Scripting News archive for October 2012

I'm tired too Abby permalink

BTW, the cute kid award for the 2008 election went to Ross Mayfield's son, talking about Obamaman. :-)

Posted: 10/31/12; 7:40:31 PM.

Backups! permalink

I see lots of mentions of NY-based companies that didn't have adequate Plan B's.

It's time to think about how you're creating redundancy in your communication systems.

Also important as a service you can offer to users to differentiate your product from others. "We're good at keeping you online in times of emergency."


Posted: 10/31/12; 1:14:27 PM.

Is Google Maps realtime? permalink

I just checked if Google Maps would give me driving directions through streets I know are closed because of the hurricane. It would and does.

An example -- 57th St is closed between 6th Ave and 8th Ave due to the crane collapse. Yet if I ask for directions from 501 West 57th to 501 East 57th, it gives me a straight line.

It's at times like this when utilities like Google Maps can help the most. Wouldn't it be great if it were kept up to date on road closures and could take that into account in giving directions.

Posted: 10/31/12; 12:59:15 PM.

The worst NY player permalink

A picture named smallbum.gifHarvey Araton in the Times writes today that the worst deal in NY sports is Amare Stoudemire of the Knicks. Hard to disagree. Except maybe Carmelo Anthony.

As a Mets fan since 1962, let me tell you -- it is not about winning. It's about love, and philosophy. The Knicks have two leading players that play from fear and have no philosophy. I think Carmelo could play on a team lead by someone with philosophy, as he showed in the Olympics this year, but even then, under pressure, he's the first to choke. I was watching the last great game in the Olympics against Spain, hoping that Anthony would rally, but instead he was benched -- and with the usual Baby Huey smile on his face, that seemed (to me at least) to spell relief.

The core problem of the Knicks is they chose a Number Two to be their Number One.

Neither Anthony or Stoudemire plays with heart. They are not competitors. Neither is a leader, or a winner. That's what's so fucked up about the Knicks.

They had a great team for a few weeks last year, sparked by a coach and a point guard who played with love and great philosophy. Chandler was happy to play along. Novak, Fields, Schumpert -- all young and looking for a chance to play -- flourished. Sure, given a chance this combination might not have won, but as I said -- as a Mets fan, and I'm sure as die-hard Knicks fans can agree -- it's not really about winning. It's about having a spirit that we can get behind.

Posted: 10/31/12; 11:25:11 AM.

Obama and Christie FTW permalink

1. If you haven't watched the Frontline 2-hour election special, the rest of this might not make much sense. It's really worth watching.

2. I just caught up on the politics of the day. I didn't want to, but then two pieces came out at almost exactly the same time, a few hours ago, that shifted my perspective. One from Jonathan Chait at New York, and the other by Charles Pierce at Esquire. They both said in different but equally convincing ways that the response to Sandy is political and to view it any other way is wrong.

3. The timing is amazing, obviously.

A picture named newyorker.gif4. It couldn't be more dramatic in the context of the election. Because the problem being given to Obama is one he's perfectly suited for. It's the one he wanted when he arrived in Washington in 2009 and thought he had been given, in the economic collapse. Unfortunately for all of us, the Republicans responded very negatively to Obama (understatement). This was made very clear in the Frontline report (see #1). I hadn't understood how the Republicans despised him. It wasn't just expedient. They actually hated him. I didn't get this because I didn't feel that way about Obama. But I certainly have felt that way about other politicians.

They were right in some ways. Obama believed he was transformative. That was a mistake. He should have tried to make a difference in the context of what Washington was, not what he wished it to be. He was vulnerable and naive, and they took advantage of it.

5. Enter Christie.

6. Unlike the Republicans in Washinton in 2009, he wants to work with Obama. Really wants to, it's not fake.

7. Why? Because he likes being governor of NJ, and here's his chance to do that in an incredible way, with all the money of the US govt available to him. All the planets lined up for Gov Christie. And Obama, seeing the opportunity (totally) says oh shit I'm getting the checkbook, and I'm going to spend the money and I got a Republican to play the game with me. "How much do you want?" he asks Christie. He gets to throw a Hail Mary pass, with almost no political cost, certainly none before the election. (I'd love to see Romney complain that Obama was spending too much on New Jersey, esp with the pictures on CNN likely to come in the days ahead. This isn't Benghazi or even Katrina. Our networks have lots of cameras and reporters in the NYC area. Even Republicans on Wall Street will want the money to be spent now. Look where the flooding happened.)

8. This is what Obama is good at. Getting lots of governors, Republican and Democratic, to work with him. To let him lead and organize them. Use his intellect. Lead the team. (Give them money.) He did it at Harvard. And at Columbia and in high school. This is what he loves.

9. Now here's the ridiculous part. It's probably something that Romney would be great at too. It's exactly the kind of job he seeks out. It's the way he sees himself. Disaster strikes, and Romney comes in and saves the day -- through management, competence, consensus. If this crisis, exactly this crisis, happened in February and Romney was President, he'd be Christie's buddy too, with the checkbook open ready to fill in whatever number Chris asks him to. But he won't get to do it, and he knows it, and it must absolutely drive him crazy!

10. Christie will get to rebuild New Jersey with federal money. Before this his state was broke. Now it'll be rich. Jobs galore. He gets to be hero. And I bet he doesn't like Romney, on a personal level. And I bet he does like Obama.

11. Watch the Frontline report. :-)

Posted: 10/30/12; 10:45:29 PM.

Google Maps API overview? permalink

I've used little scraps of time during the hurricane to experiment with the Google Maps API.

I hope to simplify it so that people can set up a map in the OPML Editor outliner, by entering a list of names of places and have them appear as icons on the map. They also get to specify the icons, from the set of Glyphicons. And of course they can write a document for each, in the outliner. The outlines will be displayed more or less the same way as the About outline on Scripting News home page.

The API is pretty strange to me, largely because I've never used a Javascript API before. The callback structure is totally bizarre. I'm accustomed to the enviroment managing threads for you. To me this is an odd way to program. Which makes learing a new API doubly-difficult.

I'd rather not read a whole O'Reilly book on this API. I'd like to find a narrative to explain these topics:

1. How to turn a name of a place into a lat-lng value. I see there's an entrypoint for this, geocoder.getLatLng.

2. How to get a callback when the user clicks on an icon. It would also be nice to know where the mouse-click happened, on the screen, so the window can pop up close to it (I have no idea how to do this, but will have to figure it out).

I see this as another way to do a presentation, or to organize information. I would like to have a single outline for a map, making it super-easy to edit, and also to have it in the most convenient form for someone browsing over the data.

Any pointers are much appreciated.

Update #1 permalink

Thanks to some pointers from Ted (see below), my test map now have markers that:

1. Are specified not by latitude and longitude, rather by human-understandable strings like Roosevelt Island, New York, NY and 23rd St and Park Ave, New York, NY.

2. When roll over the icon you see the human-understandable string.

3. When you click on the icon and alert dialog pops up with the string.

This is important because the string is what's going to be in the main headline for each chunk of outline text. In a sense it's the address both in physical space and in the outline. Being able to go from a mouse-click to that string is an essential step.

Posted: 10/30/12; 11:04:40 AM. permalink

Hurricane status report permalink

I'm getting tweets and emails from friends outside NY asking if everything is okay.

1. Thanks! The concern is much appreciated.

2. Everything is good. Power is on. No one hurt. Exhausted. Happy to be safe.

3. Three trees fell on my mom's block in Flushing. She has lots of support nearby. They've lost some power. Luckily my brother was in town, he couldn't get out on Monday, so he's been there to help.

A picture named trees1.jpg

A picture named trees2.jpg

A picture named trees3.jpg

4. I live in a high-rise in mid-town. The building swayed for hours, and it was exhausting and scary. One of the windows blew open, and it was a bitch to get it closed. But at 11PM or so the winds just stopped, and it's stayed quiet outside ever since. Got a great night's sleep. Power is on. Very fortunate.

5. The streets in Manhattan are virtually empty. Some cabs, cars. Lots of emergency vehicles.

6. My SandyCam site is up, but sad to say it's mostly getting pictures of raindrops on the windows.

7. Posting links on my linkblog, of course (these also flow to Twitter).

8. All is good.

Posted: 10/30/12; 10:14:59 AM.

Climate change permalink

To partisans: The issue isn't whether Romney wanted to kill FEMA, it's that we're having an election without climate change as an issue.

A picture named change.jpg

It should be the dominant issue.

As usual, people want to blame the leaders, but we get as much bullshit as we demand from them. If we decided that climate change was the issue, it would be.

Time for the American electorate to grow a pair and take responsibility

Posted: 10/29/12; 3:39:18 PM.

NYT River repair work permalink

A few weeks ago the NY Times firehose feed broke.

I emailed with a friend at the Times, and we were able to get it working again. But the new version of the firehose is a mere trickle compared to the former raging torrent.

This put me in a bad place because I depend on a gush of NYT headlines in my river. I could subscribe to all the feeds I could find, but that means that I'd get duplicate stories because the Times, like other pubs, runs many stories in multiple feeds.

I've always been thinking about doing a heuristic to fix this. I'd keep track of the titles that had already appeared in a river and skip duplicates. Last night during the Giants game I gave it a shot, and it worked.

I wrote the change up in this worknote.

I added a huge number of feeds to the NYT river. And it's starting to feel good again. I wanted to share this as a possible best-practice for other aggregator developers.


After running for a few hours -- success. The NYT river is back to its rich flow, at a time when there's lots going on -- the presidential election and a hurricane. And there aren't any duplicates. All is good. :-)

It's been a while since I really looked at the NYT river. They write such good descriptions. You have a pretty good idea what the article is about even without clicking. Much more useful than getting full text. Because I get a breadth of the news, and the experience is created by editors who know what they're doing.


Pointers: NYT river.

NYT feeds page.

The OPML reading list for the NYT river.

Posted: 10/28/12; 10:42:10 AM.

A social network's soul permalink

How to tell if a social network has soul?

How often do the founders' tweets get retweeted. How often do their names pop up in your stream, not as ads of course, but because someone thought they were worthy of a pass-along.

In that spirit, I realized the other day that:

1. I never see tweets from Ev or Biz, two of the three founders of Twitter.

Of course today someone RT'd Ev.

It always works that way!

To show I'm a good sport, I RT'd the RT. :-)

2. I do sometimes see tweets from Jack, the other founder, and they're often useful.

I don't use Facebook or Google-Plus, but even if so, I would imagine from time to time I'd see things linked from Vic Gundotra or Zuck. And the other day I did see something from Vic. The only times I ever see something from Zuck is if there's a shitstorm over privacy and he has to write an open post to try to calm people down. But it should be a constant drumbeat. And not something synthetic. They should be NBBs. But no network yet has figured out that they need NBBs at the helm.

A picture named julia.gifThis epiphany comes after an embarassingly large number of years using social networks.

Back in the days of CB Radio on Compuserve, which was very much like Twitter believe it or not, the Compuservants (people who worked at the company) never used the service. In fact they referred to us as the Lonelyhearts Club (I knew this because I had a personal friend who worked there and heard about it over the phone, not on the network). Compuserve is long-gone.

Whatever you may say or think about Scoble, he is retweeted. He works tirelessly to push new ideas out there. Any network should kill to get him on board. Pay him huge bucks. Wine and dine him. But they're so clueless they seem to resent him. Eventually this will flip around, and guys like Scoble will be seen as the equiv of NBA stars or American Idol winners. They are the reason people come to the service. If you're starting one of these networks you would do well to entice him.

What made me think about this is that Hugh MacLeod, the famous Gaping Void artist-blogger, told me that Scoble had told him he should be using Instagram as his social network. I agree, up to a point. But Instagram never sought out Hugh. And Instagram doesn't have feeds, so I can't plug Hugh's content into my flows. So bzzzt, I veto Scoble on this one. But he was 80 percent right. Instagram is a good choice for what Hugh does, if they 1. gave a shit and 2. let the data flow.

I think eventually the artists will rise and take all this over.

Posted: 10/27/12; 1:05:44 PM.

Sandy's message permalink

It just occurred to me, reading an NBC article on how Hurricane Sandy might effect the election, that climate change will be an election issue after all.

We may not want to discuss climate change, but our planet does.

Posted: 10/27/12; 6:18:36 AM.

Lost Twitter connection permalink

I am unable to send links from my linkblogging tool to Twitter.

This outage started at 5:45PM Eastern yesterday. The last four of my links didn't go through. The reply from Twitter is empty. There's no error message or error code.

The first three links were about Hurricane Sandy. The fourth was about the election.

I've tried re-authorizing the account with Twitter, but that didn't seem to make a difference. The response is still empty. Nothing is posted to my Twitter account.

If you have any clues what else I might try, I'm happy to. It's possible something changed in the Twitter API that I am not aware of.

It's also possible this is the end of the road, that for some reason they've decided that my contribution is no longer wanted.

I'll save any editorializing until there's more info. :-)


I posted a note on the Twitter Dev discussion board.

Got a pointer to this issue, which seems to have happened about the same time. Not clear whether it's related to this.

While I'm stuck

I don't think I'm being caught up in the same mess as the other guys, because I'm getting back an empty response. They're getting back a message saying that the content-length header is missing.

Well, it turns out I was getting the message, it was just happening at such a low level that I wasn't seeing it.

So to be clear, I was caught up in the same breakage as everyone else.


See this worknote for details on the workaround, which I will now release.

Posted: 10/27/12; 5:38:17 AM.

Our Soviet Union permalink

I just had a flash, and that's what blogs are for.

The Soviet Union collapsed. And that changed the world.

Could the United States collapse too?

What if it already has?

What if the change in the way the press works is the equivalent of a new political system, with a new division of power.

Isn't that what happened in the Soviet Union?

Posted: 10/26/12; 1:55:43 PM.

Listening is Hard permalink

The constant theme of my blog is the title of this post -- Listening is Hard.

It is.

The way people read on the Internet usually has nothing to do with listening. What people seem to do mostly is skim the article looking for their own name, the name of someone they hate, or if neither of those turn up, they look for a key word or phrase that's linked to one of their canned schpiels. There are some notorious commenters here, people who make me groan when I see their names. I know what I'm going to hear has nothing to do with the topic of the piece. In the worst cases they just pick up a rant almost verbatim from The Ed Show or O'Reilly, and repeat it word for word. Nothing could be more boring. I usually turn those people off when I'm flipping through channels. I totally don't want them here on my blog, by proxy.

How you can tell if you're not listening? Here are some clues:

1. The person you think you're listening to tells you that you're not. They might be wrong, but before you dismiss them out of hand, consider the possibility that they're right. And use the scientific method. Read the actual words they have written. Not the story you hear in your own head when you read those words. Read their words.

2. If you find yourself hearing someone familiar talking through them, you're not listening. For example, if the thought forms in your head that "he is just like my brother" or mother or father, or former best friend -- someone you have issues with -- then you're not listening. There's absolutlely no doubt. Classic clue that you're projecting. Instead take a deep breath, look at your surroundings, then look back at the screen. It's just a screen. Not the family kitchen table when you were growing up. Your abusive parent isn't berating you. It's just some bits on a screen. :-)

3. Try this puzzle. Most people don't get the right answer. I didn't. I was amazed. That's another proof that listening is hard. If you can't count the letters, what are the chances that you've actually heard what someone is saying by skimming their story on the net.

4. Read this piece. See how bad inference can be. 99 times out of 100 it's not about you. So don't respond as if it were.

5. A famous editor hated me for a long time, but then all of a sudden one day started being nice to me. This kept going on long enough that we've now had a discussion about why he hated me so much. It's the old inference thing. I was saying "Sources Go Direct." I wasn't saying that I wanted sources to go direct, or that editors deserved to be routed around (although as a matter of fact I did, and mostly do). But that wasn't what I was saying. I was saying that if you're in the publishing business, in any way, you have to realize that the lower cost of production and distribution has radically changed the way things work. You must factor that in. Hating me won't change anything. And if you actually listen to what I'm saying (there's the rub again) I say over and over that I want professional journalists to make the transition. But you can't make the transition by clinging to a system that has gone away.

6. Another clue is that the topic is something that you find repulsive. Most people can't listen to topics that disgust them. For example, if I say that the OWS people missed huge opportunities because they didn't listen, if you support OWS, you're going to likely respond with a story that's orthogonal. I know this because it happens every time. But isn't it better to hear about the missed opportunity, esp when it's not too late, because then you don't have to miss it? To me, this is like a programmer who argues with a bug report. Why? If you listen, you can fix it. Good programmers do not argue with bug reports. And good revolutionaries are always looking for ways to be more effective at revolution. Dilbert-like revolutionaries insist on telling you why you don't get it. Don't be a Dilbert-like revolutionary. Nothing is more pathetic.

Now let's see if anyone who comments has actually listened to what I said! :-)

Posted: 10/26/12; 11:58:28 AM.

Why Obama Now permalink

Posted: 10/26/12; 10:22:03 AM.

Sharing and mobile sites permalink

A picture named disneypad.gifLet's say I'm using my iPad and I come across a video, and click the link, watch it and decide to share it with my followers on Twitter.

Something not-so-good happens. The mobile link goes to everyone. Whether they're using a mobile device or not.

Mobile is about at the same place where we were with RSS when we realized that subscription wasn't just a matter of giving someone the URL to the RSS feed. We had to do more. Unfortunately we couldn't get everyone to swing in the same direction, so the problem was never adequately solved.

The correct answer here is to have a link on the page that goes to a shareable version of the page. I might be on the mobile version, but this will take me to the "general" or default version of the page. Then if someone comes to the page on an iPad or some other supposedly limited device, they can show them the mobile version, if they must.

This happens often enough to be something we need to fix, soon -- before it becomes an unsolvable problem.

Posted: 10/26/12; 10:33:15 AM.

Olbermann don't sell out! permalink

If you know Keith Olbermann please send him a pointer to this. I've tried tweeting to him, but I never get a response. Tell him I'm for real, that I've done this myself with great success. (I have!) You can make a lot of money doing Internet broadcasting. And Olbermann, someone we know well, is the perfect guy to do it.

Dear Keith Olbermann,

Last time around the two people I read or listened to most were Frank Rich in his weekly column at the NY Times, and you.

This time around neither of you are out there. Your voice has been missed.

According to New York Magazine and other bits here and there, it seems you're looking for a job at a broadcast network. I think this would be a serious mistake. You have a popular Twitter feed. And lots of fans. You could very easily start something on the Internet and keep all the profits for yourself, and run your own show, and if you pissed someone off that would be good because it would get more people to watch and/or listen.

A picture named dewey.gifI used to think creating an Internet-distributed radio show was hard, but it's not. You can do it with an iPod. A video show is a little more work. People don't care much about production value, esp for someone with as well-known a voice as yours. What we want is something no one else can provide -- you! Your insights, your ideas, your angst!

Then, later -- once you've got a regular thing going on the net, you can get distribution from one of the networks, on your own terms. Don't stop distributing your stuff on the net, that's your fallback in case they start excercising control over your content.

I'll help. No charge! I just want you to do it. Nothing more.

What we, your fans want, is the pure unadulterated Olberman Experience™. We want to know we're hearing what you really have to say, not what some network executive will let you say. There's already so much of that. It's boring. Give us what we crave. Olbermann. Don't sell out!

Posted: 10/25/12; 5:33:33 PM.

Buck-passing bullshit permalink

The Repubs are tempting fate, trying to allocate blame for Obama's loss in November. Obviously it's a little presumptuous.

If Romney wins, it's not Obama's fault, it's not Bill Clinton's fault. It wasn't caused by the attack in Benghazi or the weak economy.

It's time to lay the blame squarely where it would belong if we elect Mitt Romney president.

It's the American people's fault.

We have been disclaiming our power for far too long. It's become habitual. And it's wrong. In the United States, according to our much-revered Constitution, if you want to know who to blame for things being royally fucked up, just look in the mirror.

When I suggested to the people in the Occupy movement, at least the ones who would listen, that after they finished with the occupations that we should move on to fight voter suppression, I was told, uniformly that our votes don't matter and there's no difference between Obama and Romney. I recognize that as pure bullshit.

The reason we get bullshit candidates, to the extent that we do, is that we ask for bullshit. And they give us what we want. Bullshit. And lots of it.

A picture named buckstop.gifI said last month that we suffer greatly from a lack of imagination. We are not creative. If we increased voter turnout, we the people, not some campaign or political party, or paranoid focus group like Christians or the Tea Party, if ordinary Americans of all political persuasions got together and decided that voting matters -- then get this -- voting would matter. It might even inspire a candidate like Obama to trust us, a little, and start telling more truth about things like cyber-terrorism and climate change. Instead we're arming our military to fight World War II and we're building stupid pipelines and fracking our water, and basically continuing to screw everything up. For no good reason other than we don't want to deal with reality.

So when President Obama said to Rolling Stone that young people recognize a bullshitter, and Romney certainly is the biggest bullshitter we've ever seen run for President, he's saying that he understands something that apparently very few Americans get. The buck doesn't really stop at the desk of the President. Ultimately, the buck stops with us.

Posted: 10/25/12; 11:19:45 AM.

We need BYTE permalink

A picture named byte.gifWe used to have a pretty good technical journal for developers who worked on PCs. It was called BYTE Magazine. If you came up with something new that was relevent to a bunch of other developers, you could write an article, submit it, and they'd often run it. I wrote a few of them, about outliners and laptops if I remember correctly, when both were pretty new.

TechMeme doesn't cover new technology. In all the stuff I've written in the last three or so years, they've only picked up a very few pieces I've written that were about investment. They are really a VC journal. They cover what the investor herd is following. So if you want to know all the nuance of the latest rumor about Apple or Facebook, you'll find it on TM. But if some developer comes up with a good idea we should all know about, that's not something they appear to be interested in.

Obviously today it would be a blog, maybe even just a linkblog. But it would be moderated by people with a track record for creating innovative products. I would be willing to start something if others would join in moderating. Crowdsourcing is not what this is about. It must be peer-reviewed by people who create new products and have contributed to the general knowhow. And please no patents.

What do you think?

Posted: 10/24/12; 2:52:33 PM.

Walter O's revenge permalink

A picture named thisIsNextYear.gifIn 1958, when I was three years old, the Dodgers moved and with them took pro sports in Brooklyn.

The owner of the team, Walter O'Malley, wanted to build a new stadium in Brooklyn to replace the aging Ebbets Field. According to his plan the new domed stadium, designed by Buckminster Fuller, would go at a transportation hub, where nine subway lines and the Long Island Railroad come together, in Brooklyn.

He was opposed by the great highway builder and destroyer of urban ecosystems, Robert Moses, who wanted to build a new stadium at the confluence of three super-highways he was building, at Flushing Meadows, in Queens.

O'Malley got his new stadium -- in Los Angeles. And Moses got his stadium and a new team, the Mets, to play in it. The Beatles famously performed there in 1965. They tore the stadium down in 2009, and built a more modern one, with restaurants and fancy skyboxes, in the parking lot of the old stadium.

My Wikipedia bio incorrectly says I grew up in Brooklyn. I grew up in Queens, within walking distance of Shea Stadium. I come from a family of Dodgers fans, who instantly converted to the Mets in 1962. O'Malley was blamed for moving the Dodgers, but few at the time knew of the role Moses played in the story.

Fast-forward to 2012, and a new sports arena has risen in Brooklyn, at the exact location favored by O'Malley. Fans won't drive to events at this stadium. Moses must be rolling over in his grave. Gradually the city is adjusting to the future it should always have had. And Brooklyn is on the rise again! All is good.

Posted: 10/24/12; 1:13:58 PM.

AWS river permalink

A picture named bezos.gifYesterday while I was waiting, along with hundreds of other server guys, for Amazon Web Services to restore service on one of their Virginia availability zones, I kept referring to their status page, where they have kind of an ad hoc method of accumulating information about the outages.

I had nothing better to do than stare at this, and it gave me an idea. Why not systematize it? They have a feed for every service. And my aggregator produces a fairly usable readout, imho of course. :-)

So I wrote a script to pull out all the feeds from the Amazon page, and loaded them into River2 running on one of my servers (hosted at Rackspace, so it won't go down when Amazon goes down), and started running. It looks pretty good. So here it is.


You might want to bookmark it and have a look whenever you're wondering what's going on at Amazon.

Posted: 10/23/12; 8:57:52 PM.

Our crunch? permalink

Interesting news that Mike Arrington and MG Siegler have returned to TechCrunch.

I have an idea that a new bloglike pub would be one where everyone that these guys attack gets a platform from which to defend themselves. Strictly to set the record straight.

Imho it would instantly outstrip all blogs in potential revenue and would probably put a little fear into the people at AOL. :-)

I kind of like the idea. Should we start it?

We could even run a conference, where the devs sit in the audience and the VCs boast about their talents on stage! We could even invent silly hoops for them to jump through. A personality contest. An award for best swimsuit.

Posted: 10/23/12; 12:39:09 PM.

Crowley and Raddatz killed permalink

Stating what's obvious.

Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz were wonderful debate moderators.

Schieffer and Lehrer were as awful as the other two were great.

Next time I nominate Ezra Klein and Shepard Smith as the male moderators.

Time for a new generation.

Posted: 10/23/12; 10:14:30 AM.

He just makes this shit up permalink

In theater and movies there's an imaginary fourth wall at the front of the stage. When an actor talks directly to the audience this is known as breaking the fourth wall. It's a good technique in acting, and it would also be a good technique in political debate, if you want to establish a bond between yourself and the audience.

In the three debates this year, neither candidate did it. I wished many times that Obama would have looked straignt into the camera as Romney was going on and on in fantasy-land and say "He just makes this shit up."

Instead we say it among ourselves on Twitter.

George Burns did it

Breaking the fourth wall is not a new idea.

George Burns did it well, and he even took it a step further. After breaking the fourth wall, he'd stroll over to his TV set and snoop on people as if he were on Homeland or The Wire and could tune in any person he wanted to as if they were a program. Usually he'd spy on his ditzy but wonderful wife, Gracie Allen.

Here's an example.

Bring the audience on stage

I've also suggested that next time around the debaters would be allowed to bring a computer with them and hook into Twitter, or whatever is hot in four years, and participate in the discussion while his opponent drones on and on lying about this and that.

Posted: 10/23/12; 9:37:13 AM.

Today's AWS outage permalink

Update: There was an outage on Amazon today. A segment of one of their server facilities, in Virgina, went out. This caused a large number of scripting.com sites to go offline. A couple of hours into the outage, I relocated my threads site to another server and started taking notes here. I was also posting tweets, some of which are included here.

Heh. I realized that now that everything I have is in the worldoutline, it's remarkably easy for me to move a whole website from one server to another. It took two minutes to do the tech work, and it'll probably take as much as 20 minutes for the DNS change to propogate. But we're now back on the air, somewhat, and I can document the Amazon outage and its effects here, where I should have always have been able to.

I also have to hook up the static home page. Done.

One thing I'm going to have to do is export the roots list on each server to OPML so that I can automate the movement of the content on one server to another. Should be possible to make it even more automatic.

At 8:40PM with the debate about to start, the outage has cleared.

Posted: 10/22/12; 5:54:49 PM.

Why the press isn't tough on candidates permalink

1. Each of the two campaigns will raise approximately $1 billion this year.

2. Much if not most of that money will be spent on advertising.

3. The employers of the reporters get that money.

The rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

Posted: 10/22/12; 11:59:59 AM.

Two warm-up projects permalink

This morning I have to solve two problems.

1. When I view the scripting.com home page on my Android phone, the text is all scrunched up in one column. Why? It doesn't happen on any other device I've tried, and it works well on desktops and laptops. Works great on my iPod and iPad. Here's a screen shot that illustrates.

2. I needed to create another Windows server on Rackspace, but they're no longer offering Windows Server 2003 images. So I had to go with 2008. The user interface is fairly different, but I've been able to puzzle it out. One thing I haven't figured out is how to access the web server on the machine over the Internet. The IP address that Rackspace gave me appears not to work.

Update: The problem turns out that I have IIS running on the machine. I should have figured this out for myself, but it took a Rackspace support engineer to find this for me. Now I have to figure out how to turn it off.

I have turned off IIS, which required two tries (one to quit, it and one to disable it after it relaunched after a reboot).

Now I am able to access the server on the local machine using its external IP address, but am not able to access it from my desktop using that address, orlando.scripting.com.

Update #2: This time it was a firewall problem. You not only have to open port 80 for IIS (which was the default setting) it has to be opened for all other apps running on the server. It was blocked. Thanks to the excellent Rackspace support for their quick help. They should change their name to Rockspace. :-)

Posted: 10/22/12; 9:44:59 AM.

I named my company UserLand permalink

Back in the 90s, before everyone was blogging, when I wanted to explain what we were doing, I would say this line and watch people's faces.

"I named my company UserLand."

It's actually a very powerful statement. It makes people think.

I mention it today, because at lunch yesterday at Startup School, for a while I was talking with a small group of UX engineers, one of whom had read my piece about users, and wanted to know if it was really okay if he kept using the U-word, because after all it's the first letter of his job description. These people love users and love what they do, and they don't want to stop.

Being the graybeard avuncular type, and being a UX guy myself, I gave them permission to continue to use the word as long as they kept loving the users. As soon as they didn't love them, they'd either have to quit and do something else, or stop using the term. If you use the word without love, it's a very harsh word, and unfair. But if you use it with love there's no higher honor than being called a user.

Posted: 10/21/12; 7:05:21 PM.

Uber strikes out at JFK permalink

The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, did a great presentation yesterday at Startup School. So great, that I decided I wanted to try the service, first chance I could when I got into JFK on my trip back to NY.

So I set up a new account, entered my credit card info, installed the software on my iPad and my iPod Touch, and read a few docs that explained that it was not possible to arrange for a pickup in advance, that I would have to request the ride from the location where I was to be picked up.

So here's what I did when I got to the front of Terminal 7 at JFK at about 4:30PM today.

1. Opened the Uber app on my iPod, but it thought, for some reason that I was in the middle of Kansas. So that wasn't going to work.

2. I got out the iPad, and it knew where I was (it has GPS, apparently the iPod doesn't).

3. I got a confusing dialog that seemed to be asking me to choose which kind of ride I wanted. Either an SUV, or a Uber-x, or a regular ride. Too many choices.

4. Then the moment of truth. A nice big button that you click to request a ride. The caption below it says the nearest car is 9 minutes away. I click the button. Expecting to be congratulated with a map that showed me where my car was so I could watch it come to me! But nooooo...

5. A big error dialog comes up saying that before I can order I ride I have to have my phone number verified. Why didn't they have me do it at the hotel. I'm standing in front of a busy terminal, with people rushing around me, and I'm supposed to do what? So I get out my cell phone, and do what they tell me to do. Text the word "GO" to a number they specify.

6. Now I'm juggling three different devices. And my luggage, and remember the nearest car is 9 minutes away. And there are cabs coming and going, any one of which would be happy to take me home.

7. I try clicking the big button again, on the iPad, but again I get the error message. You have to text to this number blah blah.

8. I look at the cell phone, and there's an error that says the number isn't registered with Uber. At this point I guess that my phone has identified itself by its T-mobile number, not the Google Voice number that I registered with Uber. I can never remember the T-mobile number (there's no need to, no one but Google Voice knows it). I figure maybe I'll go to the Uber site and register with that number instead of my real number.

9. So I get the iPad out and go to the Uber site. But I don't remember my password (I used my Macbook Air last night to fill out all the forms).

10. So I open up Gmail, and start to search for the password and at this point I realize I've given it my best shot, and close everything up and get in a cab, give him my address and he takes me home.

And I was so excited to try the service! Oy.

If anyone from Uber reads this -- validating the number is something I should have been asked to do when I was setting up the account, not when I'm standing on the street wanting to go home.

Posted: 10/21/12; 6:48:34 PM.

Do VCs ever spot the new thing permalink

A picture named ipodTouch.gifOne topic that kept coming up yesterday is how do VCs spot the next big thing to invest in.

If there are only going to be 15 big companies spawned in every generation, how does the VC spot them?

I kept thinking of our experience trying to convince VCs in the late 90s that there would be a market for self-edited websites, the category that would eventually become blogging and lead to the market leaders of today.

I would demo our software to VCs, showing them how they could update their own websites. They asked why would they want to do that? I thought it was self-evident. We were turned down. So I tried again with the idea being that their assistants, without any technical knowledge could edit their websites. Again, they didn't see the need. I came back with RSS, again -- why would anyone want that? The theory was that there would be three main websites, and they thought they would be Excite, Yahoo and maybe Google. Amazon and eBay in commerce. And that was about it.

I think if the VCs look at what they actually do vs what they say they do, they'll see they're more like the movie industry. Funding a lot of ideas, without any clue which ones will be big hits. That suggests that the YCombinator approach is more viable. And I gotta say I argued for that in the 90s, and was told (again) that I was hallucinating. I should have taken that as a compliment. :-)

And I'd look for more creative people making the decisions about what gets funded. Trying to get breakthrough ideas through the finanical guys who have been the gatekeepers, is a very inefficient process.

Posted: 10/21/12; 10:57:52 AM.

Is Number One the only one permalink

Yesterday's Startup School provided much food for thought, and possibly a few blog posts.

To start, Ben Horowitz, a principal at the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, says there's only room for one product in any tech category. If you end up as number two, you'll end up going out of business.

I wondered if that was true, and if so -- why is tech so special.

He offered Sybase as an example. He said it was an excellent database, but it was number two and eventually Oracle came to dominate. Does anyone still use Sybase?

But in many consumer categories there are plenty of number two's -- Avis to Hertz. Pepsi to Coke. The Rolling Stones to the Beatles. Ries and Trout in all their books, talk about there being three rungs on the ladder. One and two make most of the money, with one making far more than two. And three hangs on, barely.

Then I thought about it some and realized there are quite a few examples in tech where no single product dominates.

In web browsers there's Chrome, MSIE, Firefox, Opera.

In mobile OSes there's iOS and Android.

In desktop OSes, there's Macintosh, Windows and Linux.

In browser-based email there's Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail.

Search has Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Posted: 10/21/12; 10:14:56 AM.

Microsoft keeps blowing it permalink

Windows 8 has a whole new user interface. Is there any demand for a Windows with a new user interface? Doubtful. Extremely doubtful.

If they want to try out a whole new way of doing things, great -- go for it. But don't drag Windows along with it. Market it as a new product, so people who want it can buy it. If they don't believe anyone will buy it, or not enough people to create critical mass, then they really must know that they're not going to achieve critical mass by trying to force their current users, who may want new hardware, to switch to a new user interface. The fact that they wouldn't buy it if it were a separate product is a very strong clue.

The sad thing is that they had a product that people reallly wanted, with Windows at its core, but they wouldn't let us have it. Netbooks. I know because I was one of those people.

Netbooks were marvels. Little packages of a computer with a good-size hard drive, a fast-enough CPU to do the kinds of things people would eventually do with iPads. But Microsoft wouldn't let them make machines that had more than a certain size hard drive, or memory, and I assume screen resolution. Which meant that all the innovation and improvement had to take place in battery life. Which happened, until they reached a level where more battery life was irrelevant. The price was truly awesome, you could buy a lot of computer in a very small package, that had wifi built in, for less than $300. At the time this was more than amazing, it was a breakthrough.

Microsoft, which was already facing the Apple juggernaut, had a unique product that people wanted, before the iPad, and they wouldn't let it evolve. Instead they wanted to force people to want a product they didn't -- more upscale Windows laptops that were heavier, had less battery life, and were serious investments at $1000. The netbooks were like popcorn. The were people's third computers, not even second. They should have subsidized those babies, created a huge installed base, encouraged software developers to target this platform, and let the manufacturers move where ever they wanted. And btw, they could have laid off half their engineers, because the OS just has to keep doing what it has been doing all along, nothing more. Faster, on new hardware. And that's all.

These products would have still had to have dealt with the iPad, and who knows, they might still have been wiped out, but the way Microsoft forced them to be anemic and non-improving, they didn't stand a chance against Apple. They were sitting ducks.

Now, they don't have too many options left, but they still have a cash cow. And if they insist on trying out whole new UIs, then do it, but let Windows become a quiet reliable and invisible platform, and do experimentation elsewhere.

Another way to look at it, the people who wanted rock and roll left Windows a long time ago. The people who are left really don't want to think about Windows. Maybe they want to buy some new hardware. And along with that they get a whole new way of doing things. Bzzzt. Wrong move.

Posted: 10/19/12; 10:13:23 PM.

Morning in America permalink

Reagan had a great ad in 1984 that was so good we remember it now, so many years later.

But that was Obama's Morning in America ad, in 2012, that is in every way as moving as Reagan's. They should run this, a lot, in the next couple of weeks.

Posted: 10/19/12; 9:33:26 PM.

Romnesia permalink

Look at all the women watching the President bring a new word into our vocabulary.

BTW, Romnesia is a good response to the Romneys calling the President a child.

Okay you call me a child, I'll say you're crazy.

Watch the Romneys come back to say Obama is not respectful enough.

Posted: 10/19/12; 2:20:37 PM.

I'm okay with Romney winning permalink

If Romney wins, I'm okay with it, because Obama has run a decent campaign, and a mostly honest one. And if people prefer Romney, then we deserve what we get. And I think it'll be really radical. There's a huge difference in direction for us based on who wins this election.

I think we understand now that Romney doesn't stand for anything. He doesn't even understand the idea of having a political cause worth fighting for. He isn't pro-life or pro-choice. He doesn't want to do anything in particular.

A picture named bloatersmall.gifOnce elected he will revert back to what he was in the primary. I think his choice of Ryan as VP cemented that. I think Ryan will run the Presidency as much as Cheney did. He's got the support in Congress. The only hope against that is if the Democrats keep the Senate, and if they refuse to deal with the Republicans with the same tenacity that the Republicans refused to work with Obama. But I wouldn't hold my breath for that. There are Democrats from red states in the Senate, who might not want to take the chance of crossing the Republicans, assuming they hold the White House and the House.

I think you'll see the Ryan budget pass, pretty quickly -- if Romney wins.

I read about this in a great piece by Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine.

The flipside is also true. Even if Obama loses both houses of Congress, his veto power will be all he'll need to radically rewrite the budget in his own image, because of the wonderful "fiscal cliff" that's coming up.

In order to raise taxes and drastically cut the military budget (and profits to the defense industry, a Repulbican patron), he has to do exactly nothing. Just kick back and watch the Republicans set their hair on fire. It'll be a thing to behold. Can Obama resist making a deal with them for a while, just for the fun of watching them get a dose of their own tactics?

This cliff is nowhere near as dangerous as the one the Repubs pushed us to the brink of in August 2011. It's a good time to call their bluff. Especially after winning the election he wasn't supposed to win. :-)

I'm not saying either scenario plays out, but I'm okay with either.

1. We get what we deserve.

2. The Repubs get what they deserve.

Posted: 10/19/12; 1:24:32 PM.

Do you love Silicon Valley permalink

I'm writing this from Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

I first came here in 1979. I drove a beat-up old van from Madison. I went via Eugene, where I had a friend from school, and drove down the coastal route. The brakes on the van failed, on El Camino, near Castro St. That's how I ended up staying at a huge campus-like temporary apartment community before moving to the hills outside Los Gatos.

I had mixed feelings about the Valley then. It was a burn-out, everyone worked all the time, or so it seemed. It wasn't like school where there was a mix of fun and work. And I ended up staying until 2003, almost 25 years. There were lots of ups and downs. It didn't take long to rise to the top, that was the good thing. But there wasn't much substance to the place. Sometimes I wonder if I wouldn't have done better climbing ladders in a comfortable east coast job. Might have left me more plugged-in at the age of 57, which is where I am now.

I feel a lot of resentment from this place. I don't think they like me -- at all. I have what have become extreme ideas, but which in the beginning were the norm. That computers are tools of self-expression. That users are supremely important. When I came here I doubt if anyone had thought of running an ad on a computer screen as a way of supporting development. That didn't come until much later, after a few booms and busts.

These days when a young tech person comes here, there's all kinds of structures that didn't exist when I arrived. There were angel investors and VCs, but nothing like the various incubators that take applications and have "classes" and graduates. I'm sure I would have liked those, but I wonder if they would have taken me in.

I recently met a writer-in-residence at a famous university who said I should have no trouble landing a job in academia teaching young people how to do what I do. I encouraged her to give it a try at her school. Nothing happened. For whatever reason, I doubt if I would now be accepted in these programs. Yet, if I look back at my career, much of it right here in the Valley, it seems something would have been lost. Which is how I feel about my contributions now. Lots of missed opportunities. And maybe that's because the world isn't as open as it once was, and maybe that was the strength of Silicon Valley that has been lost. In 1979 there was a way for me to get involved.

So I put this question out there, esp to young people who feel brilliant and driven to create real tools for personal expression, if there are any -- do you love this place? If not, where do you go? When I was young, this place was like Memphis or Nashville for country musicians, or Hollywood for actors or screen writers. Do you feel drawn to, and love for, Silicon Valley?

Posted: 10/18/12; 12:15:29 PM.

Let's call them users permalink

Every decade or so this question comes up. Why do we use that awful U-word to describe our users. It's hard to even formulate the question without sounding stupid. And every time the discussion comes up, it lasts a while before everyone gives up because there really aren't any better words, and this is the word everyone uses so what are you going to do.

Hey I called my second company UserLand Software, because I wanted to be clear who we were focused on. The idea was we would make a wonderful playground that we, as users, would love to er ahem -- use. And we'd make it easy enough to develop apps inside the land that developers and users would find they became the same people. Software made by users for users. This was a good idea, I felt.

Words are like formats. You could try to come up with a better version of RSS, for example -- but the old one won't go away, so now you have two formats where once there was just one. That's why I say that two ways to do something is worse than one way, no matter how much better the second way is than the first. It's like taking features out of products -- you really can't do it. The users will eventually make you put it back (that is if you pay any attention to them at all).

So rather than run away from the U-word (toward what exactly?) I decided to embrace it, fully -- and name the company UserLand. The idea caught on even if the company ultimately didn't make it.

The answer is to love those users so much that they don't mind being called users. That's an art a lot of tech companies have yet to master.

Posted: 10/17/12; 7:21:19 PM.

How to kick Twitter addiction permalink

A picture named twitterscreenstiny.gifLast night, a couple of hours before the debate, all of a sudden Twitter was radically transformed on my iPad. Previously it had appeared exactly as if I were accessing it on my desktop or laptop. This is as it should be, because the iPad has a full-size screen. And the compromises that designers make for "mobile" websites tend to fit much smaller screens, like an iPhone or Android smartphone.

One might argue that this design is better than the full Twitter website, but that's unimportant, because no one asked me if I wanted a radical change, especially at a time like this -- just before a historic matchup that was going to be followed by all my friends on Twitter, in real-time, in a couple of hours.

There was no way around it, and no time to get adjusted. I didn't know how to use this interface. I'd click on things and get unpredictable responses from the software. All of a sudden, software that I had mastered was foreign to me. I had become a newbie, in an instant, because of a bug, or some product committee at Twitter, or perhaps the CEO of the company. Someone decided that I would have to adjust, right now, with no warning, and no choice.

This is an awful way to do this. And it's even worse than the way Twitter treats developers (I know, since I am a developer as well as a user).

The bright side is that I realize that I am addicted to Twitter, and the feelings I have about this are the same feelings I had when I was forced to quit smoking a few years ago. My skin feels itchy. My mind can't focus. I keep thinking "Just one more tweet, one more, and I'll be fine."

So I suppose I have to thank the folks at Twitter for helping me see how hopelessly addicted I am. And maybe, instead of making peace with this awful interface, I'll use it as a way to remind myself that this is not good. As if perhaps someone had replaced my Marlboro Lights with a menthol cigarette like Kool or Salem. Yuck. Tastes bad. Oh that's right this isn't good for me. Maybe it's time to quit?

BTW, the debate was excellent. I thought the President was fantastic. He told Romney that his bullshit is bullshit. Which made Romney nervous and he said some things he probably wishes he hadn't said. Finally someone stood up to the bully. Had I been able to tweet effectively this is basically what I would have said.

Posted: 10/17/12; 6:38:08 AM.

The new River tab on Scripting permalink

Today there is a new tab on the Scripting News home page. Screen shot.

I've felt for a long time that every serious news organization and blog should have a river associated with their publication. The river would include the news sources that the publication "reads" -- to give their readers a sense of the community they both belong to and the community they define.

A picture named box.gifFor example, a blog about a town would include a river of all the bloggers who are active in that town. This is a vital resource for the editorial people who write for the pub, but it also gives access to everyone. The readers get to read all the news sources, and the news sources get to read each other. Very quickly, probably instantaneously, all these different boxes, sources, readers, reporters merge into one, because truthfully it's more like that every day. The imaginary line that separates a columnist from a voter from a mayor is more or less non-existent, in a day when mayors have blogs, and citizens become mayors.

This is the world envisioned by at least some of the founders of the United States. That the people would form the government, and that the press would cover everything, without regard to status. The tendency of cliques and ladders to form would be counteracted by new entrants in all the fields, and lower barriers to entry. This is what democratization of media looks like. It's why I put my collection of rivers on a site called Media Hackers. Because that's what all this is doing, hacking media, and turning it into something new, given the new realities of the technology we now use to publish and to read.

Rivers are revolutionary because they are flat. The ideal level playing field. I read NakedJen and Doc Searls along with the New York Times and whitehouse.gov. And Jon Chait, David Frum, Felix Salmon and Matt Taibbi. I love them all because they send me fresh ideas that get me thinking. And I love that I can share all that with you, the lovely people who read my humble blog.

The river on Scripting News home page is a collection of feeds that I read to be inspired and to keep informed. They reflect my interests, which is appropriate because it is my blog. It helps you know who influences me, and I'm always open to adding more feeds to my river.

My feeling is that if you read my blog you should also read my river.

I think the more innovative sites should get on board right away. I have pitched FastCompany and Wired on doing this. Technology Review at MIT has written glowingly of the idea of rivers of news, how about putting one together for your community? BerkeleySide, why not put a river of Berkeley bloggers on your site?

I am available to help any serious publication get started. We have the software, and the interest. And the community of users gathered around my site, ever-more-active, are zealots when it comes to spreading the gospel! :-)

PS: Thanks to Dody Gunawinata, a developer in Cairo, for helping get the flash out of my rivers. I'm still very much a Javascript newbie, and need help getting stuff like this to work smoothly.

Posted: 10/16/12; 10:05:07 AM.

California trip permalink

I can't remember my last trip to California.

That's why it's time to spend a few days in Silicon Valley.

My trip begins on Wednesday and I return on Sunday. I'll be staying in Palo Alto and have one event on my calendar, the YCombinator Startup School at Stanford on Saturday. I'm not speaking or anything, just going to sit in the audience and listen.

Let's see how things have changed in the valley of tech. :-)

Posted: 10/15/12; 10:01:08 AM.

Obama's easy sell permalink

For whatever reason, President Obama, has until now refused to sell.

It may be a little late to teach him salesmanship, but maybe that's what they're doing in his debate prep before the second debate tomorrow at Hoftstra.

The pitch is pretty easy:

1. If you elect me to a second term, ObamaCare will be deployed and finally after a hugely long struggle, the United States will have the beginnings of health reform. It's not nearly everything we need to do, that will be something for a future president to tackle. For now, I promise to implement it. And that's a promise I can keep even with an obstructionist opposition party with a majority in the House.

2. In my first term we wound down the war in Iraq, and we're winding down the war in Afghanistan. I get how weary we all are of war. My opponent, a nice man for sure, will imho get us into another war in the Middle East, with another crazy country, Iran -- and this one, like the other two, will be hard to get us out of. We're probably looking at another 10 or 20 years before all this war is over. Another war in the Middle East is not what we want. I think we can manage this one without sending Americans in to fight and without bombing Iran. I think we can work this politically and economically, with the cooperation of our allies and even our adversaries. No one outside of a few crazy countries wants to see Iran with nuclear weapons.

3. Reproductive choices will remain with the people whose lives and bodies it concerns. None of us like abortion, but we have different views on what the correct moral choice is. As long as there is no consensus, and believe me there is not, we must stay with things as they are. You have to listen carefully to my opponent's words on this one. He says he won't pass legislation. But he also says he like Supreme Court judges like the ones who are prepared to overturn Roe v Wade. That means it's pretty likely if you elect him, that there will be a very serious changes to abortion rights.

There you have three totally pragmatic reasons why you should re-elect the President. You may not like the way he looks, you may think (incorrectly) that he's a radical leftist. You may have heard (again incorrectly) that he was not born in the US. But if you think you might get sick, and if you're weary of war, and if you might ever have a family member with an unwanted pregnancy, you really have to vote for Obama.

PS: I am an independent, I voted for Obama in 2008 and will vote for him this year. I've given his campaign $400 so far. However, I have still voted Republican more times than Democrat. So if you have a response to this post, I would appreciate if you took all this into account, and don't respond as if you're on Fox News and I'm one of the "liberals" they talk about. Thanks.

Posted: 10/15/12; 9:48:34 AM.

Dark social web history permalink

A picture named elephant.gifI read Alexis Madrigal's piece about the Dark Web with a bit of sadness, in a way -- that so much time had passed with so much history being rewritten, and it's happening again. Not due to any malice, I'm sure. We all have the experiences we have.

Madrigal was a teen during the huge initial growth of the web, and was an instant messenger, chatroom, ICQ and Usenet person. But in the blogging world, which was the precedent for Twitter and Facebook, we were constantly developing ways to surface the new and interesting content. Blogrolls, weblogs.com, RSS were all about that. And Live Journal had the social features of Facebook long before Facebook.

Just saying I agree with Madrigal, but we're still waiting for a serious history of this stuff to be written so we're not all blind men looking at the elephant and discovering alternate theories about how it all came to be based on looking at this part or that.

Posted: 10/15/12; 9:43:48 AM.

In 2016, a two-screen debate permalink

In four years, let's have a debate where the candidates may if they want have a computer and access to the Internet. This would allow the candidates to post pointers to things that viewers could read while listening to the debate.

By then most of us will be two-screen TV watchers. Why not let the debate happen on the second screen as well.

I know this will seem like a radical idea, but in 2008 they were still time-delaying debates so people on the west coast saw them three hours after the east coast. There were probably just a few thousand people commenting on the debates in real-time. Now, what a difference. We've covered a lot of distance in just four years.

Posted: 10/14/12; 12:04:48 PM.

He called the President 'boy' permalink

Just tuned into a little of the Sunday morning news discussion on various networks. The big issue seems to be whether or not VP Biden was disrespectful of Congressman Ryan in the Wednesday debate.

Yes he was. But I haven't forgotten what Mitt Romney said to President Obama. He said the President is like a boy who doesn't tell the truth.

"Look, I've got five boys. I'm used to people saying something that's not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I'll believe it."

He called the President 'boy' -- to his face.

With 70 million witnesses.

There really isn't anything more offensive for a white man to say to a black man.

Watch the video a few times. I think this was far more outrageous than anything he said at the 47 percent dinner in May.

People complain about t-shirts at rallies worn by Romney fans. But please, this was said by the candidate himself. It didn't seem spontaneous or off-the-cuff.

After the debate Ann Romney called the President a child too.

This isn't an accident, these are strategies. Biden's condescension relative to Ryan was a response.

You wanted acting in debates, you're getting it. But come on, there are two sets of actors here.

Posted: 10/14/12; 11:04:41 AM.

AT&T will turn its customers in permalink

This in TorrentFreak about AT&T and other ISPs turning their customers over to the RIAA and MPAA for accessing certain sites while using their service.

It's obvious to anyone with any appreciation of 20th century history that this is a first step which will have the ISPs cooperating with other multinational corporations to control what we do online.

Oh it's just the Internet, not freedom. But these days how much freedom can you enjoy without Internet access?

This question came up in my first year at Harvard, when the RIAA convinced the provost to suspend several students who they believed were sharing music with other students. They cut the students off from Internet access for a year. In 2003, this was considered too onerous, that it was equivalent to expelling them from school. We changed our mind, a good result. Now in 2012, those same students are fully adult, in the workforce, and suspending their Internet access is like expelling them from life itself.

You think it will stop with music and film piracy? Heh.

First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Ask not what the Internet can do for you, ask what you can do for the Internet.

See also: Violate copyright? No Facebook for you!

Posted: 10/14/12; 10:25:56 AM.

My blue iPod Touch is beautiful permalink

I didn't love any of my earlier iPods or iPhones -- but this one is lovely.

It takes very nice pictures. Click on the thumbs below to view the full-size picture.

A picture named ipadPic1.jpg

A picture named ipodPicture2.jpg

It's thin and light. I can hold it in front of my eyes while lying down without any strain. So it's great for watching movies. I'm watching a Frontline special about the choice between Obama and Romney. It's in HD, and the iPod does a great job with HD video.

The screen is large enough to read and write. My eyes aren't so great. So I haven't been able to use earlier iPhones for email or reading web sites. Maybe in an emergency. But I much prefer to use my iPad -- more screen real estate. But this one is different. I set up all my apps there, and used them -- and I think I will continue to do so.

I know other people love to look at and hold their iDevices, but I've never felt that way -- until this one. It really is beautiful and light. The five years of work on this product really show. It feels like it's the size of one of the smaller iThings, but it has all the power of an iPhone, minus the phone (which I truly do not need).

When I travel I will now have four computers with me:

1. My iPad with LTE.

2. My Macbook Air.

3. My Nexus Whatever (I forget what model it is).

4. My iPod Touch, blue.

It was only $299 plus tax. I feel like it was a total bargain.

I thought at first that the earbuds would work in my ears, but not when I'm walking. They still fall out every few steps. I think when my ears warm up they cause the buds to slip out. So far the only buds that work for me are the $8 Sony's. So the Apple buds go into my upper-right desk drawer along with all my other unused Apple stuffff.

I also like that Apple got me to buy something that wasn't a replacement for something I already had. Some people like buying shoes. I used to like buying stereo equipment.

Finally, click the thumb below to see a full-size pic of the iPod itself.

A picture named myIpodBlue.jpg

Posted: 10/14/12; 10:14:21 AM.

My linkblog has an archive permalink

The RSS feed for my linkblog, which goes back to December 2010, has a feature that I think no other RSS feed has (or Atom for that matter). Not only does it have an archive, but the feed itself describes the archive. It contains enough information so you could easily write a script that downloads all the content of my linkblog, in RSS.

1. If you look in the feed, look for the <microblog:archive> element. Here's a screen shot.

2. I wrote a script that downloads the linkblog archive in full. Here's a text file containing the script. Here's the script as an OPML file, and as a .ftsc file. It's written in UserTalk, but could easily be converted to other scripting languages.

2a. For fun, I pasted the script into the outline for this blog post. Let's see if it works! :-)

on downloadLinkblogArchive (urlFeed, folder)

local (xmltext = tcp.httpreadurl (urlfeed, 3, false))

xml.compile (xmltext, @xstruct)

local (adrrss = xml.getaddress (@xstruct, "rss"))

local (adrchannel = xml.getaddress (adrrss, "channel"))

local (adrarchive = xml.getaddress (adrchannel, "archive"))

local (urlarchive = xml.getvalue (adrarchive, "url"))

local (fname = xml.getvalue (adrarchive, "filename"))

on getdate (name)

local (s = xml.getvalue (adrarchive, name))

return (date.set (string.nthfield (s, "-", 3), string.nthfield (s, "-", 2), string.nthfield (s, "-", 1), 0, 0, 0))

local (theday = getdate ("startDay"), endday = getdate ("endDay"))


local (urlday = urlarchive + file.getdatepath ("/", theday) + fname)

local (fday = folder + file.getdatepath (file.getpathchar (), theday, false) + ".xml")


local (xmltext = tcp.httpreadurl (urlday, 3, false))

file.surefilepath (fday) //make sure all folders in path exist

file.writewholefile (fday, xmltext)

bundle //set mod and creation dates

local (xstruct, adrrss, adrchannel)

xml.compile (xmltext, @xstruct)

adrrss = xml.getaddress (@xstruct, "rss")

adrchannel = xml.getaddress (adrrss, "channel")

file.setcreated (fday, date (xml.getvalue (adrchannel, "pubDate")))

file.setmodified (fday, date (xml.getvalue (adrchannel, "lastBuildDate")))

msg (fday)

theday = date.tomorrow (theday)

if theday > endday


bundle //test code

downloadLinkblogArchive ("http://links.scripting.com/rss.xml", "Ohio:mylinkblog:")

3. I ran the script, it created a folder. Here's a screen shot of the folder, and the folder itself as a zip archive.

4. Here are the docs for the archive element.

Hopefully that covers all the bases.

Posted: 10/13/12; 2:02:12 PM.

Radio2 volunteers permalink

A picture named couch.gifFrom time to time I get questions from people who want to set up Radio2 servers who are having trouble, are highly motivated, but it really isn't something they should do. I'm learning that running a server, like a lot of things, requires a temperment that most people don't have -- no matter how much they may want to do it. But it would be great if these people had Radio2 accounts somewhere. Then we could develop utilities to download their archives locally. This is a lovely little project I've been meaning to get to. If we had some users who needed it, it would actually make it easier to write.

Anyway, all this is preamble to this question -- If you're already running a Radio2 server, would you be willing to let someone else virtually crash on your couch? Radio servers probably can host several hundred users, if not more. It's a pretty lightweight server app.

Anyway, reply here with a comment if you already have a server and are willing to volunteer for this.

I think it can be a good experience for everyone.

Posted: 10/13/12; 11:40:48 AM.

New iPod Touch shipping? permalink

I find myself wanting to buy a new iPod Touch.

A picture named ipod.gif

The blue one of course.

I wonder if it's showing up at retail yet?

Posted: 10/12/12; 10:50:30 AM.

Catching up on OPML & RSS stuff permalink

Lots of things happening in the Land of OPML these days.

1. At first I thought I wouldn't be able to provide full text descriptions and good titles to Google Reader people. But as often happens, after a night's sleep, and with the conversations with readers fresh in my mind, I figured out how to, step by step get there.

2. Then last night, just before the debate, I had a bit of time, and wanted to see if I couldn't get a link to the OPML itself into the RSS feed. This is something I had working in the previous version of the feed.

3. It proved a little difficult, so then I realized I could do something even better -- I could put the OPML itself right in the RSS feed. That way, if anyone wanted to provide a truly high fidelity view of the content of my blog, including the attributes that come with the OPML, and the full structure of the outlines, well, they wouldn't even have to read a file. So I did it. And it works.

4. Microliner was released. Quite a few people tried it. Everyone seems to like it so far. I find it fascinating. We can have a structured conversation that's something like the Instant Outliner and something like Twitter, but really not like anything I've seen yet. So I want to get a better feel for it, so today I'm going to add a community feature.

5. There was a bit of drama on Wednesday night when it looked like Microliner had been shut off. But it turns out to have been a coincidence, that it was the same day that Twitter shut off some of the long-deprecated URLs in their REST interface. Quite a few other developers had to scramble to get their apps back online (we tend to forget about the code we wrote five years ago, esp if it continues to work without problems, as our Twitter code did).

A picture named jfk.gif6. As the dust was settling on this, I wondered why there isn't a brain-dead simple machine image I could set up that does a subset of what Twitter's API does, reliably, fast, and with no terms and conditions. It could at least serve as a sandbox for testing apps before they go live. And it might turn into a coral reef. I sent an email to Dan MacTough, who has become fluent in node.js, to ask him to have a look. By writing this, I'm inviting all readers of this site to think about it, and maybe do it.

It also occurred to me that Twitter might want to sponsor the work. They've been very active in open source, and it would be a great way to show that they love the wild innovation of the open Internet. It might be a smart way to zig to their own zag. :-)

BTW, it's worth mentioning that the Bootstrap Toolkit, which came out of Twitter, and now is open source, came out early enough in the development process for the worldoutline software that we were able to get it in, at a very basic level. Every page rendered by the worldoutline, by default has the full toolkit available to it. That can lead to some pretty nice serendipity.

7. If you can do it with tent.io, great.

8. I'm still waiting for one of the alternate-Twitterverses to hook into my linkblog feed. The first one that does gets my full link flow, which is a nice little first step in what could be a wonderful bootstrap. It's my proposal to all developers for how I'd like to work with you. It's just RSS with a cloud element. You can even do it without using the cloud info (that's just for realtime-ness).

Having a lot of fun. Finally we're getting some outliner users. That's a magic ingredient. Outliner people are smart and fair-minded, and love to think. Just the kind of users we like. :-)

One more thing that's worth saying every so often, esp since President Kennedy came up in the debate last night. Ask not what the Internet can do for you, ask what you can do for the Internet. Really. It's good for you. :-)

Posted: 10/12/12; 10:43:26 AM.

Mr President, grow a pair permalink

We all saw the debt-ceiling spectacle in the summer of 2011. The Republicans in Congress played an incredibly dangerous game of Chicken with the President. If either of them blinked at the wrong moment, the casualty would be American dominance of the world's financial system.

Most Americans, and I would bet a lot of our representatitves, don't understand that it's not so much our military that gives us power around the world, rather it's the fact that our currency, the dollar, is the safe haven for all value, world-wide. If either the President or the Congress dropped the ball, that would have shattered, and we would stop being the exceptional country, and all kinds of bills would come due. Not for future generations -- right now.

I was appalled when I saw the President take the 14th Amendment off the table early in the process. If you recall, the amendment contains a provision that says that the validity of the US debt will not be questioned. Clearly, there was no point debating whether we would honor our obligation. The Republicans can whine all they want. If they want to have an impeachment, the famously coool President would just look into the camera and say he was doing what the Constitution told him to do, and the Congress should get on board. They would still have to get the votes of 2/3 of the Senate, and it was controlled by Democrats, so they can jump up and down all they want, nothing was going to change.

Instead, our dreamy-eyed President decided to negotiate with them! He chose brinksmanship when we should have had some ballsy leadership.

That's why his numbers dropped when he did the same damned thing in last week's debate. We were reminded why this President hasn't yet got the message. The Republicans are dicks. You can't deal with people like that as if they would respond to reason. Romney made that clear from the outset. This debate should have been seen by the President as an opportunity to get something straight.

"I am the fucking President of the fucking United States, and if you don't like that, fuck you."

Luckily there's still time for him to get a clue.

This is not a negotiation with Congress or the Republicans, Mr. President. You are negotiating with your employers, the people of the United States of America. If this election were being held in August 2011, you would have lost. It's time for you to get the message, that we will not accept this kind of leadership in the future.

You have my vote. And my money. But I'm glad that enough of my fellow Americans were willing to tell a pollster that you're too wimpy to be President. So maybe you'll get a clue and maybe in your second term we can get a bunch more stuff done. Or at least Washington will be a bit more quiet and let us get on with our lives, without having everything fall apart for no good reason.

Posted: 10/11/12; 7:35:45 AM.

Unbreaking our Twitter permalink

We got hit by a wave of deprecation on Twitter yesterday.

First thing that happened (or so it appeared) is that Microliner stopped working. Since yesterday was rollout day for Microliner, it seemed that this was a response from Twitter to the edgy-ness of the app. We do display people's tweets as lines in an outline. But, we figured that maybe they'd see how interesting this project is and let it keep running. We're not trying to steal anything from them. The tweets were in response to ones generated by Microliner. So it's not as if we're trying to replace Twitter. But that was worth a shrug -- okay -- they don't want us to do it, so be it.

But later, Radio2 stopped working. That's much more serious because it's mission-critical. We use that software to keep an archive of everything we post to Twitter without having to depend on Twitter to provide one (they don't at this time). The only alternative would be to do all our tweeting inside Twitter. That would mean all my other uses for my linkblog would go away. Since that's a big part of the reason I do it, well -- there's no choice -- I would stop using Twitter.

But it turns out that none of this actually happened. Instead it was an unlikely coincidence. The very day that Microliner was released was also the day they turned off some parts of the API. I admit I wasn't paying attention to their deprecations. Figuring I'd cross the bridge when I came to it. If they shut us off that way, I'd decide at that time if I wanted to do the work to get it all working again. I really disapprove of platform vendors doing this. I think there are so many more of us than them, that they should stay compatible. But I don't get a say in this. And unless you work at Twitter, Inc, you don't either.

To Microliner users, many of whom are OPML newbies, to get the latest bits, choose Update opml.root from the File menu. That should get it working again for you.

Update: Here's the worknote that outlines the details. I was able to get Radio2 and Microliner working again. Yehi! :-)

Update #2: I almost thanked Twitter. But that would be too weird.

Posted: 10/11/12; 6:59:33 AM.

Test post for Google Reader readers permalink

The first version of my app that re-links my CMS with full content feeds had a serious encoding bug.

This post has a bunch of links to stuff. When you click the links, do they work?

That is, when you see this post in Google Reader. (I know it works in the browser.)

Here's a nice picture! Can you see it?

A picture named newAccordionGuyBig.gif

And a little bold and italic text. Does it look bold and italic?

If you want to help out, come to the threads site and drop in a comment.

Posted: 10/10/12; 2:32:30 PM.

A reprieve for Google Reader readers permalink

I hate to hear the stories of readers who will muddle along and keep reading even though they wish there was a way to get the full text of the stories in their choice of RSS tools.

To be clear, the ones who threaten me can go now -- this is a labor of love over here, there's no money involved. You can be bitter or angry with me for not pleasing you, but it only makes me wish you'd go away, not that there was some way I could serve you better.

Anyway -- I figured out how I could patch up the feed after the fact, without unnecessarily intertwining software that I'm desperately trying to decouple. The saving grace was that each of my stories is also available in OPML. So I did what Google Reader could and never will do -- I get the OPML and converted it to HTML and replace the feed item description with that text. After creating a title from the description.

Not a horrible klooge, and as I said it doesn't involve one piece of software knowing anything about the other, which was the goal. Cost -- 1/2 day -- so far. Let's see if it stays that small an investment. :-)

Posted: 10/10/12; 1:08:15 PM.

Outline your Twitter conversations permalink

I just released a tool called Microliner that lets you outline your conversations on Twitter.

I don't think anyone has ever had a tool like this, so I'd better explain how it works.

1. Open up the Microliner Workspace window. Enter an idea. 140 characters or less, please. :-)

2. Click the Tweet button. It goes out to all your followers on Twitter.

3. Wait a minute or so. Click the Replies button. Microliner calls Twitter and gets the replies, and arranges them under the messages they are in response to.

4. You can then reply to the replies, and so on. Once you get going, you can participate in a dozen conversations at once, and not lose track of where you are or who you're conversing with. It really works.

The tool is available now: http://microliner.opml.org/.

I thought I was done developing on Twitter as a platform, and then I get an idea like this, and I have to do it, whether or not its advisable. :-)

Posted: 10/10/12; 10:44:20 AM.

To Google Reader readers permalink

As you may know, there's been a major redesign of the Scripting News home page. But, you may not be able to see that this is part of a much bigger change in the way I do content management, one which is being modernized to fit into the new realtime flow of links, pictures, podcasts, etc facilitated by Twitter, and what I hope will be a thriving ecosystem of feed-like apps that run outside of Twitter.

Things are changing, not just here but everywhere. And I'm moving quickly, and as this happens things break.

Yesterday I posted three items to my feed that were just titles. This was a bug, in some provisional software that patched the new system to the old system. I'm not going to fix the bug because there's going to be a new way to do the feed, and I'm just one person programming here, and I can't afford the time to maintain provisional code. I have to be working on the main line.

And here we have a choice -- continue to compromise for people who use Google Reader, which is a very fussy piece of software that doesn't play by the rules of RSS 2.0, or break Google Reader, just for this feed -- and do things the way the Twitterverse works, which imho is also the right way to do things. Obviously, given the way I phrased that, I'm going the way I feel is right.

The question is this -- must feed items have titles?

The answer is clearly no. No, because the RSS 2.0 spec says so and no because Twitter has built a wonderful ecosystem of communication around the idea that posts can be short enough to be titles. How could you require a title to have a title? It would be ridiculous.

I already have a great linkblogging tool called Radio2 that takes blogpost-like items and turns them into an RSS 2.0 feed of Twitter-able items. It seems perfectly reasonable that Google Reader could adapt to make sense out of these feeds. It's just one piece of software. But they don't move, and that gives others a tough choice. To move anyway, knowing people who use Google Reader will be left behind, or continue to provide content as if Google Reader was the only way people were consuming it, when that isn't even close to being true anymore.

I hate it when users are caught in the middle like this. You guys did nothing wrong other than use a piece of software that works for you. And of course since you want to read my site, I think that's fantastic. Maybe there will be some compromise possible, a way to accomodate everyone without making me, just one person, do the work that a big company like Google should be doing to support you, people who use their software. But right now that just can't happen.

You will continue to get links to my stories in your input stream, I hope. But the full text will not be there. You can click the link to read them on my site, or skip it, or unsubscribe. And I'm sorry to be parting in this way, but we have to move forward, and it looks to me very much like Google Reader is behind us now.

Here's how my new system works.

1. I created a new Radio2 category called Scripting News.

2. When I want an item to appear in the Scripting News feed, I just check the box in the category list.

3. I click Post. When I do that, a bunch of processes are set in motion, including a callback script running on my server that copies the category feed to the location on S3 of the Scripting News feed, and pings our cloud server to tell it that we updated. It in turn notifies all services that have requested updates, and they read the feed. All this happens in a couple of seconds, at most.

An aside: One of the benefits of this switch is that all the effort that's been poured into feeds on Radio2 in the last couple of years now accrues to Scripting News. The feed not only has archives, but the archive is described in the feed itself, so apps can easily find it. Podcasting isn't an afterthought, it's fully supported, and not hacked in. And there's so much more.

4. One of those agents cross-posts to Twitter. That's how you see the link on Twitter, and it's why my content, that lives outside Twitter, is archived separately. I'm not waiting for Twitter to give me access to my links, since I never gave it up to them.

This is also consistent with the philosophy of distributing pointers to the content instead of the content itself. That way there is a single archive for it, one authoritative copy of each bit, even though it can be referenced in many places.

I've never been a fan of full content in feeds. I know some people feel it's the only way to go, but I don't agree, and never have.

Posted: 10/9/12; 10:20:18 AM.

New scripting.com features permalink

Two new features on Monday evening.

1. There's a new Archive tab. It links to the monthly archive pages back to April 1997.

2. Now each tab has its own URL. So if you're coming to the site for the links, you can bookmark that tab and go there directly. And there may be additional tabs in the future that you will want to bookmark.

Sometimes clicking on a tab causes a flash. If you have an idea what might cause that please leave a comment. Thanks.

Thanks again to Bootstrap for the great Javascript library.

Posted: 10/8/12; 5:38:29 PM.

They taught outlining wrong permalink

In school they taught us to outline first, then write from the outline. It's an ideal no one achieves, because it's impossible to have the essay arrive in finished form in our mind before we start writing. It doesn't work that way.

Instead we wrote the paper first, then the outline.

And that was correct, because it was the only way that worked. But it didn't get us much more than a slide show presentation of our work. It's different when you have a structure editor, an outliner. Because you can revise both the text and its organization after the initial burst of writing.

Here's how I do it today, in my outliner. I write from top to bottom. Then I review. If I find structure, I add it.

Then I have a structure to work with, I add more ideas become apparent, more things I have to record, to tell the reader. The order might change. The process of each little project is to iterate both the work product and the narration until I feel I'm ready to move on to the next thing.

Of course I might start two or more things at the same time. For example I have two worknotes open now, and this blog post.

In a blog post I play with order more than structure. They are meant to be read from top to bottom, as a story.

But worknotes offer different things to different people. I write them for today's users and hopefully tomorrow's too. But I also write them for developers, including myself, who will continue to work on the code behind the notes. I find it very useful to be able to open my notes from a previous project, while working on something related, and find it all neatly organized, so I can skip right to the part that's relevent to me.

I thought it would be interesting to take a screen shot of my worknotes outline so you can see what projects in various states of completion look like. At the same time here's one of my blog outline. See how they're different?

Outlining works on a computer, as long as you revise. It doesn't work on paper because revision, especially of structure, is too hard.

Posted: 10/8/12; 10:54:09 AM.

I need grad students permalink

Please, this is just a blog post, not an ad. I'm just writing aspirationally. Thinking out loud. You're welcome to listen, but do not feel compelled to act. That would be wrong. However if you're sure you know of a school that could do this, or even another kind of organization, please don't be shy.

A long time ago, a colleague of mine at Personal Software explained that I do software development as an academic researcher would.

It's still true, but I don't do it in an academic context. And that context is rapidly disappearing in academia, where so many students are now studying computer science not as a way to further the art, but rather to start something entrepreneurial and get rich.

And there's nothing wrong with that. In some sense, I did that too -- when I was younger. I thought making millions was the way to get validation for my work. My family and the society I grew up in raised me to see things that way. And I was successful, and as a result have been able to work on what I wanted to for my whole career. Pretty good.

Now it's time to take what I've learned and pass it on. There's a huge base of software, most of it open source, that reflects what I've learned. Not just as ideas, but as working code. And programming practices that are, imho, pretty far in advance of what's being done elsewhere. The only problem is, I'm not attracting the students I need to help build something substantial and long-lasting out of it.

I've outlined in the past what I hoped for in terms of an ideal environment, from the point of view of the institution. Now I realize that I don't need the institution as much as I need the students. And I can't work with beginning programmers. I'm looking for people who have spend at least a few years learning the basics, stumbling, falling and getting up again. What I have to offer is the equivalent of an actor's studio, for people with extreme talent and drive, to be creative making software. You might get rich from what you learn, but that shouldn't be the point.

Again, as with the previous piece this is not an ad, rather than an aspirational piece. Not looking for advice or "solutions" -- but if you have a compatible goal, I'd welcome hearing from you. Not guaranteeing anything, but I will listen.

Posted: 10/8/12; 9:16:01 AM.

Update on OPML Comments permalink

In early Sept we started working on a new role for the OPML Editor in web content -- as a comment creation and editing tool. It's a different way of doing it, and long-term I don't even think it'll be seen as comments.

Now there's an official doc that explains in a small number of steps how to get going. It takes a couple of minutes. Almost at the threshold of a mass-relevant blogging tool. Getting there.

There are more steps coming, hopefully pretty soon.

A picture named wetry.gifAnd if you're a web architecture kind of person, here's a comment I wrote the other day in response to some questions of my longtime programming buddy, Chuck Shotton. There's some pretty big dreams about how content should flow that have been realized.

When Twitter vanished as a possible platform about three years ago, I got busy building what I really wanted. I think in the end it'll seem that Twitter did us a favor by kicking us out of the nest, even though it didn't feel too good at the time.

We're still diggin!

Yes indeed. :-)

Posted: 10/7/12; 1:42:43 PM.

A funny thing about outliners permalink

An idea that might be foreign to people who write in text editors.

You can use an outliner to write multiple documents.

Try creating a headline called My Diary.

Then every day, add a subhead with the day's date.

And under that write a paragraph about something you learned or did that day.

A picture named myNotesScreenShot.gif

Do it for a few days until the strangeness wears off.

Does this make sense?

Here's a screen shot of my "worknotes" diary, which is one level deeper.

You can think of every major head under a day as a separate document.

In fact the CMS sees it that way. So I have one document which in turn contains many documents. Actually thousands!

For many people this will be a new way of thinking about writing.

Posted: 10/6/12; 8:48:36 AM.

Romney cowardice permalink

When this election is over, we're going to ask the Republicans to apologize to every American for the disrespect they've shown to all of us by trying to make this election an appeal to race hate.

They can make all the childish excuses they want, but as adults, we understand what they're doing. Even on the debate stage, when Romney talked to the President of the United States as if he was one of his children, and said it exactly that way.

You know, of all the nasty shit Romney said in the 47 percent thing, the worst thing he said was this: "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

That's so self-important, even for a President, to think that somehow it's up to him to convince the rest of us to do anything, much less such personally offensive and outrageously condescending, patronizing, arrogant, irrelevent, egotistic ideas. Imagine if Obama had be caught saying something like that. The hooting would never stop.

It's up to us, Mr. Romney, to convince you to slither back into the hole you crawled out of. You sorry excuse for an American. Get a real job. Create something. Do something real with your life. How can I convince you to take personal responsibilty for the nasty shit you say, Mr. Romney.

BTW, now that he says it was totally wrong, let's find out exactly what was wrong with it -- line by line. Each statement in that rant.

Posted: 10/6/12; 10:06:32 AM.

Compromising Obama permalink

A picture named birdsmall.pngI hated watching last night's debate. Not because "Obama Lost" but rather than being inspired, as some political discourse can leave you (e.g. Bill Clinton's speeches at the last three DNCs for example), it left me the opposite of inspired -- without hope. Hopeless.

I imagine that the Republicans who had fought with the President behind closed doors know something about him that the rest of us don't. That when cornered, he turns into a bowl of jello. The hemming and hawing increase, and he starts saying idiotic things like "I suspect the Governor and I agree on this." While his mortal enemy is lying, he nods and smiles. Inside something bad is happening with the President, and it's visible on the outside.

So they paint him as an apologist. At first we think it's just talk for the Repub base, but they know that come the debate they are going to be able to get the President to appear to apologize. All that being so agreeable, maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome. And the Republicans are going to keep pushing him. Romney is not inept like McCain, who Obama aced. Nor is he Hillary Clinton, with whom Obama managed pouty sort of dominance.

Romney is going to bully the President, and it's up to the President to grow a pair and bully back. We learned something I didn't want to know last night. And we'll learn something else at the next debate, whether the President has friends who will kick his butt.

And btw, maybe John Kerry wasn't the best person to use as a stand-in for Romney. I wish Coach Walsh was alive to help out here (though I suspect he was a Republican). Maybe Bill Clinton would be a good coach for Obama? Just throwing things out there.

Posted: 10/4/12; 11:11:25 AM.

The drama of debate permalink

Tonight's debate will be where alternate realities meet up.

Unlike the Repub debates which were all the same flavor of crazy, this one may have two people trying to live in our world, and a third who pretends the Republican reality actually exists.

Posted: 10/3/12; 8:25:24 AM.

Scripting.com redesign permalink

A picture named tenTons.gifI've been working up to this for a few months, now it's time to flip the switch and replace the old Scripting News home page with the new simplified and enriched version. Yes, it's got more features, but it's even cleaner than before.

1. The menu is at the top of the page, unchanged, as promised. I said it would be a fixture through the transition, so if you found your way around the various sites that make up Scripting News, the links are still be there after the transition. This helps smooth out what I find to be a jarring about website redesign. You know how to find everything and then all of a sudden -- where did it go?

2. There's a new About feature, very easy to find, in the upper-left corner, patterned after the approach taken in the Media Hackers site. And of course it's an outline, stored in my Dropbox folder, so it's reallly easy for me to edit.

3. The banner is now down the left edge instead of across the top. But continuity is maintained. It's still the same typeface, but it's even bigger than the one before. I think ones' name should be bold and big.

4. The biggest change is probably the most subtle. The text on the home page is rendered by the new outline renderer in op.render.viewOutline. This is the core rendering routine for the worldoutline software, but now it's so core it can be used in any application. So you see every bit of text exactly as it was meant to be rendered.

5. Comments are back. They of course, never really went away. I moved my editorial act, gradually over to the threads site, where it remains now. You can read the articles on the scripting.com home page, or on the threads site. The star at the bottom of each piece links to the page with comments, and the one with paragraph-level permalinks. If you want to point to one of my pieces you should point to the page on the threads site. It's the permanent view. The home page only shows the 25 most recent stories.

6. There is of course still an RSS feed, in exactly the same place. But there's also now a link in the head section of the HTML to a full outline of all the text in the new CMS, going back to March of this year when the threads site started. Nothing hard about this, because it's the outline where I do my writing. One big file for everything.

Here's a snapshot of the Scripting News home page taken just before the transition.

That's about it for now. Time for me to take a break, and when I come back, I'll fill in the links here and then flip the switch. Maybe tonight or early tomorrow.

Posted: 10/2/12; 1:23:15 PM.

First October thought permalink

A simple first thought for the tech industry at the beginning of October.

A picture named tenTons.gifIf your users are always looking for the catch -- waiting for the other shoe to drop, the 10-ton weight, or waiting for the trap door to open -- you've got a problem. If they don't understand your business, how can they understand your product. How can they understand you? And if they can't understand you -- how can they trust you?

How naive. To think you might need to have the trust of users to build a company.

It's not so naive. I think it's actually pretty naive to think that you can go on indefinitely without nailing that one down.

Now, back up a few feet and realize that it's not a single company, but much of an industry that has this vagueness at its core. Even some of the most prosperous companies are built on a foundation of mistrust with the people they depend on for their existence.

Feels like the kind of thing you look back on after a bubble-burst and say "Geez, of course that wouldn't work. How could we not have seen that."

Posted: 10/1/12; 12:06:45 PM.


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