Steve Rubel points to a bunch of HP executive blogs. Interesting...
Here's your chance to give us feedback on our platform support in Cincom Smalltalk - take the new survey!
BeyondVC has an interesting post up on the Sarbanes/Oxley business - this left me flabbergasted:
I had lunch with a friend of mine yesterday who is an officer with a public technology company. As we started discussing his business, one of the topics of conversation was Sarbanes Oxley. His company just went through an expensive Sarbox audit to get into compliance and while his company passed with flying colors on most of the important issues, his company failed the audit. Why? Here is the short story. One of his sales reps was hosting a client meeting and bought $15 worth of donuts. The rep got a signature and approval from the CFO on the purchase. Why did they fail? The accountants said that the rep needed to get 2 signatures, one from the VP Sales and one from the CFO. If the rep could buy $15 worth of donuts with only one signature, then think about what else he could buy. That too me is quite inane and ridiculous. There has to be some threshold, for example, on when 2 signatures are necessary for an expense report. This is a perfect example of why Sarbox is expensive for public companies. While I believe that Sarbox is a good thing and better and more stringent accounting is necessary, I also think that there is alot of waste inherent in the regulations and that it needs to be reexamined.
I thought that the law was over-reaching, but it was just a vague sense. If this is the kind behavior that's being driven, then there's a huge problem. If I were starting a company under this sort of legal regime, I'd think twice before going public...
James Governor has some cogent thoughts and links on where the music business might be headed - and I think he's right. Just go read it.
Lots of people have read Doc's analysis and expansion on Friedman's "flat" world theory. I only just got around to reading it this morning - it seems that the frequent short outages that Comcast is providing me (at no extra cost!) have some purpose after all. What struck me was a combination of Doc's post and a few conversations I've had at trade shows over the last few years.
It's worth reading the entire essay, but let me expand on a small piece of it:
Of course, the average and the dumb are still plentiful, no doubt about it. But try this concept on for size: most of them were made that way. They were shaped in large measure by school systems that have had, from the dawn of the industrial age, a main purpose: to produce employees for boxed positions in corporate org charts that take the shape of pyramids, wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. The many supporting the few. We may have needed a caste system that made each of us a ranked product--and we still call ourselves that--of an education. There were few alternatives in the industrial age, aside from farming and other relatively solitary occupations. But there are plenty of alternatives now, as many as there are individuals with access to broadband.
What struck me about that? Well, a conversation I had at Ot2004 with Joshua Bloch, first off. I attended a talk he gave on designing good API's. I had a few issues with what he said at the time - I happen to think that things like "final" declarations on a class are not only limiting, but downright harmful. The fascinating thing was how he responded - he didn't disagree with me outright. What he did was state that developers exist in a pyramid, where the Lisp and Smalltalk guys (and Ruby and Python, et. al.) are at the top - developers using truly dynamic languages are, in his opinion, smart enough to deal with unlimited inheritance and polymorphism. The rest of the crowd? Java was designed with the lower two tiers of the pyramid in mind - the wide band of average and below average developers.
Got that? Read Doc's take on the whole pyramid scheme again, and then realize that Sun's decisions on what to do with Java are premised on the idea that most developers using it are idiots who are incapable of dealing with freedom, and simply have to be protected from themselves. At OOPSLA a couple of years ago I got the same explanation from Hjelsberg when I asked him about "final" in C# - again, his take is that most of you just aren't bright enough to handle Smalltalk, or Lisp, or Python, or Ruby (etc) - you need to be protected from yourself.
Reminds me of a line from "A Few Good Men" -
The truth? You can't handle the truth!
That's what Sun and Microsoft are telling you with Java and the CLR based languages. You can't handle power or responsibility - it all has to be bottled up and granted to you in small doses, because you just aren't smart enough to deal with the whole thing. From their standpoint, you live at the bottom of the pyramid, and they've provided tools that are guaranteed to keep you there. They know what power looks like - they just don't think you can handle it.
Recently, I pushed out BottomLine as a standalone blog poster. In doing this, I reused some of the systems originally built for BottomFeeder - such as the online updating code. That's where I ran into the issue of unplanned reuse.
I had modified the library in question so that it would work generically (or so I thought :) ) - but this was the acid test, and it failed. As it happens, there were still some assumptions in there to remove, and a few setup things to deal with. That didn't take long to address, but I ran across another issue - proxy servers.
In BottomFeeder, the post tool doesn't need its own proxy settings - it's using whatever BottomFeeder uses. In standalone mode, that's not the case though - and I had completely forgotten about that until Troy pinged me on it. That ate up a fair bit of my time - not because it was hard, but because I shorted myself on sleep last night, and I kept forgetting steps in my build process.
Anyhow, I'm uploading the updated BottomLine now - should be ready to go in about an hour.
If you are interested in the notes I took at yesterday's conference, then follow this link - I organized all of those posts into a common category.
James Governor points to an interesting development at a Silicon Valley startup:
And back to my original point - Mark started the blog before Palimida sent out a release announcing his hire. Blog first, do "corporate PR" later... Of course its a little more complex that that, but the world of corporate communications is changing fast.
It would have been interesting to bring that up at the conference I attended yesterday. I wonder what the PR folks would have thought about that level of disintermediation - where C level staff routes right around them from the very start?
The Register has a fun story about an IE specific finance site in the UK - you have to love this quote in the comments:
The resource broker isn't going to get much usage by anyone who isn't a Microsoft user as the site only supports IE5.5 and above. About as useful as a chocolate teapot!!!
Brian Cashman is getting desperate - he's trying out lineup changes with Torre:
The Yankees have a losing record -- and that won't fly when the payroll runs over $200 million. So after the Yankees' 6-2 win ove the Devil Rays, General Manager Brian Cashman announced some significant changes.
Here's a tip: It's not the lineup. See that 11-4 loss? That's a sign that your pitching sucks. Juggle the lineup all you want, and it won't matter. It's going to be a loooong season...
This is kind of neat. The Regional Amtrak trains pause at stops long enough that I can have my laptop acquire a network signal if there's open WiFi nearby. As it happens, there was an open network at the Metro Park stop (but alas, not in Trenton). So I was able to grab a bunch of mail in the minute or so of connectivity. Maybe I'll find a connection further down the line - but there was no joy in Philly. Wilmington, perhaps? Nope had to get home :)
The funny thing is, I like these older trains that Amtrak runs as regionals better than the newer (and out of service at the moment) Acela trains. Why? They aren't that much slower, and they have much nicer Cafe cars. The not so well kept secret of the old MetroLiners was that the cafe cars were always in high demand. They have nice, large tables that seat four, and you can set up a PC and a mouse easily and comfortably. No hassling with a wobbly tray table - you can work on your laptop during the entire ride.
Not the case on the new Acelas, or even the updated regionals. There, the Cafe cars are mostly standing room only, no electric outlets, and tiny little tables with narrow (i.e., not enough for a laptop) spaces. They are built to rush you in and out of the car - which seems like a mistake to me, given the way the old cafe cars have been used on the MetroLiners. Makes me wonder whether the people who designed the new Cafe cars ever actually rode Amtrak in the NE corridor, and watched the business travelers rush the old Cafe cars...
Next up is a panel discussion on "true voice" in blogging. Moderated by Stowe Boyd, President of Corante. On the panel:
- Steve Hall, Adrants
- Larry Bodine, PM Forum
- Robert Scoble, MS
- Steve Rubel, CooperKatz
Stowe wants to address two things - the possibility of over-hype, and the trend ([ed] - is there one?) - towards conforming - i.e., not doing/saying anything that would reflect badly on your company. Stowe confuses this as a free speech issue, which it's not. You've never been able - without repercussions - to say "anything" about your company. It's simply far more likely that negative comments will get noticed.
First up - the anti-hype. Scoble points out that blogging was seen as a "fad" back in 2000, and that the hype isn't new (he was seeing it at Userland back then). Steve Hall: "everyone likes to crap on things they aren't part of". Heh - there's a point. The backlash against the hype is natural, and expected. Steve Rubel - "I think it's fear". To his mind, there are transparent companies, and "USSR style" silo companies. The journalists in particular are afraid (and well they should be, IMHO - they aren't the experts they make themselves out to be). Larry Bodine - it's also standard resistance to change/inertia thing. If it's new, you'll always, always get pushback.
Stowe - there's a lot of fear, and resistance to change. This is getting into his second point, where he wants to talk about stifling. He's also on about the "power law" of linking, whereby the early a-listers implicitly control the commons. What he really wants to get into is the job losses over things people get fired over (talking out of turn over some blog post). Scoble points out that bloggers get hired specifically because of their blogs and communication skills.
What Stowe is worried about publically speaking (in a personal blog, even) that might reflect badly on their employer. The fact is, we (at least in most of the US) are "at will" employees. You have no right to employment, so if you say something that reflects badly on your employer, there will be repercussions. The divide - as Larry points out - is that you're fine so long as you don't claim to be representing your employer. That's why I don't discuss politics here - this is a corporate server. Steve Rubel points out that fired employers make great press, but there's just not that much of it happening. Steve Hall points out that we moderate our speech in almost all settings - parties, social gatherings, etc.
Larry points out that technology helps you in your relations with your employer - it allows you to be much more prominent (and better known amongst your customers) than you otherwise would be. What do I think about this? Larry is right, and Stowe is reading too much into a few isolated incidents. All you have here (in the US, that is) is a right not to be censored by the government. Or as Scoble put it - as a blogger, you're a gold miner carrying dynamite. You have to be aware of who (and what) you are trying to blow up with the dynamite...
In response to a question about advertising, Steve Rubel pointed out that he'd be scared witless if he were in advertising right now. Traditional advertising isn't going to map directoy to syndication. Instead, as Scoble points out, the information in the feed itself will be a long term ad for a product, service, or company. Larry points out the nature of reality to Stowe - that taking ads will, in fact, modify your editorial policy - because the money you get will have an impact. Unless you are independently wealthy, you can't help but be affected. The lame response from Stowe - "their competitor will advertise there" is truly lame.You may well be willing to make negative comments about an advertiser, but you can't pretend that it won't have an impact.
Well there was a negatively received statement - Larry stated that a blog is one-way, and all about push. Comments and trackbacks (even with spam) are one example, and simple referrals are another. Scoble points out that he posts his cell phone number, and gets a few calls a week as a result.
Next up pubsub with a demo - I subscribe to a bunch of PubSub searches, so this should be of interest. A year ago - they were tracking 100,000 blogs. It's leaped to 10 million now, and it's still growing.
How do you monitor the content you care about? There's the "subscribe to it all" Scoble approach (1300 blogs), and there's the watch/search based pubsub approach. Most of us do a little of both - I read specific people, and I search for specific keywords. PubSub is leveraging the publish/subscribe nature of the blogosphere. So in timeline terms, we had email in the 80s, browsers in the 90s, and blogs/aggregators now.
To compare, he's pointing out that searching (i.e., Google, MSN, etc) you have retrospective search. You get whatever the crawler found last time it looked. What you have with PubSub is a prospective engine, where they get new information sent to them. That allows them (within the publish/subscribe universe) to have much more current information. Essentially, they store the queries, not the results - when a query is made, they match and discard. This means that you don't want to use PubSub for archival information - you want to use it for current information.
When do you need something like this? Brand commentary searches, "ego searches", etc. When you want to find new mentions of a specific piece of information. It's a way to track whenever something is mentioned - for instance, whenever a positive/negative mention is made of your brand/service.
Next up - a panel discussion chaired by Steve Rubel. On the panel:
- Bonita Stewart (Daimler Chrysler)
- Andrew Bernstein (Cymfony)
- Dan Forbush (PR NewsWire)
- Lloyd Trufelman (Trylon Communications)
Steve only started MicroPersuasion a year ago, and he now has ~5000 regular readers. He's big on having people just give blogging a shot. One question to each of the panelists from Steve, starting with Lloyd - What's the value of a blog "placement" (i.e., a mention on a major blog). Answer: It depends on what it's about - and it's also the case that the hype on blogs is huge (think 1996 and websites). His take - a lot of blogs won't survive the march of time (inertia, cost, time, etc). His take is that this is another medium, but let's not go bats.
To Dan - if Lloyd is correct (it's a bigger media space, blogs are just a piece of it) - what does that mean for PR? What it means is that PR pros can be disintermediated much, much more easily now, and that means that PR folks have to work harder. Andrew is more interested in RSS as a query mechanism more than he's interested in blogging itself - it's the ease of syndication that matters, not blogs.
To Bonita - how did you sell blogging at Daimler-Chrysler? They set up a department, using the existing web analytics group. They didn't rush in to build a blog - they started by listening to what consumers have been saying about their products. The example she gives is kind of amusing - talking about the consumer buzz about the introduction of the Dodge Charger. Amusing, because I drove a 2 door Charger hatchback back in the 80's. Makes me wonder how many new ideas the car companies are really having... and worse, for this marketer, it totally distracted me from the brand point she wanted to make. Hmmm.
What they do is circulate a weekly buzz report that talks about both consumer and media reactions to their messaging over time. This gives them a level of feedback that they simply weren't getting (at least, not that fast) before.
To Andrew, what can marketers do with this information? Cymfony builds analytic information above the consumer information available. What they do, apparently, is create virtual focus groups out of the sea of consumer generated information.
Question from the audience - is blog reading bigger than we realize, simply because consumers, when asked, aren't always aware of what they are reading (blogs, stock website, etc). There's some of that I'm sure, but I find this very offputting - it's a matter of the "pros" (in this case, PR people) treating the "unwashed masses" as morons. This is exactly the reason that mainstream media and reporters have earned so much disdain - the clear assertion of arrogant superiority.
Good point from the audience here - blogging is not a broadcast mechanism, and treating it as one is a huge mistake. Lloyd would have us believe that this is no different than letters to the editor and pamphlets, only faster. That's profoundly wrong, because the MSM never paid attention to letters. They've been forced to listen to blogs.
Interesting question - is this mostly a US based thing, or is it really international? It's spreading worldwide, but a lot of it depends on the level of speech rights that are allowed in a given area. That makes it harder or easier, depending on where you look.
Heh - good questions - do corporations actually engage in conversations based on this, or do they just pay lip service? Bonita makes the point that corporations will find out quickly that they can't treat this strictly as classic marketing push, and you'll pay a price for doing so. I'd agree with this - going back to what Scoble said earlier, you'll get a conversation either way - it all depends on whether you want to engage or not.
The pubsub guys point out that they are seeing more and more blogs popping up internationally - as well as commentary on anything you say.
Is there really that much blogging? Technorati says there are 8 million blogs, and Pew Internet says that 27% of the public (US) reads blogs daily. The Blogosphere is doubling about once every 5 months. The critical piece: consumer behavior is changing. There's a ton of internet based research happening before a purchase takes place, and that has changed a lot of the sales dynamics (think car sales).
What blogs provide is a set of opinions about every conceivable product and service out there. If a consumer wants to know what the "buzz" on a product is, they'll be able to find it quickly. That flips the relationship around for this market segment (the plugged in part).
So what's in a blog for a market researcher? Lots of demographic and consumer generated content that marketers can use for real time message correction. What do bloggers write about? Pick an industry where consumers directly interact with identifiable brands, and there's a set of commentary.
How can a marketer use blogs? It's one of the areas you can get product/market research from. Provides a way to have customers feel like their opinion matters, and that they are being listened to. One of the challenges advertisers face is that - even though most of the ads are on tv, the eyeballs have fled:
- Technology (ReplayTV/TiVO
- Multi-tasking (using the net as they watch tv, ignoring the ads)
- The old fashioned thing - refrigerator break :)
So I made my way here, to the MS building at 51st and Avenue of the Americas - the MS executive center, it seems to be called. Note to self: if I walk 17 blocks for one of these again, wear sneakers. Apparently, this thing is being webcast live. Sadly, the WiFi in here is secured, so I won't be posting this until well after the seminar ends. I met Scoble in person, which was nice - he comes off as a truly nice guy.
Lots of PR folks in the room, as well as lots of bloggers (no shock there; it's why I came). Lots of marketing folks too (gosh, that includes me!) - likely trying to get their heads around the idea of unmediated market communications. Good sized group of people just getting their toes wet in this areas, as well - I met Dave Platter of Publitas, who's just getting started introducing blogs to his clients. All in all, a diverse crowd.
Interesting introduction here - Scoble was asked about his political complaint against Steve Ballmer (for those living under a rock: the CEO of MS). See here for one of the various posts on this over at Scoble's blog. See, here's my problem with that theory of interaction. Forget that this is about politics - the bottom line on this is about publically airing dirty laundry. I have some experience with that - I used to rant all the time about the management at ParcPlace-Digitalk, both in public and in internal email. It never had any positive impact. Why is that? Because even if management ends up agreeing with you, you've put their backs to a wall and forced them onto the defensive. People almost never react positively to that. That's not to say that you should never take that tack - but, IMHO, you should never take that tack as a first approach. Even if you win the argument in question, you've created a bunch of enemies (not all of whom will go into public opposition against you). Over time, you'll find that your internal political influence drop as people start treating you as a bomb thrower.
Fascinating segue into the famous blog firings (like Mark Jen and the Delta flight attendant). Scoble's point is that you have to feel your way into the corporate culture before you "go wild". What he did was gather a personal network of supporters within MS before he started to push the envelope. He was just asked "wouldn't the price be too high to fire you (as opposed to the examples given)"? Good answer - Delta is still taking damage from that firing. What Scoble says he's doing (and I agree with this) is giving MS a human face, both with his blog and with Channel 9.
Now onto the Corporate Blogging Manifesto. The most important one is the first on the list: Tell the truth. Almost as important - get out in front of a story, whether it's good or bad. The point is, any big story will be written anyway, with you or without you. if you get your own words out there, you'll have a shot at having them be part of the conversation. One of the other points certainly resonates with me - have a thick skin. Anytime I post on dynamic typing, I get the same group of people bringing up the same set of complaints. If I didn't have a thick skin, I'd have given up by now :) Just as important - if you mess up, admit it and move on. People will spot mistakes and call you on it. The most dicey one - of you think you might be on delicate legal ground (such as: financials in a public company), talk to a lawyer before you post. Another area to be wary of is anything that might fall into patent law. Finally - if you are going to be blogging about your company/service/product - you better know the answers, or know how to get them fast.
Cincom's long serving (in fact, the longest serving CEO in the software business) has been honored as an outstanding corporate leader:
We have been asked for additional information on the International "Stevie" Business Awards Cincom and CEO Tom Nies recently won.
On May 19, 2005, at a gala awards dinner at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, Cincom CEO Tom Nies and Cincom will be honored and presented 2 separate awards.
Cincom CEO Tom Nies and Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen will be honored with the International "Best Executive" award.
Cincom will also be recognized as a company for a finalist in the "Best Multi-National Company" category.
Things are heating up here at Cincom as far as corporate blogging goes. We are going to launch a blog that will bring the message from our senior management out. The cool thing is that this will all be done in Cincom Smalltalk, using the Silt server and the Bottom Line posting client. Stay tuned - we'll have more on this soon.
Jonathan Schwartz is too excited about this:
Tomorrow morning in Washington, DC, Sun's going to draw a line in the sand - on behalf of the entire IT industry. It's time we all started taking responsibility for not only the quality of our hardware and software products, but the integrity of those products after they're put into operation. We'll be announcing a new service to the Sun Grid, an Update service for all hardware and software delivered by Sun. It's the seeds of GM's OnStar for the IT industry, and puts Sun one step closer to taking active responsibility for all the technologies we deliver - even when they're running on our competitor's platforms.
Yes, it is nifty that they are rolling this out as a competitive service. Why do I say he's too excited? Because his marketing gnomes have been spamming RSS feeds far and wide about this stupid rollout. I've long since lost interest, simply because the marketing people have - through complete over-saturation - told me that this is all hype.
He may well have something interesting here (mind you, I manage client and server systems this way in Smalltalk, and it took just me, a Product Manager, to roll it out - there's the power of Smalltalk for you). Whatever he has has been partly damaged by over-zealous advertising.
I'm heading out to NYC tomorrow morning, the attend this blogging seminar. Should be interesting - I'll be blogging from there if there's WiFi.
if you tried to get to the blog in the last hour or so, it was down - as were the other services on this server. We had a slight issue to deal with on the back end, but it's all better now.
Ameliorated, maybe. Here's an interesting post decrying the death of trackback (and comments, etc):
Originally there was no weblog spam and yet conversation and discussion still existed. If an individual posted something and another individual wanted to respond to it, they simply wrote a post on their own site linking to the original. This environment was entirely free of spam. It was completely clean. I can't help thinking that maybe we need to start thinking in terms of approaches like that - where there is no automated functionality that could be robotically exploited. Or perhaps we should be looking in other directions - how can we abstract out the kind of social networks that lie behind Flickr to structures that we could overlay across the internet as a whole. A question I think we should be asking is how could we build services that let you decide precisely which groups of people should be able to see, link to, 'trackback' or comment on the work you do in a decentralised, disaggregated way?
That approach has problems too. The way you figure out that someone has linked to you is via referers. If you spend 5 seconds looking at that list, you'll see that it's been spam bombed, just like everything else - whether you make the list public or not (referer spamming is so cheap a trick that the perps don't bother checking their work; what's the point?).
I make my referers public, and I have to add keywords to my blacklist daily. I have to spend more time dealing with referer spam than I do with comment/trackback spam - Silt handles that for me pretty well at this point.
The net-net of this is, I don't think there's a final answer to this. Just ongoing drudgery.
I'm getting periodic service drops (Comcast broadband service). I know that Comcast was having major problems a few weeks ago, so here's my question - is anyone else seeing short service breaks (I'm getting them daily). Or do I need to get a new cable modem?
Opentalk at Large
Lutomski, Len and Kobetic, Martin: Cincom Systems
Tuesday 8:30 am to 9:15 am
Abstract: The presentation will discuss some of the less common capabilities of the Opentalk framework and their applications. We will demonstrate how multicast can simplify a standard unicast solution, we will explore a simple grid computing framework and how it can be applied to multi-image testing, and more. The goal is to inspire the audience to experiment with Opentalk beyond the basic remote messaging techniques that dominate main-stream application development.
Bio: Martin Kobetic is a senior developer of the VW Protocol and Distribution Group. Len Lutomski is the manager of the VW Protocol and Distribution Group.
See you in Orlando!
One of the worst things you can do in software development is assume things. You see it a lot - developers assume that they know why software is slow, so they don't profile. They assume they know what the problem is, so they don't test. They assume they know what the requirements are, so they don't ask.
I fell into that trap on the bug side over the last 3 releases of BottomFeeder. Starting with version 3.7, I integrated Software With Style's XHTML viewer (and more recently, their editor) in the application. The viewer doesn't handle general HTML - it really wants XML (which means XHTML for general web content). Now, most stuff out there just isn't XHTML. In fact, a lot of the stuff out there is really bad, because browsers have been built to be lenient. What to do?
Well, the first thing we did was use the parser in Twoflower. That worked ok, but - as it happens (and I knew this, having used Twoflower for all the previous releases of BottomFeeder), it doesn't handle every possible breakage in HTML. There was plenty of content that the Tf parser wasn't cleaning up well enough to view. So, we looked at LibTidy - an existing C library that cleans up HTML quite nicely.
Michael built a Smalltalk wrapper for it - Windows and x86 Linux - and I started shipping it with BottomFeeder. That's where I got into trouble. It's been years (over a decade now) since I worked regularly in C. All of the knowledge I once had has rusted away, and I'm now very reluctant to delve down to the level. So, when we got occasional crashes in BottomFeeder, I made an assumption - I decided to add an option to the application that allowed the user to toggle libtidy on/off, and chalked the error up to general C level instability.
Well. As you can see from this post, the problem was much, much simpler, and involved a stupid mistake in the Smalltalk wrapper code - one that popped out at me as soon as I sat down and looked seriously at the code. So by making an assumption - rather than actually looking at the code - I cost myself 2 releases of a less stable application. That's the kind of problem that you can buy yourself by not actually looking.
I ran across this article in SD Times yesterday - it outlines the different approaches taken by MS with .NET, and Sun with Java. Sadly, they both follow the "more complexity is better" development paradigm. Here's an example of what I mean:
Among the most talked-about new language features is generics, which Holub said lets developers write code before knowing the program’s variable types. “It’s [otherwise] very difficult to do some kinds of generic programming in the sense of a data structure. Because if you don’t know the types, that makes the code nasty, more error-prone and harder to deal with. Generics allow you to give the compiler what it needs to effectively customize the way a class is used for a particular typing system.”
Talking about data structures, O’Brien explained, is like talking about lists. “For instance, a list of cats versus a list of dogs. With generics, you’re able to make sure that a list of cats, once you’ve created it, will prevent you from putting a dog in.” And that simplifies programming, added Holub, “because when you pull something out of [the list], you know as a fact that it’s a cat, and you don’t have to worry about putting in any manual tests you would otherwise need.”
There's the widely voiced fear of the declarative typing crowd - you might accidentally put the wrong thing in a collection, and then boom - all heck will break loose. Now seriously - how often does that happen? Let's see - I've been writing Smalltalk code for over a decade now, and in the last three years I've released three applications - BottomFeeder, Silt, and Bottom Line. You want to know how many times I've ever seen the "wrong thing in a collection" problem in my code?
That's right folks, never. But just look at the exquisite complexity added to C# and Java to make sure that this can't possibly happen to you! It's like putting seat belts on a bus. I've been doing what Holub refers to as generic programming for a long time now, and trust me - it's not "nasty" if you use Smalltalk. It's "nasty" if the tools you use insist on handing you a straightjacket, and then explain how it's all better because you can't hurt yourself that way.
Sure, it just takes a whole lot longer to get anything done.
This dinner in NYC tomorrow night sounds like fun, but my relative proximity to NY makes it impossible for me to go. Why is that? Well, I'm heading up to NYC on Tuesday for the one day business blog event on Tuesday - and I can't really justify a hotel stay in NY, or the extra train ride. Maybe one of these things will happen in the DC area eventually.
I finally got around to watching last week's episode of "24" last night. I'm not sure why we still watch the show - the pacing is good, but the plotlines are more absurd than the ones on "Alias" - and that's saying something. It became clear just how ridiculous the plot was when I had a mini-epiphany after watching "Revelation" and "24" back to back - so long as you could make (one extremely large) leap of faith, the plot of Revelation sort of held together. In fact, it held together better than the plot of "24", because that required so many leaps of faith that I ended up needing dramamine.
"Star Trek Producers have finally agreed that Star Trek fans are oversaturated with the show, and are planning to provide a break. This does not mean they wont bring something new to the screen; they will just wait a few years. They are convinced the ratings dropped due to the show competing against other Trek re-runs."
Couldn't possibly have to do with the fact that Rick Berman wouldn't know a clue if it bit him on the head. Nope, not possibly. Trek would do just fine if Paramount fired Berman and found a producer who could, you know, produce...
Here's an example of what happens when process rules over common sense - you end up with a nonsensical situation, like sending penguins through a metal detector:
Two traveling penguins from Seaworld in San Antonio went through regular airport screening at Denver International Airport recently. Here, Pat and Penny are removed from their carry-on case so they can walk through the metal detector. (Pat is the good looking one)
In that example, we see airport security staff putting two penguins through the detector. One wonders where they might have been hiding something. The folly of this particular example isn't what I'm after though. Consider software development - how many completely absurd processes do you follow because they matter to some other part of the organization? The interface with the IT department is a common point of absurdity - an engineering group always needs non-standard systems for development, testing (etc). IT quite frequently has a set of standards, and is completely unwilling to bend from them. In many cases, it's not even their fault - often times, the CEO has told the CIO to "hold the line" on costs, and clamping down on non-standard requests seems like a reasonable way to do that.
What's the upshot? The upshot is that higher management often has to resolve disputes that they have no real need to even be aware of (how many CEO's really want to get into the arcana of engineering system requirements? How many even have the technical qualifications to do anything more than pick sides?).
I see this in schools too - rather than allow teachers and administrative staff to exercise judgement, a set of ironclad policies has been imposed from on high. Presumably, this has been done to limit legal exposure. The end result is, if you send your child to school with a cough drop (or, in the case of a teenage daughter, with a Motrin) - the consequences are either a long suspension or outright expulsion.
The bottom line is, when process and rules become more important than the actual job at hand, you have a real problem. Look at how you do things at work - if there are procedures you follow that you can't understand - and that make no sense - you've stepped into the process zone.
Go read FoldedSpace for everything that was right about episodes IV and V (Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back), and for everything that's gone horribly, horribly wrong since. The Star Trek reference at the top of the post is spot on - the two franchises suffer from the same problem: the intellectual exhaustion of the "powers that be" behind them.
There's been a stability issue with the Windows and Linux based versions of BottomFeeder over the last two releases if you have libtidy enabled (the default). I just figured out the problem, and have a fix for it uploaded. The problem? In using libtidy, you have to allocate buffers. Here's the problem in the version I just fixed:
tdoc := self tidyCreate. output := TidyBuffer new. errbuf := TidyBuffer new.
See the problem? #new creates objects in Smalltalk memory. That means that the buffers can be moved in memory. At the end of the method in question, those buffers are freed. Usually, that worked fine. The problem is, if they got moved during GC before the end of the method call, then bad things (like a crash) happen on the attempt to free the pointers. So, we have to do it this way:
tdoc := self tidyCreate. output := TidyBuffer newInFixed. errbuf := TidyBuffer newInFixed.
That ensures that the buffers get created in fixed (i.e., non-movable) memory. That solves the problem of the occasional crash, and makes for a stable BottomFeeder. Check for updates, and grab the libtidy one.
My wife had a good take on the "missing" Georgia woman:
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A Georgia bride-to-be who vanished days before her wedding turned up in New Mexico, claiming at first that she had been abducted, then admitting she had gotten cold feet and "needed some time alone," police said Saturday. ADVERTISEMENT Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, was in police custody more than 1,420 miles from her home on what was supposed to be her wedding day. "It turns out that Miss Wilbanks basically felt the pressure of this large wedding and could not handle it," said Randy Belcher, the police chief in Duluth, Ga., the Atlanta suburb where Wilbanks lives with her fiance. He said there would be no criminal charges
My wife's comment? Call your mom!
Misbehaving passes on a report about girls and careers in technology:
Jacquelynne Eccles, a University of Michigan psychologist, says that girls steer away from careers in math, science and engineering because they view them as solitary pursuits: "In order to increase the number of women in science, we also need to make young women more interested in these fields, and that means making them aware that science is a social endeavor that involves working with and helping people."
The bigger question is why they view those fields that way. In this regard, I don't think pop culture helps a lot. Take almost any tv show or movie that portrays software developers - how common is the unwashed, unkempt, thick black glasses look? I see this with my daughter - her mom and I are both in software, and her perceptions of developers are more colored by pop culture portrayals than by her own home.
If you have tried downloading the blog poster for Mac OS X, you actually got BottomFeeder. You can blame my editing skills for that - I built my build script from the same one I use for Bf, and I didn't make a required change. I've just posted the proper build, and you can grab it here.
Rick Berman, executive-producer of Star Trek: Enterprise, told SCI FI Wire that he believes the decline in ratings that led to the series' cancellation was the result of an oversaturation of the franchise.
Here's a tip Rick: It's shoddy creative control over the series that's a problem. Evidenced by the fact that the very last episode is a Holodeck episode! You want the real problem? Get a mirror...
I've made the BottomFeeder blog poster available as a standalone application. Go here for information, and here to download the application. It's supported on all the same platforms as BottomFeeder - and it's a fully WYSIWYG posting tool. The only posting API of note that it doesn't support is Atom, and I'll get to that fairly soon.
CNet reports that Sun may use a bunch of it's extra cash ($7.5 B) to buy itself out and go private. The supposed plan would be to sell off assets and then go public again with a leaner, meaner profile. It's unclear to me why they don't just sell off the assets now, but maybe there's a bunch of legal stuff that makes it all easier as a privately held firm - I'm not a lawyer :) Anyway, here's the salient bits:
CEO Scott McNealy has explored a plan to take Sun private with private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, a report in Business Week published on Friday said. One of the magazine's stock columnist cited a hedge manager close to McNealy as the source.
The rationale behind the leverage buy-out would be to shrink the size of Sun by selling assets, invest in its stronger product areas, and then go public again, according to the report. The company's substantial cash holding of $7.5 billion makes such a plan feasible.
It'll be fun to watch how this plays out, if the report is accurate
I've finally gotten around to all the ancillary work that's involved in packaging up a separate blog posting client. I'm down to two things now:
- Editing the HTML files
- Uploading the builds
I've got it built, and it should all be ready to go sometime this afternoon. Stay tuned.
RealTechNews reports that the crawl lines, stock sidebars, weather sidebars (etc) that have become prevalent on news channels are overloading viewers:
From Kansas State University: “We discovered that when you have all of this stuff on the screen, people tend to remember about 10 percent fewer facts than when you don’t have it on the screen,” (journalism/mass comm. professor Tom) Grimes said. “Everything you see on the screen — the crawls, the anchor person, sports scores, weather forecast — are conflicting bits of information that don’t hang together semantically. They make it more difficult to attend to what is the central message.”
I don't know though. I find the crawl line useful myself. The rest of it is often distracting, I'll admit. Looks like they did actual research, so my thoughts probably fall into the anecdotal area.
Today's update looks at the work on Pollock - register today so you can hear about it first hand.
Onward to Pollock
presentation Bykov, Vassili: Cincom Systems
Monday 4 pm to 5:30 pm
Abstract: Pollock is the new VisualWorks widget framework. This presentation is based on demos showcasing its strong points and the influence it will have on future VisualWorks tool development. Bio: Vassili Bykov is the VisualWorks Tools project lead, and a VisualWorks user since version 1.0. After joining Cincom in July 2000 he has been responsible for modernizing the look and feel of VisualWorks environment. His interests range from information and graphic design to programming language implementation, and he searches for balance between them in his current position. In the past, Vassili was an object technology instructor with The Object People and a member of TOPLink/Smalltalk development team.
See you in Orlando!
Off and on, in between other things that have come up today, I've added support for del.icio.us to BottomFeeder. In this case, support means that you can post a set of tags for an item to del.icio.us, or change your mind and delete them. There are other aspects of the API that I haven't added; I'll have to think about those (not from a hard to do standpoint, more from a "how does it fit in Bf" standpoint). I should have an update available for the dev stream shortly
Dave Winer thinks we can somehow reject ads in RSS "as an industry". Righhhhht. Advertisers will soon figure out something critically different about RSS (as opposed to stock website) ads - if they annoy us too much, we can simply unsubscribe. Problem solved, no fuss, no muss.
Jon Udell relays an interesting end user interaction with IT story, and draws this conclusion:
We can draw various conclusions from this little parable. Here's the one I want to stress today. Calling people "users" is pernicious. It distances and dehumanizes. We should probably remove that word from the IT vocabulary.
Read the short post to get the full context - he's absolutely correct too.
Here's an article in CIO Insight on guidelines for blogging in a corporate environment - sounds like a good set of tips to me. The most important one (from Sun's guidelines, apparently):
The worst thing that can happen is that a Sun sales pro is in a meeting with a hot prospect, and someone on the customer's side pulls out a printout of your blog and says "This person at Sun says that product sucks." Using your weblog to trash or embarrass the company, our customers, or your co-workers, is not only dangerous but stupid.
This is one of the reasons I wonder about some of Scoble's posts. Plenty of people call him "courageous" for standing up to management at MS - but there's a huge downside as well. The old adage about honey and vinegar applies here.
Wired has a story on the journalism curriculum at NYU, where the profs are asking some questions:
For as far back as anyone can remember, New York University has used introductory courses to drill students on the basics: "ledes," "nut grafs," the "inverted pyramid" and the "five Ws" - who, what, where, when, why (and No. 6: how). But at a time when the vast majority of our students who enter the job market will never work for a newspaper, does it make sense to stick with tradition?
Why would the basics change just because of a move to the web? Do the pixels make things that much different? Here's the reason for the question:
Could it be beneficial to jettison "objectivity" and "balance" in favor of transparent bias, much like bloggers (and online columnists) do? Would it be wise to encourage our students to exchange fact-based narrative for edgy commentary and digital trash talk? And if we were to banish the inverted pyramid to the scrapheap of history, what could we replace it with?
Yep, that's all we bloggers are - a bunch of trash talking opportunists. Has this guy ever heard of the editorial page? Most blogging is a combination of editorial comment and "letters to the editor". Do newspapers that offer an editorial opinion jettison objectivity elsewhere (well, that's another argument. The point is, there's no requirement that they do so).
There's plenty of room on the net for objective reporting and for opinion dispersal. The only thing that's really changed is the ability to hide/ignore errors of fact. Before the rise of blogs, fact checkers had to send a letter to the paper and hope it would get published. Now they can link to the story and have Google push their commentary up. Wired gets this right at the end of the article:
But when all is said and done, I still expect that each student will know how to craft a hard news lede on a tight deadline. Because whether we're talking today or 10 years ago, it's not the medium, it's the reporter.