If RSS had been a product, the advent of Twitter would have been its moment of greatest glory. Because it would have forced Twitter to remain open to competition. Twitter's business model might have been simplifying and rationalizing RSS, which RSS certainly needed, and they would have been entitled to get hugely rich for pulling that off.

Had RSS been a product, subscription would have become easy, not an increasingly complex maze of negative feedback, thanks to deliberate sidetracks from the leading browser vendors. If you doubt this, try clicking on this link, to an RSS feed, and see how hard it is to just view the contents of the file. In Chrome, Safari or Firefox there's no way to do it. In this one area apparently Microsoft wins the prize, and all they had to do is not screw with RSS, and let the browser render it as it would any other file. Whether Google, Apple or Mozilla actively wanted to kill RSS doesn't matter -- the net-effect was the same. How can you use it if you can't even click a link to begin the subscription process.

So now, here we are at a crossroads. There are lots of ways RSS could improve. The question is this -- will the tech industry learn how to cooperate on an open format, or will each of them play a game of winner-take-all, which will certainly result in none of them getting anything in return for all their efforts.

My company, Small Picture, is working on authoring tools to create new RSS feeds. I have a private on-the-side project, just me personally, to help foster the development of new river-of-news aggregators, commercial and open source.

I would love to see RSS achieve some of its great potential. There are still millions of feeds being actively updated every day. This is a treasure that we can build on, instead of watching the tech industry fight to kill it, once again.

Not sure whether I should be optimistic. But if the tech industry can turn this corner, then there's nothing we can't do. But having spent 40-plus years in this industry, I don't have much cause for optimism.

Posted: 6/24/13; 8:59:54 AM.

RSS Viewer app permalink

I got tired of fighting with Chrome and Safari over whether I'm allowed to read RSS files.


Just enter the URL in the dialog and click OK.

It even remembers the URL you can read the same file over and over.

Nice if you're trying to watch the file change.

PS: Drag it to the browser's chrome for easy access.

PPS: I look forward to the day when the big guys stop screwing with RSS. This item belongs in the trash.

PPPS: I am reminded that Firefox is guilty too.

Posted: 6/22/13; 7:32:28 AM.

Fargo feed demo permalink

We had a wonderful day in development today, and the result is a great new feature for Fargo. It's the easiest way to do RSS feeds yet. 1-2-3. All writing. Look ma no hands! :-)

If you want to subscribe to my feed, it's here.

Posted: 6/20/13; 8:23:03 PM.

Quick idea for RSS apps permalink

You know how your app reads OPML so people can import subscription lists?

It would be even more cool if your app could subscribe to OPML lists! ;-)

That way, when a new feed appears in the list you would include news from that feed. And when one is removed, you would unsub the user from that feed, automatically.

This would allow new products to be developed that are collections of feeds.

I've wanted this feature widely supported for a long time. We had it in Radio UserLand, the reader that started all this michegas. It would be great if Feedly or Digg or one of the others picked up this idea and ran with it.

BTW, the Wikipedia page for Radio UserLand could use an update to reflect that it was more than a blogging tool.

I happen to have a great tool for editing those lists, btw. ;-)

Posted: 6/18/13; 3:06:00 PM.

Fargo 0.80 permalink

Today's a big day in FargoLand...

A few minutes ago we flipped the switch on smallpict.com and now all the sites there are being managed by a new content management system Kyle and I have been working on for most of this year.

What this means is this: you can publish from Fargo to a blogging system that understands outlines at its core.

That's a big deal because outlines are great not just for documents and presentations, but for whole websites.

And that's what your smallpict.com outline is now -- a website. ;-)

But we start off real simple and easy, with brief outline that shows you step-by-step how to write and publish an article on your site, and how to publish a presenation. All that's in the worknote, below..


We'll have more goodies for you now, at a much-accelerated pace, if everything's working, and Murphy smiles on us etc etc. ;-)

If you have questions or comments, you can post them here, or in comments on the notes linked to above.

Fargo 0.80 gives writers the tools they need to be heard.

So here we go, act 2 commences. ;-)


Posted: 6/18/13; 11:03:36 AM.

NYT introspects on Snowden permalink

It's good that the NYT is introspecting on why they didn't get the Snowden story.

Of course, I don't know -- I'm not Snowden. But neither are they. I am a lifetime reader of the NYT and very interested in the information that was leaked by Snowden, and WikiLeaks before that.

A picture named keller.gifThe Times introspection should include a review of their performance with WikiLeaks. Being so public with their personal dislike of Julian Assange raised questions about how the Times was managing the story.

It also raised doubts about their integrity, imho. Why be so vocal about Assange? Has there never before been a newsmaker that they didn't like personally, is that why this is news? Or is it possible they wanted to draw a distinction between what they do and what he does for selfish reasons, like staying out of jail? They could see clearly that Assange was in legal trouble, and might have been trying to avoid that for themselves, by joining the demeaning (for all of us) personal smear campaign against him.

No matter what, it was insulting to readers of the Times to assume we care what the top editorial guy at the Times thought of Assange personally. If he wants to vent his feelings, he should have quit his job and written a blog. The Times itself has no business having an opinion about someone's socks, unless somehow they are presenting themselves as an authority on socks, which as far as I know Assange never has.

PS: This was going to be a longer post, but I just heard about Snowden's live video Q&A at 11AM today (a little less than 2 hours). I have to get my other work done before that. This is going to be great.

Posted: 6/17/13; 9:17:24 AM.

A huge Father's Day tweet permalink

Posted: 6/16/13; 12:06:40 PM.

The quiet war in tech permalink

The war is over what information you and I get, and what information they get.

As we get less, they get more. As we lose control, they gain it.

In this war, the governments have more in common than they have differences. The Chinese probably could destroy our banking system, and we could probably destroy theirs, but they don't want that, and our government doesn't either. They're really on the same side.

What they want is to keep order, I really believe that. The order that keeps the rich rich, and more or less ignores the challenges we all face in keeping our species alive on this planet. I understand the sentiment. There's so much to comprehend, if you want to have any kind of quality of life, you have to compartmentalize. If you look at preserving order, you can't pay attention to climate change.

I think though we all know the precarious system of banking and computer networks isn't going to keep running forever. There's going to be a meltdown. We had one in 2008, and it looks like we just re-inflated the bubble temporarily, bought a little time, it's just going to get us back to where we were, only this time the pop will be bigger.

If you were President of the United States, and you saw a certain probability of this happening, you'd re-up on the side of preserving order. That means you have to be prepared for the day when people go to the ATM and find their bank account is inaccessible. When it happens to everyone even. How are the rich people going to enjoy their lifestyles when that kind of chaos is going on? It seems quite possible we'll live to see this happen.

It's all tech, top to bottom. The banking system is tech. The military is tech. And in that context, it's not surprising that our, the people's, information access systems are really weak compared to the ones the governments have. That's no accident. Our tools have been getting more precarious, thanks to bugs introduced by the browser vendors (if they're not deliberate, they're incredibly incompetent, your choice). And Google captured almost all the tech of RSS, only to shut it down. Just as things show some sign of coming back to life, now Facebook sounds like they'd like to have their turn at pwning the open public news flow. Please, if you make a feed, and you read this, keep making the feed as-is, no matter what Facebook asks you to do to it. By now it should be obvious that the big tech companies are not our friends. They're more like the government than they are like you and me. Maybe not their fault, maybe they didn't see it coming, but I doubt they'd deny that they're there now.

JavaScript is another item that we should be thinking about. Google is developing the same kind of power over the programming language of the Internet that they had over RSS. Over time they're likely to move their implementation of JS away from the standard. I've spent most of the last year programming in JS, and I think there's a lot to be said for making the language smaller and more efficient. But I'm a newbie, and if I had spent the last five years developing in it, the last thing I'd want to hear is that the language itself is considered a moving target. So, net-net, we have to insist that for now at least JS stay what it is. I don't trust anything about Google to do this right. They may think they know what they're doing, but they led us right into control by the government. That's a mess that needs undoing, and they shouldn't be creating any more messes.

One more note. I said a while back that if you want to understand politics you have to become deeply immersed in tech. The political reporters and bloggers have been totally too casual about that, even the smart relatively open-minded ones, and that even includes Glenn Greenwald. Is he really prepared to listen to Snowden, or can he just report an approximation of what Snowden tells him? It's the latter, because as smart as Greenwald is, he hasn't been spending the last N years schooling himself in the technology that we've built our existence around.

So think about it, how are we going to boot up the intelligence we need to make sense of this situation in time to make a difference?

Serious question, and heavy times.

Posted: 6/15/13; 10:15:27 PM.

There's more than one tech permalink

We tend to use the word tech as if there was only one tech, but there's more than one.

1. These days when people say tech they usually mean the money. So the VCs are the godfathers of tech. The gatekeepers. The bloggers. When so many tech bloggers become VCs that tells you something.

2. But tech also means the product. I'm a developer. I want to know which products are interesting from a feature standpoint. I look at tech the way a movie guy looks at movies. I want new ideas. And I want my peers to study the new things I come up with. We actually used to do this at one point, sort of. Reviewing products never got that great. Nowadays what passes for tech commentary amounts to whether your icons are flat or skeumorphic. Honestly, there's a lot more to it than that. #understatement

3. And there's hippie tech, where tech is about freedom of expression and connecting people with others. Not as a business model but as people. Where the value of a person isn't how much you can get an advertiser to pay to reach them, but in the intrinsic value of a person with a mind, a heart, spririt, relationships with other people, a lifespan, a philosophy, feelings, ideas. I'm a hippie tech guy too. I really believe in the power of the technology to connect people. I think we're worth it. Maybe I'm foolish. It wouldn't surprise me. ;-)

Most of the great mottos come from hippie tech.

I know the rent is in arrears, the dog has not been fed in years, it's even worse than it appears!

And don't even get me started on Big Lebowski. ;-)

4. There's spy tech, as we learned about last week from Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. Those guys, all of them, not just the whistleblowers, are a lot like us. They are us, in different circumstances. Most of my classmates graduating with Computer Science degrees in 1978 went to work for the government or quasi-government companies. My education was paid for mostly by the military. These were people I loved to talk geek with. I even know some of them because you cross paths with them in the entrepreneurial tech scene of #1, #2 and #3. (BTW, I have been part of the system of #1, long ago, before it became so concentrated on users as eyeballs and couch potatoes.) I sold software to spy tech in the 80s. Outliners and presentation software. They loved the stuff. Really.

I wouldn't mind investing in new tech, but almost everyone seems to think it's about tricking people to give something up you can sell to someone who's pretty sleazy. And we've seen where that leads us. Some asshole in government realizes there's all this great spy data in the tech companies, and gets a judge to make them turn it over. So now the VCs are selling us out to the bad guys in government too. You don't have to be much of a student of history to know where this leads.

So I'd never want to invest in a technology that views its users as chumps. I want to make stuff that celebrates the intellect and humanity of my users. Otherwise, I'd rather do something peaceful with small impact, like reading books and writing poetry.

I was talking with a friend the other day, he owns a tech startup, and is fairly wealthy from an earlier success. I said, regarding the mess that's been exposed around the NSA, "If we don't do something, who will?" What I meant is relative to most people we have a lot of freedom, and we also know our way around tech. He asked what would we do. On the way out of the restaurant I said we should create only products that were irrevocably open. He doubted it was possible. "Oh it's possible," I said.

My new product Fargo is most definitely irrevocably open. I don't have to give the users access to their data. It's sitting in a folder on their hard drive, in a documented XML-based file format. There is proven interop. So I can't take it back, once the files are out there, the users can leave any time they want. We don't even have copies of the files (although Dropbox does).

No this isn't a solution to all the problems, but it's a start. If a VC wanted to take us somewhere worth going they would insist that all their investments do this. But of course they won't because the only way they make money is by exercising that control. If the users of Tumblr had a say whether Yahoo would be hosting their blogs, well, they wouldn't have gotten so much money for it. It's the lock-in that creates the value. For the product designer in me (#2) this is kind of a no-op, but for the hippie it's No Sale Buddy. I could never take their money, and they would never offer it, as long as I had to deal with users this way. Because it would depend on my users being dumb, and as I said earlier, my users are anything but. They're the smartest people on the planet and I want to keep it that way. And I think anyone who makes software for dumb people in the end gets what they deserve. :-)

Posted: 6/14/13; 9:48:39 AM.

For people who follow me on Twitter permalink

Radio2, the app that connects my linkblog feed to Twitter uses an old version of the Twitter API. They've been saying for a long time that this version would eventually be turned off, and yesterday seems to be the day that happened. This means that links from my feed will not appear on Twitter. I can't say when or if the app will be updated to work with the new API. I'm busy working on stuff for Small Picture, and Radio2 is no longer a priority for me. Sorry.

However, the feed is RSS, so it's possible to get the links through some other mechanism. I'm going to keep pushing links to the feed. It's a habit that's hard to break. I use it for bookmarking things I want to come back to. That's not something I plan to stop doing, anytime. And sharing the links is fun for me. I know I'm weird. ;-)

Caveat: It's a funny form of RSS because the items don't have titles. Google didn't like this kind of feed, but then it's almost gone, so that might not even be a problem. I've always felt this feed would be a good match for app.net or tent.io, and it would be great if the newly invigorated feed readers like Feedly would try to make sense of this kind of feed. It's perfectly valid RSS 2.0. Now that I'm losing my Twitter readers, it would be nice to make it up in some other way.

Things seem to be changing quite rapidly nowadays what with the NSA, and Google Reader going away, and Twitter shutting off their old API. Apple radically changing the UX of iOS, etc. It's almost as if there's this incredible disconnect between users and the government and the big tech companies.

I'm just going to keep programming, writing and linking and hope for the best! :-)

Knock wood, praise Murphy, IANAL, MMLM, etc.

Posted: 6/12/13; 11:21:32 AM.

Something amiss in IOS-Land? permalink

Two blog posts in the last 24 hours add up to something possibly amiss?

1. Linus Ekenstam's Simplicity my ass. It's a wonderful rant, and I say that with deepest respect as someone who believes the rant is rapidly becoming a lost art. We need more strong opinion. Too many people wishing and washing. Say what you think. And what Mr Ekenstam thinks is that IOS 7 is a crock.

2. In his own way, Marco Arment agrees that IOS 7 is a crock, but one filled with opportunity for predatory developers, such as Marco. Of course he just sold Instapaper to Betaworks, and his Tumblr stock, sold to Yahoo, has made him rich -- so he has nothing to lose as Apple, apparently has pulled the rug out from all their developers. This is also a great rant, filled with testosterone. A must-read in what is becoming a lost art.

So, if all this is true, what does it mean?

I can't imagine that developers relish the choices that Apple is giving them.

But what about users? As an iPod user myself, I'm accustomed to Apple ripping up the pavement in iTunes, making things that I depend on disappear in one version, only to re-appear years later in a wholly new place in the UI. Most of my use of the iPod depends on this connection, so I've deliberately kept my dependency on this product limited. I'm accustomed to Apple playing hide-and-seek with vital features.

My iPads are a somewhat different story. I use lots of software there. Some of it might go away. It's hard to imagine me getting too upset. Until I read these two pieces.

As a veteran developer myself, I'm so glad I do not develop for this platform.

I am still an Apple shareholder. Not necessarily happy about that! :-(

And as someone who relishes tech as entertainment, I'm grabbing a box of virtual popcorn and watching, hopefully from a safe-enough distance.

Posted: 6/12/13; 8:18:47 AM.

I had to get a NYT Digital Subscription to figure out what's wrong permalink

Yesterday I posted a tweet with some feedback for the NY Times marketers.

Getting a NYT Digital Subscription should open up something new and wonderful that I can kvell about. #freeadvice

I sent the link to Jay Rosen, my former colleague at NYU, and he said I had to write a blog post about this. Here it is.

After years of hearing about paywalls from the Times, I've mostly been able to read the articles I wanted. I have many avenues into the site. All the links from my river work. When I see a link on Twitter, I can click on it. It's only when I want to go from one of those articles to another that the paywall stops me.

I've long felt I should go ahead and subscribe, but I found the special offer of 99 cents for the first 90 days to be insulting. They make a product that's for smart people. Sheez, it's not as if we're going to cancel after 90 days, and btw we know that it's hard to cancel these things. When you enter your credit card info and click Submit, you more or less have signed up for life. Right??

I decided to subscribe, finally, because I would like to wander around the site unimpeded by the paywall. I wondered what that would be like.

I read a lot of books and watch movies, and I think of the Times reviewers as authoritative, and their reviews go back many decades. So I'd like to be able to wander around their Arts section. Wandering seems to be the key idea. Here's a site that has a lot of stuff I'm interested in, and it's been many years since I've been able to wander freely through it. I imagined it might be wonderful.

I can tell you, a few days later, my life has not changed. I still use the site the same way I did before I paid.

I want to kvell about how wonderful it is to have a NYT Digital Subscription, but I don't have any great ideas about how to use this vast resource of information that's now fully open to me. I want to love it more, but I don't know how.

From their point of view -- what a missed opportunity! I have 63K follower on Twitter. If I said "Hey this is great, I never knew what I was missing," that might not make anyone subscribe, but it might get a few to think about it. The wall of resistance has only so many bricks. Every time one is removed you get closer to a sale.

If you're going to have digital subscibers you have to think like digital marketers. Think of the Times as a vast palace of entertaining information for people with active minds. How can you make that more accessible in ways that will make a difference for people with the new ability to freely roam the site.

Then you'll have something.

Posted: 6/12/13; 7:39:40 AM.

Why tech responds poorly to crises, and how to do better permalink

A picture named tylenol.gifThe first time I saw a tech company blow it in the Internet age was in 1994 when Intel was trying to quell public outrage about a problem with math functions on their Pentium chip. According to Wikipedia, an estimated 1 in 9 billion floating point divides would produce inaccurate results. The problem could be demonstrated in Excel. Intel said the flaw was so small that it didn't warrant any concern by users. They were probably right. But that didn't stop the outrage from escalating. Every time Intel spoke, the problem got worse. Eventually they had to offer replacement chips to any user who wanted one. It might have cost much less if they had admitted the problem at the start.

It doesn't happen often that the press sides with users, but when it does, the tech industry usually reacts poorly. The reason is simple. They're accustomed to Gee Whiz treatment from the press. That the people who run the companies are themselves miracles. Because the products they make are so impressive to the people in the press.

But that's going to fade over time, as tech products become more ordinary. Kids who were brought up with the products don't think they're so amazing, and they'll become reporters or bloggers, and the tech industry will have to deal with crisis not by stonewalling, but with empathy, and understanding of how the public thinks.

An exec at Google or Facebook might be puzzled by the reaction to the NSA news. Didn't they already know that we have to provide the government with information when they have a legal basis for requiring it? Maybe people did know. But that doesn't matter. Right now they're not happy about it. And the blame is falling on the tech companies. Usually reporters just rewrite press releases. But every once in a while they express their independence. This is one of those times.

The classic example of a company responding well to a crisis that's no fault of theirs was Johnson & Johnson with the Tylenol murders. If they had spun it the way Intel spun the FDIV problem, or the way Google and Facebook are spinning the NSA crisis, they would have said something like this: "It's a local problem in Chicago. Only a few of our customers have been effected. We are taking steps to make sure that there's a low probability of any other customers being similarly inconvenienced."

What a customer would think: "These guys are clueless. I'd better go with Bayer or Excedrin. I don't want to die just because I had a headache."

Instead, what Tylenol did, and it's something the tech companies would be well-advised to study, is to approach the problem the way their customers would. They immediately withdrew every bottle of Tylenol on dealer's shelves, everywhere. The first goal was to protect the people, then save the product. Which they did, after taking the hit, and on the way to becoming the leader in product safety. The product came back stronger than it was before.

Applied to this situation, it would have been smart for the companies to have prepared, by taking steps to blunt the negative effect on their users because of the government intrusion. Sure they had to comply, but did they have to leave the customers so vulnerable? Of course not. They couldn't warn us, that would have been illegal (unfortunately) but they could have made sure that more of the data resided in places that wouldn't be so convenient for the government to monitor. That's the equivalent of Johnson & Johnson putting tamper-proof packaging on Tylenol.

Posted: 6/9/13; 2:00:29 PM.

Two excellent mob films starring Robert De Niro permalink

I love it when people turn me on to excellent fun movies I haven't seen before. In that spirit here are two that are sure to delight if you like the same kinds of movies I do. They both star Robert De Niro. And both are very long, but hold your attention.

1. Once Upon a Time in America is a spaghetti mob movie written and directed by Sergio Leone. It takes place in a Jewish ghetto in lower Manhattan, in a period spanning 50 years or so starting at the beginning of the 20th century. It's a weird movie for sure, and it goes slowly, almost like poetry. But the acting is first rate, and the story is compelling. It's actually two stories interwoven.

2. Casino is like Goodfellas 2, with different characters, but many of the same actors. Directed by Martin Scorcese, the plot comes from a book by the same author who wrote Goodfellas. Stars De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone. Set in Las Vegas. Same narration style as Goodfellas, though there are two protagonists.

Also James Woods is in both movies, playing a leading role in #1 and a minor one in #2.

Also interesting, De Niro plays a Jew in both movies.

Posted: 6/9/13; 11:24:09 AM.

Google, Twitter and Facebook, et al have a way out permalink

It's great that there's a discussion online today about whether or not the tech companies had a way to resist the US govt, if they believed that it was wrong to share information about their users without users knowing.

There is a way around it. They could reverse the process of centralizing user information on their servers.

When they found the web, Google, Twitter and Facebook, it was a completely decentralized network from a content standpoint.

(It's never been decentralized at a transport level. There are several main peering points, and the name system is a hierarchy.)

Google and Facebook could have, together, easily defined new standards for distributing information in ways that would make it harder for the government to tap in. At least they could have avoided being responsible for it themselves.

Or they could have been supportive of standards that decentralize, like one that's dear to me -- RSS. Instead they undermined it. In Google's case, in a fairly horrific way. Did they ever say they'd never come back to RSS if we manage to reboot it after cleaning up their mess? A mess that they offered absolutely no help with.

Twitter had the biggest opportunity to create a free-flowing federated network of free users. They could have given us a new layer the way the web did in 1992. Instead, they sucked in all the energy created by developers and did the same thing the others did -- centralized. Goodbye freedom. Hello NSA.

They brought this on, they're the cause of the mess we're in now.

I have no sympathy for them. They could still get out of the hotseat. There would be nothing illegal about them telling the world that they made a huge mistake by centralizing everything, and now they're going to reverse the process. They don't have to say what the consequences of that mistake are, we all know, thanks to Glenn Greenwald.

What could the government do? They'd be alone.

Of course, no one in their right mind believes they would do it.

Because having the govt as a partner, as Citibank and Chase found out, is a great business plan. Too big to fail now clearly applies in tech too.

Posted: 6/8/13; 10:23:45 AM.

A Google Now story permalink

An example of how good/creepy Google Now is.

My friend Jen was coming to visit from SLC. Google Now told me her plane was 24 minutes from arriving at the gate at JFK. I had never told them she was visiting me or what flight she was on (I didn't know). But they did. Probably because she uses Gmail or their calendar, and somehow connected me to that trip (or did they just guess!) and thought I might be impressed if they told me about her flight. I was!

And I felt a little nausea, as I realized they have me by the balls and don't mind if I know it.

Posted: 6/8/13; 8:32:01 AM.

Morning coffee notes permalink

Arrington nails it

Mike Arrington who is a lawyer, has what almost certainly is an accurate read on the denials from Silicon Valley companies on how they're supporting the NSA. Read their exact words. They're not technically lying but they are providing the government with all the information they want. It's a good must-read.

Not interested in NBA Finals

I got through the first half of last night's Game 1, and it was late and I was tired, and I didn't care who won. For me, basketball isn't about the skill of the players, it's the story. So when a player or a team I admire does something wonderful it presses a button for me. These two teams are no doubt the best teams in the 2013 NBA, and I'm sure the one who wins will deserve the victory. But I would care much more if the Rockets, Warriors or Pacers were facing off against one of the established giants. Then there would be drama, and that's what gets me going.

People are up about the NSA

I don't think there's much we can do about the situation with the NSA getting access to all our online stuff. That was all decided as people shrugged off the dominance of the Internet by a few giant companies. Users said they could do what they want and didn't have to worry about the big picture. We argued, they called us idealists. You guys care about that stuff, we don't. Well now the chickens have come to roost as a famous preacher once said. This is what happens when you let Zuck have all your stuff.

I don't think it's too late for us as a species, but it's getting there. The real battle isn't the battle for privacy or freedom, it's for survival. There's no doubt that climate change is real. We're destroying the atmosphere of our home. And we have no Plan B.

So if you're waking up, let's go -- let's work together to start solving real problems we have now. I think if we're doing that, the spooks won't be able to stop us, and I don't think they'll want to. Why? Because they live on this planet too. They're people not that different from you and I. Esp if you are a computer geek.

I bet quite a few of them even read this site. ;--)

Posted: 6/7/13; 10:23:23 AM.

The human wave permalink

1. It's just hitting me now that in the new tech industry the person counts for nothing. It's the aggregate that matters. The human wave.

2. And that is the exact opposite of what interested me in tech. I got involved because of personal computers. The individual is everything.

Posted: 6/6/13; 1:15:54 PM.

The Michael Jordan of X permalink

A picture named michaelJordan.gifI turned 58 last month, and that means we're getting within striking distance of 60. Actually I'm getting within striking distance of 60. It's a bit of a shock, actually. Inside I feel 19. Or maybe 30. But 58? 60. OMG. Ohhh.

But Monday night just before Game 7 of the Eastern Division Championship, I solved a problem that I had been thinking about for at least 20 years. It had to do with templating in content management systems. It came to me as we re-approached a problem I had approached several times before in earlier products. This time, I saw the way around the conundrum that had evaded me before. I don't think this is because I'm smarter than I was when I was 38 or 48, rather it's because I have the 20 years of experience that I didn't have then.

The next little bit is a story that is not about the people involved, Fred Wilson, John Doerr and Michael Jordan, it's illustrative. I have the greatest respect and admiration for all three of them, not just for their accomplishments in the past, but for what they are doing today. All three are very much alive. And all three are still taking chances, learning, and doing new things.

On Twitter, I saw Wilson refer to Doerr as The Michael Jordan of VC. Something bothered me about this. So I pondered it and realized the problem. How I got there was by changing some of the names, a couple of times and thinking in analogies.

1. I imagined Matt Mullenweg saying I was The Michael Jordan of Software. This wasn't hard, because Matt said something similar a few weeks ago. No doubt said with genuine admiration, it exposed something inside that's imho incorrect. He said that it's amazing that I keep writing software, many years after I no longer had to. I imagine when Matt looks at me, he hopes that he will have the drive to create when he's my age (he's about 30 years younger than me). But I'd rather if Matt ignored my age and my financial circumstances, and looked at the actual software I'm writing -- today -- not in the past. I would prefer if he said: I think Dave's new software is interesting, but I don't understand it. Or I think Dave's software is revolutionary and it will have impact on all software being developed today. Or something that reflected my status as an active player, maybe even an active superstar. But I think conventional thinking shuts off that train of thought.

And btw, if you look to basketball as an example, the young guys always study the work of people who came before them. The young Knick Iman Schumpert is a great example and inspiration. In an interview I saw him explain in great detail the players who he was borrowing style from. In tech, we tend to throw all that away. We won't always do it, as the art matures we'll understand that we're borrowing from the past, and then become receptive to learning from prior art. But first we have to cure ourselves of the idea that people are obsolete so early. Even basketball, where the bodies can't compete after 40, manages to use the skill and experience of the veterans, as coaches, advisers, trainers.

Also, I know that what Matt said was a compliment. But it also had meaning. It's possible for something to be both a compliment and worth examining.

2. I had an experience on Twitter with Joshua Benton, someone who I admire and think highly of, who I know hasn't used my new software. This came up in a discussion. I more or less asked him to check out my software before declaring blogging dead. It may not have sounded like that to him and it may have been said more awkwardly (140 char limit). His response was like Matt's. I was using your software in 1990 he said. Nice. So I'm The Michael Jordan of Software. But I'm not because I'm still pushing it. Inventing new ways to approach the rim. New ways to stun and amaze. But you'll never see it if you don't look.

My dream is that Benton would do 1/4 the analysis he did of Evan Williams' new software. I think I've earned a good look, and some thought.

3. And that led me to the final analogy that nailed it. What if LeBron James said that Tim Duncan is The Michael Jordan of Basketball. Wishful thinking! The two men are about to face off in a classic series of the ages in the NBA finals. Game 1 is tonight. It's the old sin of sport and business. Don't celebrate until you win. That's a good way to inspire the competition and undermine your fighting spirit. We saw that happen with the Knicks this season, when JR Smith, thinking the Knicks had won, celebrated by elbowing an opponent. In the face! He was suspended for a game (that the Knicks lost), and more importantly threw his energy out the window. The Knicks were embarassed by the Indiana Pacers in a short series that they never really were in. And Smith was in a funk the rest of the short Knicks run. Every Knicks fan knows this story. ;-(

I learn a lot from sports, I really do. I think it's an incredible teacher of human spirit, in a very compact form. Things that may take years or even decades to play out in tech, often happen in just a few minutes in an NBA playoff game.

If I were Matt, I would watch that attitude. Because Old Dave might still have a trick or two. Software is not like basketball in that way. I have no stake in the competition between Doerr and Wilson (I assume they still see each other as competitiors). I will root for Doerr now, because I always like an underdog, the same way I rooted for Wilson when he was coming up. And tonight I will definitely be rooting for the Spurs and Tim Duncan, even though LeBron was smart enough not to make any grandiose claims about the obsolescence of his rival. ;-)

Posted: 6/6/13; 9:05:18 AM.

Let's not repeat the Google Reader mistake permalink

A picture named drum.gifWe're getting ready to do the blogging part of our software at Small Picture. We've done a review of the evolution of my own blog, Scripting News, over the years. It was good to go over it, because it became clear that as Google Reader came to dominate in feed reading, it forced my blog, and presumably many others, to conform to its limits. Features were removed from my blog because they confused Google Reader. And when we tried to reach out to them, the answer was that they didn't have enough people on their team to listen. When that I happened I knew we were in a bad place.

But now we're seeing a rebirth of blogging software, other people have noted it, not just me. And along with it, later in the process, perhaps we can have a rebirth of feed aggregators. But we can't do it if a single company dominates the reader market. Yet some reports indicate that's where we're going.

I have a plan, if that should happen, if on July 1 we substitute one dominant feed reader for another. My products will produce full-fidelity RSS, that gives us and our users the chance to be fully creative, as we were in the early days of blogging and feed-reading. We won't try to live within the limits of a dominant feed reader. If they can't read our feeds, sorry.

Users say "oh we're just users we can do what we want." That's nice, but not true. It's like saying I'm a car driver, I don't care about climate change, so I can burn as much fuel as I want. Yeah, I suppose it's true. There is no law that limits the amount of carbon you burn. But someday you or your kids will not be able to breathe. Same with RSS and blogging. If you want to keep using this stuff, you can't just repeat the same mistake. The new dominant player may be very nice, the people may have good hearts, and mean well, but they might be holding back innovation -- or worse, as Google was, taking out innovation and forcing a kind of dull no-growth uniformity.

Posted: 6/5/13; 8:21:14 AM.

Writers, designers and programmers permalink

A picture named drummer.gifWriters can write in spaces we control, or we can write in spaces others control. We can spread our writing around, so one story appears in many places, or we can put each story in one place and distribute pointers to it.

There are tradeoffs. If I write a piece and post it on Huffington or Medium, the theory is that it gets more circulation, our ideas get more exposure, or we get some kind of reputation benefit. Medium is a place where good writers write. Therefore if my story appears there, that leaves an impression that I'm a good writer. Huffington makes it look like I'm a journalist. Same with Forbes these days. But the reps quickly catch up with facts. Pretty much anyone can have an account on any of these systems. And as soon as you see a crude rant show up on one of them, you understand that the name isn't about quality anymore. The value in the name dissipates quickly.

I've written for several of these pubs, and I don't think my stories get any more play there than they do here, on my blog.

Huffington plays games with flow. If you ever get a hit story, they use it to deliver flow to stories written by their own people on that topic. Now that hardly seems fair, given that they don't reciprocate by delivering flow to your less popular stories. When this happened, when I had a hit on Huffington, that was the last time I posted anything there.

When you think about it, if these guys are smart, it has to be that way. They're not going to let big flow come into their servers without monetizing it. So if you don't get much flow from them for your so-so articles and if they siphon off flow from your hits, why should put your work there? It's not a good deal.

Medium has a slightly different proposition. I have put a few stories there over the last few months, some of my best pieces (they got me to think about them that way -- good for them), but they didn't get any more flow than they did here. They have an excellent stats system so you can see. Their hook is that their tools are nice and HTML5-pretty. They feel good to write with. That's nice. But could you get the same thing outside of Medium? Of course. This is not hard to do. But, key point, we have to work together, to iterate there.

If good writers work with good designers and programmers we can keep building so that independence continues to be the basic value of the web. Otherwise we're returning the independence we got from the web to another generation of AOLs.

That's the writer's story. Programmers have a similar one. The web is where we don't have our work controlled by Apple or Google, where we can create exactly what we want for our users. The stuff we believe they'll love. For example one of the most popular features in my new product Fargo would be disallowed if we tried to push it through Apple's store. That's why it's written in JavaScript and runs in a browser.

I think that if you're a writer, you're hurting your own interest by not working with independent designers and programmers, long-term. And the leaders, the people who advise other writers on what they should be doing, I think they're hurting us even more by leading the parade into the new AOLs. Same with teachers of writers.

This isn't about any one writer, designer or programmer, it's about all of us. Remember how far the open web has taken us. Let's not abandon it now. It can keep delivering, but only if we work together and feed our creativity and passion into it.

Writers, designers and programmers. FTW! :-)

Posted: 6/4/13; 12:26:18 PM.

Servermatrix becomes IBM permalink

A picture named grandpa.gifAbout ten years go, seriously, I signed up at Servermatrix and created three or four servers. The first podcasting servers were there. Podmonster1 and 2 I think were their names. A lot of the old UserLand sites are still running there.

Servermatrix was something of a breakthrough in its day. Previously, to get hosting, I had to buy a box and colocate it at some place with good net connectivity, electricity, air conditioning, etc. What they did was make renting a server almost as easy as buying something on Amazon.

I still have one server running there, with all the stuff I'm too busy lazy to port.

Then a few years ago Servermatrix got bought by a company called Softlayer.

Their emails were a little different, but I just let them charge my credit card, and tried to forget about the server still running there. Mostly I was able to do that.

Then this morning I got an email saying Softlayer was bought by IBM.

Now I have a server at IBM.

Not a big deal, just worth observing.

Posted: 6/4/13; 9:25:09 AM.

NYT redesign permalink

Over the last few days or weeks, not sure, I've noticed a new very readable look to articles on the NYT website. Very welcome change. Then this morning I noticed that there's an extensive navigation system in the left sidebar. Only thing I'd like better is if they had an outliner interface for it, that I could expand/collapse my way through. Here's a screen shot showing the opinion section open to show the columnists. Three panels.

Posted: 6/3/13; 11:28:14 AM.

How to cut down on flopping permalink

A picture named clyde.gifThe NBA added rules at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season that were intended to cut down on flopping.

Flopping is when a player acts, convincingly, as if he's been fouled.

It's a form of acting.

When viewed on replay sometimes there's absolutely no contact, but it looks like there was.

The flopping player goes down, clutching his head, rolling over repeatedly, to call attention to the "offense" by the refs.

Not sure how well it worked during the regular season, but it's not working in the playoffs. The stakes are so high, the players are willing to pay the fines if it means they can get a call to go their way. These games are often so close that a single possession can determine the outcome.

It's probably even become part of the strategy of the game, and it's easy to imagine the coaches and the players, talking about it privately of course, maybe even in coded language.

But if the coaches were penalized along with the players, it would likely curtail the flopping, maybe even stop it, esp if suspensions were added to the penalty, earlier in the process.

It would change the dynamics if the coach could get suspended. It would mean that if the coach thought the player was doing it, he wouldn't put him in the game. It would get the coach on the side of the league and the fans, in stopping the practice.

And the financial penalties would matter more to the coach, because they pay them for every player, and coaches don't make as much as the players do.

Posted: 6/2/13; 6:31:48 AM.

Second CitiBike ride permalink

I took my second ride today, this time checking in at the station at 54th and 8th Ave.

I knew how to do it this time, so I was out of there in no time.

I forgot to adjust the seat. Stopped a few blocks into the ride and did so.

However, the seat didn't stay up. I had to stop every few blocks to yank it back up.

Eventually I got tired of this and just left it low. I felt like an adult riding a kid's bike.

I guess that's the big question, how well will the system hold up against NYC wear and tear. Everything is still bright and shiny, but eventually it's going to be like everything else in NYC, functional but not too clean. ;-)

We love NY, yes we do. But...

The second ride was not as much fun as the first.

Posted: 6/1/13; 4:20:14 PM.

Workflowy supports OPML! permalink

I just got a note from Ulf Gjerdingen saying that Workflowy now supports OPML.

I had to check it out.

So I went to my outline in Workflowy. Chose Export. And sure enough, there's a new radio button where you can choose OPML.

A picture named workflowyOpml.gif

Of course I wanted to see if Fargo could read it. So here's what I did.

1. Opened TextEdit.

2. Chose File/New.

3. Paste.

4. Format as Text.

5. Save into my Dropbox/Apps/Fargo folder.

6. Switch into Fargo.

7. Open the file.

8. It worked!

A picture named fargoImport.gif

A happy day is when there's more interop. :-)

Thanks Workflowy! :-)

Posted: 6/1/13; 9:02:11 AM.


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