Via BitWorking comes this post from Kottke, where he's ragging on Technorati. Come to think of it, there are searches I've tried on Technorati that almost never work - ones for links to my blog, for instance. I always get a "the database is busy" error. In any event, I spoke about this yesterday at ESUG - I have 41 search feeds set up in BottomFeeder now, cutting across products and terms that I care about. I suspect that the folks at Technorati are clued in enough to notice Kottke's post (I would hope they are, given the field they are in!).
Phil Ringnalda is not amused over the advertising he finds at xml.com:
O'Reilly's XML.com, a site I used to take very seriously, because of all the scary-smart people who write there? Brought to you by hotel spam, mortgage refinancing spam, and one of those "directories" that only exists to feed off confused searchers by sending them right back around through Google's AdSense division when they arrive from a Google search.
How horribly low have we sunk, that I'm not willing to link to O'Reilly sites without a rel="nofollow", because they are a bunch of low-life search engine spammers? X-bloody-ML.com, something that I won't touch without a nofollow condom? This just sucks.
The ads in question are low key, text only ads - nn the other hand, they are spam crap that will show up in search results because of this, so maybe I should be as upset as Phil. In any event - if you are targeting developers (and O'Reilly most certainly is) - then this sort of advertising is pretty much guaranteed to generate negative linking.
I have some more pics from the walking tour - these were all taken by my daughter. The first shot is of a remnant of the 12th century city wall, now inside the Radisson. It's actually reconstructed; the old wall was moved during the building of the hotel:
Here's a picture of the cathedral near Grand Place:
Here's a shot of the Covered Street I mentioned yesterday::
And finally, a picture from the brewery we went into at the end of the tour. This shot is of some hops - they use hops that age for a year:
Slashdot reports that 186,000 miles/sec is no longer the speed limit:
"With off-the-shelf components, scientists have managed to speed up light beyond the 'universal' constant of c, or roughly 300 million meters/sec. This, and the previous ability to slow light down could shake up the telecom world, according to the story at Science Blog."
Follow this link for the details.
Well, here's a pack of morons at work - a group of bozos wants to import large animals (including predators) into North America. Yeah, that's how I want to explore a natural park - looking around to make sure I'm not becoming prey:
"Obviously, gaining public acceptance is going to be a huge issue, especially when you talk about reintroducing predators," said lead author Josh Donlan, of Cornell University. "There are going to have to be some major attitude shifts. That includes realising predation is a natural role, and that people are going to have to take precautions."
I have an idea - why don't we introduce the predators in his neighborhood. Let him explain to local parents that they will have to "take precautions".
We drove over to Antwerp this afternoon, and after a nice lunch hopped on the local tourist bus and made our way to the Fine Arts museum. It's a lovely museum - abstract art downstairs (not my favorite - IMHO, if a 2 year old could duplicate it by accident, it's not art) - but the works by Rubens and other masters upstairs were well worth the trip. Here's a front view of the museum - my daughter took all these shots:
Victoria took a lot of shots in the museum, but it seems that a bunch were blurred. Not enought light/resolution, and we couldn't use a flash. Her camera is only 2 megapixels. Here are three of the best shots:
I think XP has some really deep, deep tacit assumptions going on, and I think the deepest tacit assumption is that we have a significant organizational problem, but we can't fix the organization. Essentially, the crap rolls downhill and ends up rolling right into the programmer's lap. When the product or the program turns out to be unsatisfactory, the fingers point to the programmer. XP is very well-intentioned; it's the software-development community beginning to say, "Hey, this is not only unfair to us, but it's not productive as a discipline and we can do a lot better." I applaud that sentiment and I agree with that sentiment, but then XP says, "OK, so, I can't change the organizational failings, so, I'm going to build my own internal defenses." I suppose this is probably better than nothing, but I'm interested in changing the way organizations are constructed. I believe that in order to create quality software, you have to change the organization. We can change the organization, and it strikes me that the assumption underlying XP is that the organization's structure is a given.
The problem is, you can't always fix the corporate structure and its infirmities - and yet, you still have to get something done. The reality - which Kent is bypassing in that first part of his answer - is that we aren't all consultants, and we can't all quit. He also makes a good point about customer-centric design (central to XP) here:
It's my experience that neither users nor customers can articulate what it is they want, nor can they evaluate it when they see it.
Neither the people who buy software nor the people who use it have the capability of visualizing something as complex as the behavior of software. They also don't have the ability to analyze what appropriate behavior is.
There's a lot of truth in that. XP/Agile are an answer, not the answer. I still don't think much of BDUF, but Cooper makes some really good points here.
Kevin Cheng (author of the Ok/Cancel strip) would like to syndicate his strip via RSS, but needs the ad revenues from his site:
Kevin Cheng, the artist who draws OK/Cancel is here at Barcamp. Very cool. He's talking about doing RSS for his comic.
He's scared by RSS because he needs people to visit his Web site in order to serve ads that would make money for him. I suggested he consider doing product placements on his comic
Scoble's suggestion might be the best one - I read Kevin via RSS now - I scrape his site via a BottomFeeder script.
More pictures from our day trip, these are from my wife. First shot is of an old castle on the Scheldt, used as a defensive measure back in the post medieval period:
Next, a few of the art works. Again, quality is a bit uncertain - we are still learning about the various settings on the camera, especially for non-flash shots indoors:
We took a brief tour of the military museum in Brussels, and then headed out to Waterloo on a tour bus. We got a lot of good information on the way there, and then had some time to view the Panorama Museum and the main monument, a Lion on a hill which marks the spot where a Dutch Duke was wounded during the battle.
The Panorama museum is kind of cool - panorama paintings were very popular during the early 19th century, and they have one of the few surviving examples put up in panorama there. Here's a shot of part of that panorama:
Next, I have a shot of the Lion atop the monument mound. That mound is interesting - apparently, local women built the thing by digging dirt from one side of a sunken road and carrying it up to build the hill. It's impressive - the thing is massive, and holds a 28 ton lion statue at the top:
Here's a shot of me at the top of the mound - my daughter took this, as well as the rest of the shots here:
Here's a shot looking up the steps towards the monument, with me coming down. Those are very steep steps - and narrow as well. If you have a fear of heights, you probably won't like climbing this:
Here's a view from the top, looking down at a small camp of reenactors in French period gear:
The last shot is of the reenactors at ground level:
This is something that bugs me here in Brussels, and it's bugged me in parts of England as well - would it be too hard to actually mark the roads with visible signs? No, the tiny blue signs on buildings that you can't see from a car don't count. In most US cities, the signs are large and easy to read. I can still get lost, but it takes more effort :)
Notwithstanding my mini-rant over street signs, we are having a great time here. The food at the restaurants has been fantastic, and we enjoyed our tour today. We plan to take a tour of Brugges and Ghent tomorrow - it's an all day thing, but I should have pictures galore when I get back. We are still open on Tuesday - anyone have any last minute suggestions for a good way to spend a day in or around Brussels, Belgium?
Ed Foster reports that HP doesn't get it either. With the connected web, this kind of customer disservice story spreads - and worse, ends up showing up in searches. You can save pennies by outsourcing and handing out zero empowerment scripts - but you'll end up costing yourself new sales by the bucket.
Is the new HP going to be any easier for customers to deal with than the old HP was? One bad sign is a recent story relayed to me by a reader that sounds a lot like stories we heard in the Carly era. You may be able to get the service you deserve if you're willing to fight, but only by going over the heads of those who are supposed to be helping you.
Bill Clementson announced a talk by Avi Bryant to a Lisp group:
For our next meeting of "lispvan", Avi Bryant, the author of the Seaside continuation-based web application framework (which is written in Smalltalk), will be giving us a presentation describing his web application framework. Since Drew Crampsie gave the presentation last month covering his lisp-on-lines package (which is built on top of Marco Baringer's UCW, a CL continuation-based web application framework), this meeting will give us the opportunity to compare/contrast the approaches taken in each of the frameworks. If you're interested in alternative approaches to web application development, it should be an interesting meeting! Here's the "official" meeting notice:
Topic: Seaside - a Smalltalk continuation-based web application framework
Presenter: Avi Bryant
Date: Thursday, August 25, 2005
Time: 7pm - 10pm (or whenever)
Venue: Tobys Pub and Grill (see map)
Summary: Avi Bryant, the author of the Seaside continuation-based web application framework (which is written in Smalltalk), will be giving us a presentation describing his application framework.
We traveled to Ghent and Bruges today, as part of a tour. Both were beautiful towns, and we spent far too little time in them. Bruges got more time from the tour though. In any case - here are some pics, some from my wife, some from my daughter. First up: A Rubens in the Cathedral in Ghent:
Next, I have a shot of the bell tower in Ghent:
And a shot of Saint Elisabeth - a sculpture outside the church:
In Bruges, there's a massive square - actually two of them. This is a shot of part of the larger one. It's much nicer than the one here in Brussels:
We took a 30 minute boat ride on the canals in Bruges - here's a picture from there:
And finally, in Bruges - the only Michaelangelo sculpture outside Italy, in the Cathedral:
Jonathan Schwartz throws the DRM question back at the movie industry, and detects a double standard. It's a great commentary, but have a look at these excerpts - the media exec asks him about "digital watermarks" being required, and Jonathan responds:
Rather than provide a response in the room, I turned a question back to him. First, the network you're supposing will deliver a movie to a theater or a camera to a file server is the same network I'm presuming will run throughout your datacenter. On the internet, it's tough to distinguish a feature length movie from a data warehouse application (bits is bits) - so would your datacenter folks support the tech industry certifying content behind your firewalls with a digital watermark? In running business systems?
After a few days, I got a response. He'd spoken with their CIO, who dismissed the relevance of my proposal to manage all digital assets under the same scheme. "You'd have to start by proving I've stolen something."
Kind of illustrates the whole problem. Schwartz gets this right, and I hope he presses this with all the media execs he talks to. Now if Microsoft and Apple would do the same...
After a long PR pounding, Dell finally discovers that customers matter:
Dell Computers, which came under fire this summer from blogger Jeff Jarvis, says it has new procedures for dealing with the blogosphere. The company’s public relations department monitors blogs, looking for commentaries and complaints and, starting about a month ago, began forwarding complaints with personally identifiable information to the customer service department so that representatives can contact dissatisfied consumers directly, said Dell spokeswoman Jennifer Davis. The move appears to have been triggered by a series of “Dell Hell” posts penned by Jarvis about his problems with a Dell computer. Jarvis first wrote about the topic in June, and continued posting updates through the summer.
“Obviously, Mr. Jarvis’ experience could’ve been handled better,” Davis said.
And it only took them this long to notice :)
We took our last day in Belgium in the car, trying to see some local castles. I'd still like to see Ypres, but we ran out of time this trip. Anyhow - we drove north out of the city to Bouchout castle and the associated national park (the grounds). There's a beautiful castle there, along with gardens and a greenhouse. The latter was being rehabbed, so we only saw some of it. Here's a shot of Bouchout castle, taken by my daughter:
Here's another shot, from the back:
We also walked the grounds, which are quite nice - very peaceful. Also uncrowded, which was a big switch from the crowded downtown area we are staying in. Here's a shot from inside the greenhouse, of some semi-tropical plants:
This next one is fascinating - lilypads that look like little boats. These things are huge for lilypads - if you could get a frog to use a paddle, he'd be all set:
That was our trip there - we passed through more of the greenhouse though. Sadly, Bouchout Castle is only open for events - conferences, seminars, etc. Now wouldn't that be a great place for an ESUG or Cam Smalltalk?
From Bouchout castle, we drove to Beersel. With our poor grasp of French and the previously mentioned Belgian aversion to signs (never mind the absolutely insane drivers :) ), we had some trouble getting there. We arrive just before 5, and the castle was still open - the groundskeeper didn't charge us for entry either. Here's a picture of the front - this castle is very old, the main part dating from the 13th century, with the towers being extended in the 16th:
Here's the interior - note the stage? They put on concerts there. Must be an interesting place for them. The bridge leading in is pretty wobbly. The moat was mostly gone, but that's a restoration thing - they should have it all back together in 3-5 years. Anyway, the interior:
My daughter and I walked up the towers - you can go about halfway up. We also walked all along the guard wall. It's decayed a fair bit, but this was definitely a cool castle.
We visited this castle - in Brussels itself - quite by accident. We got turned around driving in Brussesls (have I mentioned the sign issue?), and ran across a castle in the middle of a small park. There was an open parking spot, so we scooted in. There's a small museum there, but it was closed - we had used up that part of the day elsewhere. Here's the history behind the castle:
And here's a view of the castle from a few steps back:
We are headed home tomorrow morning - we've had a great time, and wished we'd allocated more. On our way back from an excellent dinner at a Spanish Restaurant, my wife took a few nice shots of the area at night - the hotel is in a bustling area, very loud at night (especially on weekends) - lots of bars, restaurants, and clubs. Here's a shot that will give you an idea:
There's a lot going on. Lots of good food though - I'll need to get back into my exercise regime at home! Here's a beautiful shot of the tower at Grand Place, lit up at night:
I'm winging my way home tomorrow - I'll be back at my desk on Thursday
Mike Stall explains the complexity of the VS suite:
Visual Studio is over 43 million lines of code, there are over 30 teams working on different pieces, with roughly 700 developers checking-in code to 11 different virtual build labs that are then integrated on a rotating schedule producing over 100 different builds of the product daily. In addition we have interdependencies with SQL and MSDN.
No need to wonder why it's late - that many developers is a solid sign of an ongoing death march, complete with the attendant tight coupling to other systems that they don't fully control. That's got to be a complete horror show to have to work on...
Now here's an article I can really get behind - Kevin Barnes draws a rough categorization of development languages - between "freedom" languages (Smalltalk, Ruby, Python, et. al.) and "Safety" languages (Java, C#, et. al.). He's made some very good points, and also makes it clear that his (and my) side of this argument does involve a few tradeoffs. First off, take a look at his definitions:
What, pray tell, is a “freedom language”? Freedom languages are those languages that put the individual programmer at the center of their philosophical world. They work hard to remove any language constructs that reduce programmer freedom, and add the most powerful constructs available. Many are post-modern languages and most tend to be syntactically dense.
The other kind of language is the “safety language.” Safety languages think first about the creation of contracts between modules, objects and functions. They focus on teams rather than individuals. They remove language features that are confusing or frequently misused so that there are fewer opportunities to make mistakes and so there can be clear separation of concerns and maximum verifiability. These languages are full of barriers and check-points and well-defined paths and they tend to be syntactically verbose.
With that out of the way, we get to something I've always found irritating - the presumption by "safety" advocates that the (so called) scripting languages are just toys:
The advocates to safety languages tend to deride freedom languages as “scripting” languages or “fringe” languages. They are only fit for hacking out small projects and putting together demos and whatnot. They focus on static-type-safety as one of the most fundamentally critical elements for ensuring program completeness. They may also talk about execution efficiency (memory, speed, etc). They tend to view freedom languages as improper for a larger team of programmers with mixed skill sets. The heart of their arguments is basically that these languages are not “safe” for large projects.
Kevin makes some great points about this, and I'm not going to try to quote his entire article - you should just read it and see what you think. I do like this, from near the end of the piece:
There is one other strange quality to the safety languages. They all look the same. The safety ideal has manifested itself in even the simplest elements of syntax. The providers of safety languages want constructs and syntax that will be comfortable to people who write code in other “major” languages. They want companies to be safe from an inadequately small developer pool. Many languages that started out looking different (Basic or Pascal) have over time morphed to take on the look and feel of the other safety languages. It’s very easy for someone familiar with C++ to read C# or Java or VB or Delphi. They have a lot harder time figuring out Ruby or Smalltalk or Python. Think I’m exaggerating?
Kevin points out that this presumed familiarity is less valuable than you think - stepping into any large project, the idioms and strategies (i.e., the design) used by the developers will matter more than the language selection in terms of getting up to speed. In any case - as I said - read the whole thing. I agree with almost everything Kevin's said here, including his caveats.
Bitwise magazine plugs Smalltalk (Dolphin, to be specific) in this article - I like this part:
In some respects, all those modern OOP programming languages (C++, Java, C#, Delphi et al) still haven’t yet caught up with the innovations made by Smalltalk over quarter of a century ago. Some of them (such as C++ and Delphi for Win32) are hybrid procedural/OOP languages. And even ‘pure’ OOP languages such as Java and C# are still not quite as pure as Smalltalk. Besides, Smalltalk has a few neat tricks (the ability to select and execute any arbitrary piece of code is one of my favourites) that those copycat languages lack.
“I invented the term 'object-oriented', and I can tell you I did not have C++ in mind" :: Alan Kay
I don't think he had C# or Java in mind either :)
We thought we were in for a hellish trip - just as we boarded, they told us that air traffic control systems in London had crashed, and we were looking at a three hour ground hold. Hmm - fortunately, that cleared in 45 minutes, and they made all but 20 minutes of that up in the air. That still left us with a 5+ hour layover - but good fortune again, we were able to get our bags switched to DCA, and put on standby - worst case - we get out for DCA at 6 instead of out for BWI at 8:15.
Unfortunately, WiFi here is really spotty - I had it last week down by K19 (weakly), but there's nothing here by K4. Sigh....
Missed that flight - waiting for the 6:00pm. And sitting on the floor outside the Admirals club, grabbing the tmoble hotspot :)
ARmageddon reports that Gartner now wants to charge customers extra for reprint rights to the utterly valueless "magic quadrant" diagrams. The tragedy is, there are probably plenty of people willing to pay for that.
As predicted, the Borg is executing its plan to squeeze more revenue from vendors (see links below). We have now received several confirmations from the AR community that Gartner now asks vendors to purchase reprint rights as a condition to quote Magic Quadrants in their press or marketing rights.
Redhill consulting points to an interesting reaction from the Java-ites:
RoR is quickly becoming the Godwin's Law of Java language related discussions: "As an online Java discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Ruby or RoR approaches 1 (i.e. certainty)." -- Marc Stock
There's this too, from the same place (comparing to Godwin's law):
Any programming language and Smalltalk
That's it, define contrary opinions out of existence :)
Matthew Morgan asks a question about various languages (he mentions Smalltalk, Lisp, and Scheme, among others):
So, these languages are often more elegant and concise than their mainstream counterparts, but they also require more mental effort to decode (especially when reading other people’s code). I suspect this is the kernel of truth behind the idea that these languages are only for Smart People. But even Smart People would be better served by a language that didn’t require that extra effort. Is it possible to escape the dichotomy of expressiveness versus readability?
He gives an example - I don't know Scheme, so I can't comment on its veracity. However, in Smalltalk, I can't think of anything that makes the language harder to decode - quite the opposite, actually.
Lesscode thinks that Java has reached a point of no return (in terms of complexity), and that Ruby on Rails is poised to eat its lunch for web development. It does look like dynamic languages are getting another look.
SD Times has an article on Agile Development vs. Build process - their contention is that build tools lag behind methodologies and the IDEs:
“Teams that want to be more agile are headed for a train wreck if they have long build times; they’ll need to find ways to build all or part of the software more frequently to get the kind of continuous feedback that helps agile teams move quickly,” said Clark, who hasn’t used BuildForge. “But I don’t see that as a tool problem as much as it’s a build process problem. That is, I don’t think tools will help as much as getting someone on the team to optimize the build process will.”
Optimization may be easier said than done. New languages and libraries ooze increasing amounts of code while the 20-year-old Make-based infrastructure lags behind advanced IDEs. Worse, ongoing coding projects create deeply recursive and dependency-laden groups of Makefiles that only a conjurer can untangle.
While Smalltalk doesn't suffer from the complexity of "Make" (et. al.), builds can get to be complicated - we had a number of conversations about this at ESUG last week. When I posted my build process for BottomFeeder recently, the first comment I saw was "it's too complicated". This is an area that the entire industry - including my end of it - needs to improve.
Chris Petrilli has a very telling description of a lot of software development - "Resume driven architecture". Heh
Where am I going with this? I think this applies to computer languages and frameworks. The rest of the industry keeps edging toward Smalltalk and Lisp. The road to Smalltalk was started with C++ (by mimicing OO features) gaining acceptance. Later, it was java (VM, garbage collection) and now, python and ruby (late-binding, dynamic typing, closures, etc). Each jump has taken about ten plus years each. What will the next jump be? I'm hoping it will be toward the image because it's the only piece missing. But, we still have about ten years before critical mass. Are you patient? I think I can be.
The download application for Cincom Smalltalk Non-Commercial has been given a facelift - and, we've added a new network installer - grab a small download, specific to each platform - and get the install going.
Ed Foster has found out what drives AOL's "you can't leave, ever" subscription policy:
Spitzer's people had found some particularly interesting facts about why AOL customers would meet with such resistance when they wanted to cancel the service. "The investigation revealed that the company had an elaborate system for rewarding employees who purported to retain or 'save' subscribers who had called to cancel their Internet service," the announcement read. "In many instances, such retention was done against subscribers' wishes, or without their consent. Under the system, consumer service personnel received bonuses worth tens of thousands of dollars if they could successfully dissuade or 'save' half of the people who called to cancel service. For several years, AOL had instituted minimum retention or 'save' percentages, which consumer representatives were expected to meet. These bonuses, and the minimum 'save' rates accompanying them, had the effect of employees not honoring cancellations, or otherwise making cancellation unduly difficult for consumers. Many consumers complained that AOL personnel ignored their demands to cancel service and stop billing."
There's a larger management issue going on here. You'll often see managers ask "why doesn't sales sell blah", or "why is sales trying to sell X instead of Y?". Well, the above explains it - it's almost always all about the compensation plans. Need to sell more services, and can't figure out why it's not happening? Look at the comp plan - it likely doesn't incent that behavior.
In many cases, the comp plan is the result of many years of adjustments, often made for reasons that are no longer remembered. It can easily be the case that you think you are motivating a certain behavior, but - in reality - are motivating something else entirely. What's the answer to this problem? Talk to your sales staff. Believe me, they've read the comp plan, in detail. They can tell you exactly what the plan is motivating.
Matthew Morgan makes a trenchant observation about software development:
I do find it striking, though, that no language with a simple, regular syntax has ever achieved mass popularity. If a simple syntax is a huge win for a language (witness Lisp macros or Smalltalk closures), why haven’t any of these languages taken off?
I'm not going to argue that this is a full explanation, but there's a kernel of truth in what I'm asserting here - there's a love of complexity by the vast majority of developers. Running through the subconscious of the industry is something like this:
- If it's not complex, it can't scale
- If it's not complex, it can't be a full solution
The tendency to over-architect and over-design in this industry is just enormous.
Markus Denker announced a bunch of Smalltalk related video - available via Google - on the ESUG mailing list:
ESUG (European Smalltalk Usergroup) is proud to announce that the following videos are now available at Google Video. Thanks for Andres Valloud for collecting and encoding the videos!
Google Video allows only for streaming and is usable from windows only for now.The videos will soon be available as a data DVD via ESUG. The video there will be playable on all systems, players for Mac and Win will be included on the DVD.
- What is Squeak? (Alan Kay)
- Squeak and Croquet Demo Etech03 (Alan Kay and David A. Smith)
- Croquet: A Collaboration Architecture (Alan Kay and David A. Smith)
- The Computer Revolution hasn't happend yet. Keynote OOPSLA 1997 (Alan Kay)
- Beyond VI -- Talk from euroko03 (Marcus Denker)
- Alan Kay: Education in the Digital Age
- Alan Kay: Graphical User Interfaces
- Bytecode-to-bytecode adaptive optimization for Smalltalk (Eliot Miranda)
- Dan Ingalls: Object-Oriented Programming
- Alan Kay: Doing with Images Makes Symbols
- Self; The Video
- Doug Engelbart: The Demo
I haven't looked at the logs since I went on vacation (and to ESUG) this month, so it's been awhile - I'm not going to bother with the missed weeks for now, but after looking at the BottomFeeder downloads for the last week, maybe I should - the download rate doubled to over 600 per day:
Up across the board, but the Windows downloads especially. Maybe I need to go on vacation more often :) Next, let's see what happened with the HTML accesses to the blog sites:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
Nothing strange there - the distro looks like it usually does, with the vast majority of html accesses coming from Mozilla based browsers. Finally, a look at the RSS accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Net News Wire||7%|
Well - I vaguely recall reading that MSN had cut loose with their search bot, and then reined it back in - I guess I'm seeing that in the RSS logs there. If we exclude that, it looks pretty much like it always has.