I had a great meeting this afternoon - I can't really talk about it yet, but you can expect to hear some news from us before Smalltalk Solutions. Now I'm back at the RDU airport, with a good connection - nothing like the slow link this morning. I didn't even have to pay again - I had purchased a 24 hour pass earlier, and I'm actually getting to use it again.
With any luck, I'll be home this evening - my ticket wouldn't normally allow standby today (I'm scheduled out tomorrow - we wrapped up early) - but the ticket agent for American was very nice and very helpful - all they asked was a ticket change fee, and if I don't get on tonight, I can get that refunded. Since the change fee is the same as a hotel night, I break even on the deal. Fingers crossed :)
One of the things I've noticed is that the number of RSS/Atom enabled searches is proliferating - and my current approach of adding direct supprt simply isn't going to scale. So, I'm going to add support for user-definable search feeds before the next release. It's an easy modification, and ne I've been considering for awhile.
One of the interesting things about flying is looking at the landscape from above. I've read a fair bit of American history at this point, and one of the things I know is that the east coast was nearly deforested by the end of the 19th century. That's no longer true - even in a heavily populated corridor like the east coast, the forests are back in a big way. A quick look out the window shows that - as we left the DC area, the towns and suburbs all look like they are nestled into the forest. It's not primeval forest by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not a denuded wasteland either. It's really quite remarkable, all things considered.
I'm off to Raleigh-Durham this morning, up at the glorious hour of 4:30 am so that I could make it to DCA in time fr a 6:37 AM flight. Joy. So here I am at DCA, waiting for my flight to board - and the powers that be here at this airport haven't heard of WiFi. It's kind of amazing, really - with all the Congressmen, lobbyists, and aides that pass through here, you would figure that connectivity would be a no brainer. Then again, maybe "no brain" is the appropriate thought here in DC...
Register for StS 2005 now - so you can hear about interesting community work like this:
Monteiro, Charles: OCIT
Tuesday 9:15 am to 10 am
Abstract: OpentalkMatrix is a p2p application in some respects similar to LimeWire. It will be used as the context for discussion of Opentalk ST-ST distributed object messaging protocol. The discussion will include issues related to secured communications in particular integrating with Stunnel, gnutella-like query propagation, among other things. The discussion will not assume any prior knowledge of Opentalk ST-ST and therefore it will also include a brief introduction to the related concepts. There will be a demonstration of OpentalkMatrix which will consist of searching for components on a network and downloading the components to the query issuer's node. Currently, a component can be any file type. However, special treatment is provided for parcels. A query for a parcel will find said parcel and not only download the parcel but all pre-requisite parcels as well as other non-parcel files that have been registered as pre-requisites i.e. typically configuration and data files, possibly images etc. Once loaded the parcel can then be engaged i.e. launched.
There is a security mechanism in place to secure unauthorized download of components. Currently, it is password based but the basic framework is in place to do more sophisticated enforcement. OpentalkMatrix, also illustrates the notion of an SRE (Smalltalk Runtime Environment). It is also somewhat similar to what Java Web Start does i.e. it accomplishes the same thing. Note that the plan is to provide support for another type of component namely a "service". A service is something that does something for you on the p2p network. Once a service is found then said service can be engaged.
Finally the demo hopefully will include audience participation i.e. attendees should be able to logon onto the wireless p2p network and find something i.e. such as they would were they using LimeWire.
Bio: Charles A. Monteiro has been the chair of NYC Smalltalk for the last 4 years and been a member since 1996. He has been actively using Smalltalk since 1994 and has delivered enterprise applications to Fortune 500 companies such as Florida Power & Light, Keyspan Enery and ADP. His professional application experience has involved diverse technical areas such as custom pen graphics, geographical information systems, object database systems, multimedia consumer apps, web enablement of AS400 systems and peer to peer systems. The business domains include gas and electric utlities, finance, music education, EAI and database tools.
Charles is currently the technical architect and project lead for an established small NYC metro based financial software firm where Opentalk is actively being used. The company's clients include one of the largest banks in the world. Other Smalltalk related activities include working on a open source Traits implementation for VisualWorks. Most of his leisure time however is spent playing and studying the guitar.
See you in Orlando!
Scoble is wondering about the knowledge divide in the computer/software sector:
I'm finding this too. When I talk with audiences I either find people who are very familiar with the blog world (if you know what Technorati is, for instance, you are probably one of those people), while most people just don't know much about our little world at all.
I've talked about this divide before, and I think it's a simple one. The people who don't follow things that closely are mostly put off by the fact that the PC (and the Mac, for that matter - never mind Linux) are not consumer grade devices. Consider a TV, or a stereo, or an iPod or a TiVO. For the most part, you plug them in, hook them up, and go. There are steps to get at the more advanced features, but consider what you never have to worry about:
- Applying software updates (if they happen at all, they happen without user intervention)
- Viruses, spam, malware of any kind
- General twiddling of settings that seem irrelevant to you, the end consumer
Computers just aren't like that yet. If you want to be safe, you always need to be on the lookout for the latest updates from your OS vendor and from the vendors of the various tools you use (Firefox, etc.). It's way more babysitting than most people want to do for something they purchased - especially since they don't need to for the rest of the stuff they buy.
Where is this going? A plethora of single purpose devices, I think - like the iPod, the TiVo, et. al. General purpose computers will likely go back to being hobbyist tools, with simpler, easier to deal with, consumer grade devices taking over the common chores.
For more evidence of the power of inertia in the development space, have a look at this post (read the comments) from the BaseCamp developers. They use Ruby, and ran smack into the "why didn't you use (insert other language here)" argument. In this example, it's PHP. I like this response to that argument, and it's what I think about the "but what about all the Java developers" arguments I get on a regular basis:
When you say "I really can't see how it would be slower to code something in PHP than in another language" then you've already closed all ears to argument. If you think PHP—or any language—is the be all, end all of development in any domain, I can only wish you the best of luck in your future endevours. Perhaps you could be so kind as to reveal your name, so future clients could know that this is your opinion and choose their engagement so advised?
The bizarro world is the one where inertia rules the land and any tool but the one in your hand must be feared or distrusted. If you're interested in stepping back into the world of informed opinion and facts with specific questions instead of meaningless slander, let me know. I'm happy to answer based on my experiences with developing both PHP and Ruby and with the data we have on finding Ruby programmers.
Update: Link added after the commenters pointed out that I forgot it.
Rakaz illustrates a number of issues that confront authors of aggregators - this resonates well with me, since I just fixed a mistake in Bf that broke the app's ability to read Atom 0.3 feeds. The sheer number of feed varieties, as well as the volume of interpretations of same, has led to chaos. At the moment, the latest rev of BottomFeeder reads all of them. Who knows what will happen tomorrow :)
In the last build of BottomFeeder, I accidentally broke support for Atom 0.3 feeds. I was adding support for the putative Atom 1.0 standard, and factored my code badly - thus breaking Atom 0.3 feeds in Bf. I've got an update available - grab the latest BottomFeeder.pcl if you haven't been seeing updates to feeds that you should have been. I'm also replacing the full builds on the download site, since they had this flaw baked in.
Misbehaving mistakes common word usage for sexism. Here's a useful tip before rushing off the deep end and crying sexism (or racism, etc, etc) - it's not always about you.
I can’t imagine why he was disorderly when you’ve just made him hang up on his mother, who could be killed at any point. That’s just irrational behavior on his part. Oh wait, no, these shmucks, who pass for “principals,” need to lose their job for not giving one iota about the child, and only about the rules. This is why our school system sucks. It’s become nothing but an amalgam of rules and regulations, punishment and retribution, testing over learning, and what we are creating are proto-drones for the workforce, not vibrant individuals.
Arrested? For talking on the cell phone? And you think you’re being “nice” by just suspending him? Asshats. So what would have been the “right response?” That’s hard to say, but likely it would have been a warning, or something similar.
All they care about at the schools now are rules. There's absolutely no room for judgment at all - which has to make you wonder about the tacit lessons that kids are learning. At my daughter's school, kids can be suspended for bringing cough drops or aspirin without a doctor's note - one from the parents won't suffice. She was terrified that the school was going to kick her out when my wife gave her a pseudofed in the car, since the car was in the school parking lot.
The origins of this are an extreme aversion to risk, and - most especially - an aversion to potential legal liability. The perceived risk of suits is apparently so high that we've ended up with absurd regulatory regimes in the schools. Note I said the perceived risks - I have no idea what the actual risks are. While there's a lot of reporting about stupid lawsuits, it's dangerous to assume a lot based on that kind of anecdotal evidence. Either way though, it's a very bad thing.
Someone claimed I deleted some comments. I did not. I don't delete comments. Even very distasteful ones. Even ones who call me an idiot. Even ones that say discriminatory things.
Why not? Because I believe strongly in freedom of speech. Even speech I might hate. It takes a thick skin. Yes, I have provided a soap box for people to say some distasteful things. Yes, most corporate types don't agree that I should give people such a soap box (I know most other corporate webloggers delete comments).
But, I think it's important to hear from everyone, not just those I like
There's something to that, sure. On the other hand, deleting distasteful, obnoxious comments is also a matter of cleaning up the commons. To a large extent, allowing a completely open forum for things like swearing, porn, racism, (what have you) is tacit acceptance of such commentary. Ask yourself this question - would you be happy with having that kind of commentary in the presence of your kids? I know I'm not.
It's not censorship to impose standards and express disapproval. Social disapproval is a very strong force, and it's how things like racism, sexism, and other ism's get fixed. You can wave at government enforced tolerance all you want, but in a free society, you don't get law without a fairly strong social consensus. You need social disapproval before you'll ever see a legal framework backing you. Which takes me back to disapproval of nastiness - it's a matter of not allowing the commons to be taken over by the forces of ugliness.
Allowing open debate does not mean that you have to put up with rude, obnoxious behavior. Cleaning that up helps make for a better society that is less likely to clamor for censorship. Tolerating all manner of rudeness in public only sets you up for a backlash later - and the same people who initially supported the supposed tolerance are always stunned to see the backlash develop. They shouldn't be.
All the excitement around Google's accelerator psuhed the updates out of my head for a few days - here's today's reminder:
VisualAge & GemStone/S application development utilities
Tuesday 8:30 am to 9:15 am
VisualAge & GemStone/S application development utilities Our financial application is written in VisualAge and GemStone/S. Over the years we've developed a set of utilities to help with our application development. We will show our GemStone code synchronization and instance migration tools, GemStone object archiving, ENVY change reports, icon management tool, runtime error notification, method trace tools, and a number of miscellaneous features. Our experience with utility development has reinforced our opinion that the ability to extend the development environment is a fundamental strength of Smalltalk.
Don't forget to register! See you in Orlando.
I was watching the latest "Medium" on the Replay, when I had a thought - a lot of recent shows with a paranormal bent have gone with a "good" psychic in opposition with a "bad" psychic - The ill fated "Point Pleasant" operated like that, as did "Tru Calling". Obviously, "Revelation" is doing that, and even "Buffy" went that way when Faith went bad. None of this is surprising, of course - good vs. evil is a very old theme.
So anyway, I was watching "Medium", and jokingly asked my wife when they would add an evil medium to oppose the heroine. She gave a scoffing look, but then the preview for next week came on - and sure enough, there it was. Within Hollywood, there's definitely conservation of story lines...
This post on Http GET and side effects - in light of Google's Web Accelerator - made me think about something. I only just posted on this, but now I've read a bit more and thought about it. Here's what BitWorking has to say:
Let's start talking about you. And by you I mean all the web application developers out there that have been mis-using HTTP. Now I've been telling you over and over how to use HTTP correctly, how to build you web applications in a RESTful manner, and the consequences you could face if you didn't. Well, you didn't listen to me, did you 37Signals? Did you? Now Google releases their Web Accelerator and your application is broken. Apparently you used GET to delete items from Backpack and when Googles Web Accelerator pre-fetches that URI in you web app, items get deleted. Let's make this clear, Google didn't break your application, your application was broken, Google was just the first person to point it out to you. Do you feel the pain? Do you feel it?
Well, let's not get too self righteous or too far ahead of ourselves, hmm? Let's talk about something that's been an off and on topic in the syndication world for awhile - RFC 3229. That spec defines how a web server can answer incremental changes from a client. In the context of a news aggregator, that means only items that are new/changed since the last such request. In order to implement that on the server side, you'll need a dynamic feed, using header information in a GET request.
Well. The GET request effects a state change in the server with respect to the client in question. This is arguably a good thing for any conforming clients, since it reduces the amount of traffic that needs to be served. It's also something that Google's accelerator could render completely useless. I emphasize could - it's unclear to me whether the request sent by Google would include the requisite header info.
The point though, is this - not all client requests that result in a server state change are bad things. Heck, if they are we better get rid of 304, right now. The purists shouting from the rooftops about state free GET requests haven't thought this one all the way through.
I just finished reading "The Congress of Vienna: A Study in Allied Unity 1812 - 1822". It was interesting to me in more ways than one - the author, Harold Nicholson, was one of the British diplomats at the Paris conference of 1919. He wrote this book about the post Napoleanic era in 1945, at the close of World War II - he notes at the beginning of the book that much archival material was unavailable to him due to the war.
The striking thing about this book is just how different Europe was then. Reading about the negotiations, for instance - one of the Italian Kings (there were several Italian states then) was nearly removed from his throne, and they conference cast about looking for another principality to give him as a feifdom. Very different indeed. One thing remains the same though - the kind of horse trading that happened in 1919 happened in 1815, and again in Dayton in 1995. The only thing that changes are the public justifications.
The principal players at the Vienna Congress are well known and very famous - Tallyrand of France, Metternich of Austria, Alexander of Russia. I hadn't known much about Castlereagh of England before reading this book, but Nicholson painted a very sympathetic portrait - he was a complex man living in a difficult age. Tallyrand isn't described much in this book - it was written very much from a UK perspective. Still, it was fascinating to see how he brought France from the position as loser of the war to near equal at the negotiation table - the man was brilliant.
After reading this book, I went to my shelf in search of another tome on that era - "The Birth of the Modern: World Society, 1815-1830". It's a very different book, looking at the forces that drove the creation of the modern world, according to the author, Paul Johnson. I bought it years ago, but I guess it wasn't time for me to read it. Now it is. It's massive - 1000 pages. I suspect I'll be reading it for awhile. I'm not done with WWI yet, either - I've got Tuchman's "The Guns of August" as my bedtime book.
The end of Nicholson's book has me interested in Europe through the revolutions of 1848 - Metternich spent a lot of time trying to tamp that down, and I'd like to read about that era. Anyone have any suggested reading?
Blogging Roller isn't happy with the new Google accelerator:
Beware the Google Web Accelerator. It willl wreak havoc on the web applications that you use (Roller incuded). Problem is, in most webapps HTTP GET changes things (even though it shouldn't). Read all about it on O'Reilly Radar. I don't understand this. Google employs a hell of a lot of very smart people. How did they let this one slip by?
GET is supposed to be side effect free. The trouble is, many of the existing web apps don't work that way. Standards are great, but when practice varies as much as it has, that tells you something. I'm not sure how this will play out - will the 800 lb Google force change, or will the accelerator fail in the face of current web reality? It will be interesting to watch it play out.
The summer release of Cincom Smalltalk is just about ready to go. We've wrapped up the engineering work, and it's now a matter of production steps - CD production, internal order entry system updates, etc. We should have things ready to go from a customer point of view by the end of this month, and CD's should start arriving in customer hands in late May or early June.
This is a maintenance release - we are on a twice yearly release schedule now:
- Summer: Bug fix/maintenance release. No major changes, it's possible for beta code to move into production
- Winter: Major release. new features/functions (etc) will be released
Friedman: "IQ distributions are a bell curve: there are very few people at the low (retarded) end of intelligence, and there are very few at the high (genius) end of intelligence. Most of us are bunched in the middle. The distribution is much the same as a distribution of humans' heights: Tom Cruise is below average in height and Yao Ming is above average. (But Tom Cruise is closer to the average than Ming.)"
Doc: "Wrong. I've been 5'9 the whole time my IQ has been measured everywhere from very smart to very dumb. Intelligence is complicated, conditional and hard to measure. The belief that people have "an IQ," however, comes easy. Too easy. "
I'm not so sure that the disagreement is as violent as it sounds. It would surprise me to find that intelligence isn't distributed on a bell curve - it wouldn't surprise me at all to find that measuring it is difficult, and that our current methods miss-classify people. To take a simple case - my Dad is mildly dyslexic, and never really liked to read because of that. I would guess that many IQ tests would rank him low because of that. A failure of methodology doesn't imply that a thing doesn't exist.
Doc wants to believe this:
The unwelcome point I've been making here, and that John Taylor Gatto has been making for much longer, is that most people are born smart and that we use theh likes of IQ tests to pound populations of uniquely gifted individuals into bell curves.
And sure, there's plenty of round pegging going on in the schools. The inability of the schools to deliver mass customization is a completely different problem though, and doesn't really speak to the distribution of intelligence. I'd agree with Doc that most current IQ tests are worse than useless. I do think there's something that could be measured, if we had any idea how. Ironically, his closing anecdote makes my point:
By the way, back when I got out of college, I was spared boring jobs at two insurance companies by flunking IQ tests. One was Aetna. That was administered right at the employment agency. No waiting. Impressive. I forget the name fo the other one, but I remember the setting vividly. It was in Newark. Nice offices, friendly people. The guy who interviewed me told the employment agency something like, "I was so impressed by the interview. He seemed real smart, and knew an awful lot of stuff. But then when we got the IQ test back we found out he was really dumb."
Placing the interviewer right down there towards the lower end of the bell curve, I think...
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.