Community as Mashup

11 February 2007

community technology web-20

Jeremiah_Morrow_Bridge.jpgCommunities exist independent of any actual connections between people. There's a community of people who have all bungee-jumped off the same bridge as you, even if you've never met them.

But, throw a Bridge Day, and the community becomes visible.

With online communities, this is quite evident. Some communities are purely based around the tools that support them, but many communities have no centralized place to congregate in the virtual world.

The community is happening everywhere. And luckily we have this whole web 2.0 thing happening now, with mashups and remixes. Fantastic.

Mashups allow us to go find the community, where ever it may be, and make it visible and apparent. With appropriate use of RSS, del.icio.us, Flickr or other services, the implicit community occurring across the net gets to have a virtual Bridge Day.

What about hand cancer?

22 January 2007

culture health technology

Hand CancerIt seems the debate about links between brain cancer and cellphones goes back and forth. It seems like last year, they were declared safe. Now that is once again being called into question.

But are folks missing half of the equation? Sure, the phone is next to our head, but it's also being held by our hands. And kids these days are sometimes holding the phone with both hands while texting, keeping their noggins safe from the brain-warming effects of radiation.

Who is studying the potential link between cellphone usage and hand cancer?

Mostly, I just liked this image.

Karma Columnist

16 December 2006

blogging pontificate technology web-20

columns.jpgBlogs and such are supposed to be about both aggregation and syndication. With aggregators such as Bloglines or NetNewsWire, I think we've thus far got a pretty good handle on aggregation. Or at least personal aggregation. In true populist web2.0 form, the user is supposed to cut out the middleman, and just go straight to the blogs he wants.

No intermediaries.

But how does he find those blogs? Technorati? Google? Somehow simply searching for information sources by keyword will cause relevant and worthy blogs to appear? I personally haven't had a lot of success with that.

There are super aggregators, like Javablogs or Ruby Corner, but these aggregate on a very broad topic (ie, Java or Ruby), from anyone who wants to be a part of it. And many times the aggregees don't even bother filtering their feed to assure that Javablogs only gets Java posts and Ruby Corner only gets Ruby posts.

The result? A lot of junk (via javablogs).

Perhaps cutting out the middleman isn't quite so great. The middleman also acts as a voice of authority, helping you to find your way. While technologies may enable populist, expertise is not. Some sites, such as Squidoo encourage these voices of authority. Unfortunately, Squidoo only allows a single authority for each topic.

Maybe the newspaper model isn't so bad.

Editors act as authorities and give personality to the paper. Or at least before the day of the Associated Press, they did.

My corner market has at least 6 different local papers, from the daily paper to the various free weeklies. Every point of view can be expressed on the topic of "the news." Nothing forces a single authority. You can pick your middleman to match your own view.

Growing up, we had "the newspaper" which had a morning and an afternoon edition. With different names. But the same publisher. The morning paper's editorial page contained a conservative slant, while the afternoon paper's editorials were decidedly liberal. You could subscribe to the paper that was more aligned to your liking.

On the web, though, there is no concept of "the newspaper" beyond what traditional newspapers put on the web. Blogs enable anyone to be a columnist. How do these two meet?

Through aggregation.

Individual bloggers continue to blog on their own, but a 3rd party (the hated middleman) optionally gathers up some select subset of blogs on a topic and republishes (syndicates) them in a more cohesive form.

Lazy (or busy) readers can find these aggregations and feel confident that if they trust the editor, they will receive a lot of good posts from a variety of sources.

Why not simply do a group blog, with multiple authors? For one, there's the logistics of setting up a multi-user blog system, authors keeping up with credentials, etc. Secondly, blogging is personal. Even if it's shared and aggregated, the posts are still hand-crafted by the bloggers and they feel a certain attachment to their work.

Personally, I like to keep my work on my own blog.

Keeping up with regular blogging can be difficult. Often bloggers think to themselves "jeez, it's been 2 weeks since I've written anything." If they go write something for a group blog, their own soapbox doesn't show evidence of the effort. If authors truly syndicate themselves to these middleman aggregators, they get to participate in a larger publication while still winning personal blog karma by being active on their own blog. Plus, they can use the tooling they're happy with, and let RSS sort out the differences.

I ultimately feel that the columnist model works. But a columnist without columns to fill is just a blogger on a soapbox. It takes the middleman to bring many columnists together to weave a larger context.

Google Refinement

06 October 2006

google technology tools

Picture 42.png New feature?

Update: No, not a new feature. A quick googling resulted in at least a sighting back in April. This seems to be a feature specific to medical terms.

100% Pure Ruby(tm)

26 September 2006

day-job java ruby technology tools

Picture 34.pngRecently I've been doing a fair amount of work in Ruby. And yes, I've felt super-productive. Particularly compared to Java.

The downside of working in Java is the 100% Pure Java(tm) mentality. In the search for a clean and cohesive system, we take the attitude that if it's not pure Java, it's crap. In Java, if we need something to happen periodically, we might examine TimerTask, decide it's insufficient and move on to Quartz. So we add it to our build, figure out the API, realize it conflicts with some other dependency. Well, damn.

With Ruby, it's scripty enough to not feel the need to have a 100% Pure Ruby(tm) mentality. A Ruby system needs something to occur periodically, we just open a pipe to crontab and hand that bit off to cron.

"But Windows doesn't have cron!"

Too bad.

Use a better operating system.

The majority of systems deploy to Linux or some other Unix-alike. Developing on a Unix-ish system only makes sense. You wouldn't prepare to drive an RV by tooling around in a Kia Sportage, now would you?

When you break free of the JVM mentality and assume a sensible host operating system, you realize that the OS itself is your virtual machine to play in. If it's in your $PATH and can be expected to behave reasonably well on any sane Unix-like OS, by all means, use it.

Back to the premise... Since Ruby is indeed "scripty" you can accomplish a crapload just using a pair of backticks, effectively not even using Ruby at all.

And you can do it without guilt or complication. Completely unlike punting to Runtime.exec(...). That always makes you feel dirty.

Perhaps Groovy and JRuby will help break the never-escape-the-JVM attitude. Give a developer backticks and easy pipes to subprocesses, and no telling what sort of nefarious things he might could do.

Cow Orking

15 September 2006

culture day-job north-carolina sharing technology web-20

Wow.

I'm finally home after a trip to San Francisco to meet my co-workers. It truly was surreal, in that I've been working for The Job for about a year, and had never met a co-worker, aside from Pete. When I joined, the team was 3 other people, and we were all in different states. New York. North Carolina. Michigan, California.

Now we are 18.

This is the first funded startup I've been a part of, and it's been fun to watch the growth of a company. I think we've assembled an excellent team of talented individuals. It certainly is a rather eclectic group (no, the children are not employees).

It is somewhat strange being the odd-man-out, clear across the country. This trip through, to finally meet everyone, helped solidify the realness of it all. When everyone is in different states, you've got a hip distributed team. When there's just one guy in the hills near the moonshine shack, he's just a remote worker . Ultimately, I wouldn't trade my grits and banjos for the world, and am grateful that an organization such as Radar is jiggy enough to keep a hillbilly round. But while proximity doesn't matter to Subversion or Jabber, we are all humans, and faces do matter.

I'd like to travel out there more often, and I aim to finally locate and hook up the iSight.

The point to this post? Technology allows you to never actually meet humans, but I wouldn't recommend it.

We've got a thing, and it's called radar love..

28 August 2006

day-job java technology web-20

Picture 19.png My Day-Job has been secreted behind a wall of secret secrecy. It still is. But we have a new website tonight. There's a tad more information than previously disclosed, but only a little. You can learn a little bit about our investors and our management team. Meanwhile, we're still heads-down cranking out the best massively-scalable ferumnibiting osteobithorpolexer you'll ever have seen. I've already said too much. If I disclose anything else, I'll be sure to be receiving The Memo. And we wouldn't want that.

TiVo's Getting Evil

16 August 2006

culture disaster technology

Picture 8.pngJust a helpful note if you have both TiVo and children: set a parental control code or your children will.

Tonight, the wife and I sat down to enjoy some wholesome television, including Moral Orel and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. We quickly learned that our child, currently fast asleep, had set a parental control code and limited us to TV-13 or somesuch. I was unable to guess what the boy might've used for a code, so I turned to the interwebs.

After some Googling around, I learn that the only solution is to call TiVo customer support.

First, you get dumped into an IVR system that attempts to have a conversation with you. Instead of the obnoxious "press 1 if you are having trouble with...", you simply must speak your troubles into the phone, and it'll route your call accordingly. In theory. Instead, you get to have a conversation with a rude, dim, and deaf IVR system.

I was taught, as a child, not to interrupt when someone else is speaking. But the IVR never stopped talking. It'd tell me to state my problem, and then just keep yammering away about other options I might have, or that I could try using tivo.com, or perhaps I would like to answer a survey. Being a parent, I'm aware that if someone is talking, they certainly are not listening.

The IVR had difficulting understanding the word "no" even. Just like a child.

Ultimately, after enough cursing, I got bumped to the queue to speak to a live human... if I wished to wait an estimated 15 minutes.

After 40 minutes, I do finally get to speak to a human. During the 40 minute wait, I was reminded a dozen times that I could use tivo.com to solve my problem. Of course, tivo.com is what ultimately told me I had to use the phone.

Once I had Dusty (a very helpful and friendly support person, I must admit) on the line, I gained some insight into the workings of the TiVo parental control system. He provided me with a 4-digit code that would work until 4pm tomorrow. This was without contacting my device or having it dial in for an update. It would seem that in addition to the user-set parental control code, there is a secondary code that can be derived from a combination of the device service number and the date.

Considering the annoyance of the faulty voice-recognition IVR and the long wait times, I fully expected TiVo to have to send me a piece of physical postal mail with the code printed on a piece of paper in 4-to-6 weeks. I was pleasantly surprised.

Of course, no matter how annoying or evil TiVo gets, I'll remain loyal. We tried the ReplayTV and returned it within a day. Anything through the cable provider is bound to be even worse, both in terms of technology and service.

Hey mon, Gone to OSCon

24 July 2006

codehaus events java opensource technology

Picture 12.png Well, I've managed to procure both travel and lodging for OSCon in Portland this week. I still don't actually have a conference pass, but what is life without challenges? If you're an exhibitor or just a friendly soul who has a spare pass or would like to sponsor me, email bob@ this domain.

I'm arriving around lunchtime on Wednesday, and departing at the break of day on Friday. I think I'm going to the Jive Software party. Henri Yandell has suggested a haus party on Wednesday night, but we'll see how things pan out. I can be SMS'd on my shoephone, which can be found on my contact page.

Holding Court

14 July 2006

codehaus culture events food misc technology

starbucks.jpgI will be holding court at the Vinings Starbucks , in Atlanta, Saturday night, with my son. I'll probably be there around 8pm or so. Email me (bob@ this domain) if you need more information or anything.