It's stories like the "Collapsing Colony Disorder" thing with bees that make me wonder about the supposedly "professional" media. I ran across this column today by an expert in the field of entomology, and it sounds like this phenomenon isn't as worrying as it's been played up - it's not new, either. It's when I got to this paragraph that I realized I had run across another batch of endless hype:
Sixth, it's never a good idea to trust what the media are telling you. At least once in the present case the media got something completely wrong and created a huge mess: The story about cell phones was basically a misrepresentation of what one pair of reporters wrote about a study that they misinterpreted. In a nutshell, the original research didn't involve cell phones, and the researchers never said their research was related to honey bee colony die-offs. Even details like the alleged Einstein quote are dubious. No one has yet found proof that Einstein said anything about bees dying off the earliest documented appearance of the "quote" is 1994 and, yes, Albert was dead at the time.
This goes back to something I've said before - whenever mainstream media reports on a field I know something about, the errors are usually large and obvious. This makes me wonder about the fields I know little or nothing about, and leads me to believe that most reporters don't even qualify as generalists. The exceptions tend to be in narrow fields where you get truly passionate people - sports and movie/theater reviews, for instance.
What's happening with the web right now is that the minimal generalists of the media are being disintermediated as our sole sources of information - we can now hear from actual experts who can give us their opinions without "joe reporter" as the middle man. For obvious reasons, reporters dislike this trend, but that's the way it is. The carnage that's happening in the US newspaper business is the leading edge of that change-over, and it can't happen soon enough as far as I'm concerned.
Cees de Groot protests too much:
I can be long and short about this, but Google trampling privacy laws by publishing recognizable pictures of people with its new Street View feature means that my doubts about their “do no evil” PR slogan have vanished - it’s indeed just a PR slogan, not something they actually believe in and adhere to.
I’m a photographer, and this is a clear-cut case: if you want to publish pictures of people, you need a model release . Period. Google’s lawyers know that, but in their “we’re the king of the hill” arrogance, they simply don’t care.
If that were actually true, then no newspaper could ever publish pictures that include people. Likewise, the evening news would never have street scenes. If you're in a public place, how much privacy do you expect? There are webcams all over the public sphere now - on the morning news, I regularly see coverage of highway traffic during the morning rush hour reports.
If Google is invading privacy with their street pictures, then every news organization on the planet has been invading privacy since the invention of the camera. Cees (and everyone else who seems to have jumped to wild conclusions on this) needs to take a few deep breaths and relax.
This afternoon we had an interesting talk about some of the meta-system in Smalltalk. We ranged over a wide variety of topics, through #perform, MessageNotUnderstood, and a whole raft of related things.
At the beginning of the podcast, I've added a new feature - each week, David Buck will be giving a "Simberon Design Minute", covering some topic in software design.
Technorati Tags: smalltalk
It's time for the weekly look at the logs again: Looks like BottomFeeder downloads are holding up, and 177/day. The platform details:
It's good to see the old Windows98/ME downloads dropping. On to the HTML page accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
Looks about the same as always - off to the syndication numbers:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Google Feed Fetcher||3.9%|
|Net News Wire||3.7%|
Looks like IE7 continues to build momentum there.
The mainstream media - owners and reporters - would do well to read this post. They could learn a lot
I've taken a hard look at the BottomFeeder UI, and I've decided that some changes are in order. Here's what the upcoming 4.4 release will look like (click through for a larger image):
The menus in the lower pane and the item pane have been pared way back, and I've added an item specific toolbar above the items list. It's coming along; I'll be doing another development build soon.
Technorati Tags: smalltalk
PC World reports that the PTO is re-opening the Eolas patent claim against MS - you remember, the one that any non-lawyer in the software industry could tell was bogus? It seems that they might finally be having second thoughts. Good for them. There are only a bazillion more stupid patents they should toss after that one...
Technorati Tags: patent
I looked at Microsoft and Gates, and thought, this man has changed AIDS like nobody else has on the planet. He has brought more money than has ever been brought to the issue. He's brought the focus of somebody who knows how to grow a business. And he said We're going to change it.' But actually if you really wanted to change AIDS or poverty in the world, what you would do is give away Microsoft free as an open platform for people to share information.
Hmm - here's a question for the Nic Frances, the guy who said that: where does he think the money that Gates is giving to charity came from?
I've updated the BottomFeeder dev build again - the UI has been worked over a bit - here are some screen shots. Click through for full images - first, the main UI:
Next, the menu that pops up for the item list:
And finally, the menu that pops up in the HTML pane:
The general theme is simplicity - I've moved common items from the menus to an item level toolbar, and simplified the application level toolbar. The context menus in the main application area have been made much, much simler. Feedback? Send it here.
In between a bunch of conference calls today, I got BottomFeeder into a better state. First, the development build that's up there now can be updated. Second, I've simplified the UI more and gotten look policy switching to work again (it had been broken in the 7.5 builds). So - if you want to try it out, download the dev build, apply updates, and restart.
Technorati Tags: smalltalk
What the heck are the 2012 Olympic organizers thinking with this logo:
I like my wife's take on this - it looks like someone stepped on a commemorative mug, and the logo is a depiction of the resulting mess. All we need to complete that is some brown color for the spilled coffee.
this post originally appeared in 2005 (I didn’t remember it from back then). Turns out that RSS kicked out a new version of this post. Both Bloglines and Google Reader users saw it again (that’s where I saw it).
Over the last two days, I've seen a ton of old stuff show up as unread in BottomFeeder. I've seen this kind of thing before, and it usually means a change in the content management system (and thus, all new GUIDs).
For those of you waiting for stability in the 7.5 based (currently dev) version of BottomFeeder, I've now switched to it myself - so I'm enjoying my own dog food :)
CBS has had problems with fans of the series "Jericho" - they ended the season on a cliffhanger, and then cancelled it. Now, there's talk of a short season in order to "wrap up" the story arc. This is exactly why Joss Whedon always ended story arcs for "Buffy" with each season close - and why I wish the writers for "Veronica Mars" had followed that idea...
I've taken the FeedLists out (if you load a feedlist, the directory structure will simply be added to your subscriptions). I've also eliminated the separate "Searches" folder - you can organize search feeds into whatever folder you think they belong in now. I also fixed a bug that's been plaguing me for awhile, and the answer came to me in the debugger.
Say you try to add a feed like Steve Rubel's from the auto-discovery: 'http://www.micropersuasion.com/rss.xml'
That 's actually a redirect to a FeedBurner feed, but the base VW handling of that was not mentally prepared for a redirect to a different host. So, I've patched that, filed a bug report with engineering, and loaded the patch for download (Package Http-Overrides in the update list). Enjoy!
Technorati Tags: smalltalk
I missed this post (it's from early May), but in it, Phil Toland explores the "conventional wisdom" that you need native threads in order to scale. He gets to the Erlang thread model of green, "shared nothing" fairly quickly, and notes that using that approach - with multiple VMs and message passing - is a whole lot simpler.
The thing is, if you write a multi-threaded application in a single memory space, it's up to you to deal with all the state issues. If one of your native threads goes bats, it can hose the whole system. With green threads and multiple VMs, you have something that's a whole lot easier to understand, follow, and debug. Those multi-core systems are getting more common and less expensive - ask yourself whether the developers you have writing code for them are getting any cheaper.
Dare Obasanjo asks some good questions about Google Gears, and how much it really helps the average developer:
I don't consider myself some sort of expert on data synchronization protocols but it seems to me that there is a lot more to figuring out a data synchronization strategy than whether it should be done based on user action or automatically in the background without user intervention. It seems that there would be all sorts of decisions around consistency models and single vs. multi-master designs that developers would have to make as well. And that's just for a fairly straightforward application like Google Reader . Can you imagine what it would be like to use Google Gears to replicate the functionality of Outlook in the offline mode of Gmail or to make Google Docs & Spreadsheets behave properly when presented with conflicting versions of a document or spreadsheet because the user updated it from the Web and in offline mode?
I hadn't really given Gears much thought, but Dare's right - Google has tossed a database API at us and called online/offline synchronization solved. Hmm - by that logic, I can take Seaside, note that Smalltalk database APIs exist, and call Seaside persistence "solved".
I suspect that most people would spot the flaw in any such claim I tried to make for my product; maybe Dare's post will make people do the same for Gears.
Sony is learning the hard way that games are about more than higher end graphics - they are being outsold 5-1 in Japan by the Wii:
Sony sold 45,321 units of the PS3 in May, compared with 251,794 units of the Wii. In April, the ratio was four to one in favor of the Wii, according to Japanese game magazine publisher Enterbrain.
That's got to hurt - and it has in terms of revenue losses: they lost $1.91 billion last year in the games division. That's not really a sustainable level of loss - bear in mind that their direct competition is for "hard core" gamers, and Microsoft can afford to burn a lot more cash on that battle. Meanwhile, Nintendo actually makes money on each console sold, and they're mostly hitting a different game demographic anyway. Depending on how the other parts of Sony do over the next year or two, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Sony exit the game console business completely.
Technorati Tags: management
Troy points out something I'm sure many people know, but - like me - he wasn't aware of before:
" and away it goes.
Support for command line scripting is something we've been thinking about here at Cincom - and you can take a look at our (very early) thoughts on the matter below:
When the support for this is more stable, I'll do a screencast on it
Tony Long can be added to the list of people who are hopeless when it comes to Google's street view:
In an Associated Press story, Google spokeswoman Megan Quinn shrugs off any privacy concerns, saying: "This imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street." I don't know how often Ms. Quinn walks the mean streets of her town, but it's not comparable at all. For one thing, the casual pedestrian isn't staring at a computer screen with your image plastered all over it. And being spotted on the street by a single person, someone as anonymous as you are, is a far cry from being available to the prurient curiosity of millions of online peeping toms.
In Long's world, newscasters have never broadcast street scenes with random people flitting by, and newspapers have never published pictures of street scenes, either. I wonder what color the sky is where he lives?
Phil Windley spoke to Steve Gillmor, who over-estimates the impact of Apple's existing (and upcoming) technology:
The iPhone will kill the Blackberry. Apple TV will kill the DVR. In Steve's view, the iPhone is center-stage--everything else is a peripheral to it. The secret to understanding this is to realize that more and more, text, images, audio, and video are "cached across the surface area of my environment: laptop, AppleTV, iPhone," in Steve's words.
AppleTV doesn't help me timeshift content that the Apple store doesn't sell, and there's tons of that. As to the iPhone: not at the price they've set, no. I expect both products to be successful - in particular, AppleTV puts all the video content in iTunes (including lots of free niche stuff) right at your TV, where you want it. Unless they turn it into a full DVR though, it will be an extra piece, not a replacement.
I just love guys like Andrew Keen - he's so irritated by the "messiness" of the web that he doesn't notice the messiness in his own writing. For instance - where does he get the idea that Wikipedia is a more trusted news source than CNN? I wouldn't bet against Wikipedia being more reliable than CNN, but I seriously doubt that the raw trust numbers from the public line up that way.
Keen's basic mistake is simple: he believes that a small body of experts can tell us everything we need to know, and having more voices just confuses and clouds things. I rather suspect that the anointed felt the same way about the invention of movable type - it was just no good having books be accessible to just anyone. All the web has done is take that 500+ year old revolution and kick it up a notch or three. There's no difference other than the specific words of objection used by the people being disintermediated (mostly priests then, and mostly reporters now).
Keen also suffers from the same lack of vision that cripples the RIAA and the MPAA: he can't see past the last business model, so any change is simply seen as badness - and must be held back by any means possible: (from the Toronto Globe and Mail)
Don't agree that the Internet is THE current culture. It's part of it. and it's the part that is growing very quickly, while the traditional part of media is in crisis. I've written my book to alert people to this. Many people don't quite grasp the imminence of traditional media's crisis. In particular, I want to alert people to the idea that in the not too distant future there may not be a recorded music business or many independent and reliable news organs. I can't imagine life without the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Can you?
Hmm. So the music business is just going to die? I seem to recall the movie and TV industry fighting tooth and nail against the VCR, and only noticing that it was a channel for making more money after the court system tossed them out on their ears. The music industry is currently in denial - digital music can be easily copied and passed around, and no amount of DRM is going to make that impossible for pirates. That doesn't mean that music can't be sold - it does mean that an awful lot of the middle men who grew fat and comfortable under the old model are going to have to find new jobs - just like most of the people who used to service the horse industry (circa 1890) had to find new jobs by about 1920. It's interesting that Keen can't see that, but there it is.
Later in the Globe and Mail piece, we see exactly where Keen comes from - he's pining for the era of broadcast scarcity, and fears the current era of (for all intents and purposes) no limits:
I think that the percentage of good blogs is lower because the system has no filters. At least mainstream media has professional filters which, if not ideal, certainly gets rid of some of the dross and finds some jewels. Professional filters don't always work and tend toward somewhat conservative, populist and predictable taste. But I prefer to have my culture served up to me by professional tastemakers than an algorithm or by anonymous people on the Internet acting in the name of the virtuous crowd.
Back when the printing press was invented, I'm sure the elites were every bit as outraged by the idea that "just anyone" could push out a pamphlet and get their voice heard. Far better when it was the anointed few who could broadcast to the masses, either at state functions or churches. Keen is in the same place as the elites of that era, and he simply doesn't like the fact that "the rest of us" can broadcast an opinion now. This becomes even clearer with this:
Globe and Mail: I wonder if you making people slightly more rational and media literate than they actually are. I'm a media pro and I can't find my way around the blogosphere. So how can we expect people who don't have much time or experience on the Internet to figure out the best few blogs out of the 70 million? Go to Technorati with its oligarchy of A-list technology bloggers? That's more oligarchic than mainstream media.
Keen: Think two-way conversation is great when both parties reveal themselves (like this dialogue). I really do not like conversations between anonymous people, which tend toward abuse and cretinism. The most engaging conversation is real-time chat between people who have something coherent to say for themselves. Often these are professionals, but any passionate, well-informed opinion is worth listening to -- provided we reveal who we actually are.
Umm, yeah - without the strong hand of Walter Cronkite to guide me, I'm just helpless out here, Andrew. Sheesh - people figure out what to read the same way they figure out what restaurants to go to - word of mouth. Some of it is physical word of mouth, some of it is virtual (links in posts, blogrolls, etc). It's really not that hard. As to anonymity, I'll point out that Benjamin Franklin published anonymous political commentary after the founding of the Republic. At the risk of sounding like an appeal to authority, I'll count Franklin's opinion as having more value than Keen's.
Fully in denial mode, Keen goes on to say this, in answer to the question "who is this harming, anyway?"
But the profound decline in music sales (20 per cent just this year), the bankruptcy of Tower Records, the closure of independent bookstores, the laying off of thousands of professional journalists, mass redundancies in Hollywood are all concrete evidence of the way in which mainstream media is losing the battle against the digital revolution. Just look at the impact of The Long Tail and editor of Wired, suggests that the closure of independent bookstores are "road kill" on the way to his technology utopia. I strongly disagree with Chris. The future isn't always better. Perhaps the time has come to regard certain aspects of media as a public utility which add value to society. Then we can protect them from the ravages of the free market.
I answered that above, but hey - if this is his worry, then he has a long list of victims to deal with. Factory workers made redundant by technology, for instance. Heck, right within media - what about all the people who used to physically move type around? Should we bring them back for the common good, too? What Keen forgets is that the newspaper business has been changing for a long time. Before radio, there were lots more papers. Before TV, many papers put out multiple editions per day. Now, the immediacy of cable news and internet reporting has made weekly news periodicals obsolete, and is doing the same thing to printed newspapers.
Ultimately, Keen is that guy shouting "stop the world, I want to get off". In 1450, he would have objected to movable type. In 1830, he would have hated the railroad. In 1910, he would have hated the car. Today, he hates the internet. We've seen Keen's type before, and passed him by on our way to a better tomorrow.
Another happy camper discovers the power of Smalltalk:
Then there I was, pouring over my Rails work, pacing around my apartment, and trying to figure out how to handle my apps flow control without wasting so much time. Then it clicked: the only answer for my predicament was Seaside. You don't link pages together. You don't make calls to template files. In Seaside, you instantiate objects that handle the various aspects of MVC, and you make things happen (i.e. go to a different page) by registering a callback to the destination object's proper methods. When you do this, things flow like a desktop app. You stop thinking about calling this url or that, and passing sets of parameters: all you think about is the workflow. All of a sudden, most things can be boiled down to reusable components: even more reusable than partials are in Rails. It seems that we are closer, in Smalltalk, to true object reusability that everyone rambles about in Object Oriented Academia.
Technorati Tags: seaside
I've been making progress on BottomFeeder 4.4 - I addressed a posting tool bug last night, and have been continuing to do cleanup on the user interface. Here's a screenshot of the latest (click through for the full image):
I'm getting close to the point where I can release this - just a few more issues to work through.
James_Lileks makes a point about media coverage of (insert your favorite topic here, although this examle is of weather):
Did the media overhype yesterday’s weather? Yesterday morning I was convinced the core cities would end the day as a post-apocalyptic scene of felled trees, crushed buses and twisted steel beams. I suspect they’re only giving us what we want weather is the most ancient and ecumenical form of current events, after all. No one’s disinterested in weather. Sometimes the coverage is instructive a few weeks ago, when the sirens went off, I acted like a sensible modern person: instead of looking out the window, I turned on the TV.
Heh - I love that last line, and sure enough - it's my first instinct as well. Locally here in the Baltimore area, we have Norm Lewis on channel 2, and he just loves storms - snow storms especially. If everyone else is calling for a dusting, Norm expects 3 inches. If they expect 6 inches, he predicts armageddon :) We have to keep that in mind all winter long.
I saw this book, Brave New War being discussed on some of the blogs I read, so I ordered it from Amazon. It took longer to arrive than I'd have liked, but here it is - and it looks interesting.
You have to love the stupidity of MacMillan exec Richard Charkin, who seems to think that copying books for search purposes is the same thing as stealing a laptop:
It's no secret that a number of publishers have been up in arms about Google's approach to digitizing their works, but Richard Charkin went so far as to recruit a colleague and swipe a pair of laptops from a Google Books kiosk at the event. About an hour later, the booth attendants actually noticed the missing goods and presumably began to panic, and the haughty executive then had the nerve to return the machines to their rightful owners whilst dropping the "hope you enjoyed a taste of your own medicine" line. He justified the bizarre behavior by suggesting that "there wasn't a sign by the computers informing him not to steal them," apparently referencing Google's controversial tactics when scanning books.
I don't recall Google copying books and then handing them out or reselling them - I guess that was too advanced a point for Charkin to grasp.
Technorati Tags: stupidity
Music really is louder than it used to be - the recording industry, in another one of its many, many brilliant moves, has been pushing sound levels up for years. You can tell the difference pretty easily - grab a CD (or even better, and LP) from the early 80s (or earlier in the case of an LP) - and then, leaving the sound at the same volume, slap in a new CD.
This is why the "volume equalization" option exists on the iPod, I guess. And why does the music industry do this? They think we aren't paying attention:
That distortion effect running through your Oasis album is not entirely the Gallagher brothers’ invention. Record companies are using digital technology to turn the volume on CDs up to “11”.
Artists and record bosses believe that the best album is the loudest one. Sound levels are being artificially enhanced so that the music punches through when it competes against background noise in pubs or cars.
Dynamic range? Who needs that?
Time to examine the logs - BottomFeeder downloads went at a rate of 212/day, but that's probably distorted some by my frequent dev builds - I'm getting closer to the 4.4 release. The details:
On the HTML page accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
I can't figure out what's up with the bouncing IE/Mozilla numbers on the site :). Let's look at the syndication numbers:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Google Feed Fetcher||3.8%|
|Net News Wire||3.7%|
Looks like IE is running away with Syndication.
Microsoft on patents back when they were small:
In a memo to his senior executives, Bill Gates wrote, “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.” Mr. Gates worried that “some large company will patent some obvious thing” and use the patent to “take as much of our profits as they want.”
Last month, the technology world was abuzz over an interview in Fortune magazine in which Bradford Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, accused users and developers of various free software products of patent infringement and demanded royalties. Indeed, in recent years, Mr. Smith has argued that patents are essential to technological breakthroughs in software.
Consider: What if ParcPlace had patented the idea of a language runtime/VM back in the 80s, and then acted like Verizon has against Vonage? Would the software industry be a better place now? As much of a Smalltalk advocate as I am, I'm going to say no. Software patents should be eliminated - they help no one.
Technorati Tags: patents