Archive of Posts from July 2002

Cory is in the middle of a core blog dump after vacation over at boingboing. It's worth going over there now, otherwise you'll never catch up.

The garden is coming along nicely. We had a bumper crop of strawberries this year because we let the runners go wherever they wanted last year. They're winding down now, but the tomatoes are just getting started. We also have this crazy cayenne pepper plant on the deck that has half a dozen good-sized peppers on it. I need to figure out how to dry them when they're ready. And then what to make with them...salsa?

crazy twisted pepper

strawberries

yellow finch

Weblog MediaWatch Top 10

I added a page to the Weblog Bookwatch for non-book items: DVDs, CDs, Software, etc. It's called Weblog Mediawatch Top 10. I also re-worked both watches behind the scenes so they're using Amazon's Web Services instead of the bag of http gets and regex that makes up a SCRAPI. (I think the best part of the burgeoning Web Services movement is the fact that people won't have to write as many regular expressions.)

This cracked me up: Real life if hackers ruled the world. it r0xor5! [via MeFi]

I spent all day yesterday taking a sea kayaking class through Tamal Saka at Tomales Bay. We learned how to maneuver the kayaks, paddle, get in and out, and various rescue techniques. We even had a brief introduction to reading tide logs, sea charts, and navigation. Today I'm discovering sore muscles that I didn't even know I had. Practicing the rescues all day was tiring, but I'm glad I went through it. It gets the worst case scenarios out of the way, and I'll know what to do when I'm out and the kayak tips over. I had only been river rafting before, so the first time I made a "wet exit" (tipped the kayak over) the salt water was surprising. Using the gear, and learning how to steer was awkward but I can't wait to go out again. There was something amazing about being out on the bay in a boat you're controlling—paddling through waves and wind while seagulls are flying overhead and fog is rolling over the hills. And the experience can only get better with practice.

Matt Kingston wrote a good TrackBack tutorial for all of you thinking about implementing a home-brewed system...or building it into your weblog tool. (I'm looking in your direction Blogger and Radio Userland. ;)

Speaking of the State of Web, some people in congress are standing up for Internet radio. U.S. Reps. Jay Inslee (D-WA), George Nethercutt (R-WA), and Rick Boucher (D-VA) have introduced the Internet Radio Fairness Act. It will reduce the outrageous fees to costs more in line with traditional radio stations. Sounds fair to me...especially since there can only be a limited number of airwaves stations due to FCC restrictions, but the number of Internet stations is potentially unlimited. (for now.) [via MeFi]

Not everyone is thrilled about Web Services. Here's a less enthusiastic view on ASPnews.com: Show Me the Money: "Yet there's still a vital ingredient missing before this new wave of service component providers can become a sustainable model. How are they going to make money?" Many companies profit from specialized application development and integration, and the idea of Web Services is pretty scary to them. Like those CRM/ASP folks: Will Web Services Kill Packaged CRM Apps? It seems like whenever you reduce friction in a process, there are people who profit from that friction who will be upset.

The Weblog Bookwatch (found on this site) was mentioned in Slate today, along with Erik Benson's BookWatch Plus. It's a brief article explaining what Web Services are, why you should care, and why everyone's going to be doing it. This article doesn't go into any technical specifics—or mention any standards or protocols. They do describe why people are excited about them: "Web services are like LEGOs: They snap together in almost limitless combinations. As the big sites bring their Web services on board it's easy to imagine your home page summarizing the items you have for sale on eBay, displaying whether you're available to chat via AOL or Yahoo!, and mapping the current location of the airplane you're on via Expedia." Web Services = Application Syndication.

An article by Kevin Werbach in 2000 titled, The Web Goes Into Syndication pointed out that Amazon has always seen syndication as a good strategy; at that time through its affiliate program, and ZShops. He says, "By acting as a syndicator and a distributor of e-commerce, Amazon is turning the absence of scarcity on the Web from a threat into an advantage. The multitude of other sites that users visit are no longer alternatives to Amazon; they are opportunities for Amazon to expand its presence -- and its earnings." Web Services are just their latest effort to push out instead of trying to attract and hold. In other words, they get the Web.

Doc Searls transcribed some of Lawrence Lessig's keynote at OSCon. I've seen him speak a few times, and it's always been inspiring. I hope he wasn't serious about ending his public speaking as Doc noted. This time around he said,
"Yes, we have sites and blogs and Slashdot stories. But nothning in Washington. If you don't do something now, this freedom will be taken away — either by those who see you as a threat and invoke the system of law they call patents, or through copyright enforcement. If you can't fight for your freedom, you don't deserve it...How many have given more to the EFF than they've given their local telecom company for shitty DSL service?"
It reminds me of Bruce Sterling's keynote at SXSW last year. He said that we had millions of Napster users, but no one in Washington willing to stand up and defend it. He asked, "Where is our representative from the state of Napster?" If a national politician could tap into this loosley connected state of Web, I bet they'd find amazing support. But it's a two-way street. The state of Web also needs to find, court, and support politicians who share their views. As hackers (in the larger sense of the word), we like to think we can route around the idiocy of Washington. Based on what Lawrence Lessig is telling us though, it's time to route through Washington while we still can.

geez, Wget/1.7, let my server be! Don't make me block you. The same goes for you Hatena Antenna/0.3, I'm keeping an eye on you...

We Blog Chapter 8 Now Online!

We put up a full chapter from We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs on Blogroots tonight. It's a look at how businesses can use weblogs both inside and outside the organization. It includes an interview with John Robb (President of Userland) about K-Logs (knowledge management weblogs) and Sylvia Clark (a project manager at Cisco Systems) about using weblogs on an intranet. The chapter is appropriately called Using Blogs in Business.

It's fun to start sharing some of the work we've done. Like we said on the site—we're used to the quick feedback that Web publishing provides, so waiting to share longer form writing like this is something new. We'll be adding more chapters soon, and eventually the whole book will be online. We hope you'll like what you read and pick up the print version. It should be available in a few weeks.

This is somewhat old news, but you can now sign up for a weblog on Salon without the hacking that was required last week. $39.95/year, powered by Radio UserLand. I'm surprised they didn't tweak the interface so it is integrated even more into Salon's design. The UserLand look/feel seems out of place on Salon.

TrackBack Redux

Matt has added TrackBack functionality to Metafilter as an experiment. I've done the same here as an extension of my previous experiment. Now, if you blog with Movable Type via a bookmarklet while on this page, you'll get a list of the posts that you can TrackBack. It's pretty cool.

It wouldn't be very tough to write a TrackBack Blogging extension for any tool that supports the Blogger API. That way people with other tools could participate. It's definitely easier when it's built directly into the tool, though.

I looked at this site on a friend's Mac yesterday, and what I saw wasn't pretty. For some reason the stylesheet for IE isn't working the same way across platforms. If you're reading this right now on a Mac, this font shouldn't be Times, and the posts should be indented. There should also be a top margin to space the post away from the date. Please switch back to a PC. Thanks.

Recently updated blogs on TV via TiVo. Now that's convergence. [via Anil] If he could just get the most recent posts scrolling across the bottom like a news ticker, he'd have a new product. (Then you could get just those posts that mention the show you happen to be watching.)

Oh great, this is just what we need to strengthen communities: the possibility that we're all spying on each other for the government. Do people get payed for being in the Citizen Corps and reporting on their neighbors? Do they get patriot points they can eventually trade in for a better community to live in? I guess this post goes in my file, eh?

I don't have a Radio Userland or Manila account, so I haven't been able to test BookPost with those tools. I know it works with Blogger and Movable Type. If you happen to try it out with Radio or Manila, let me know how it works for you. I've found the implementations of the Blogger API are all different. I tried to keep my code as generic as possible so it would work with them even with the differences, but you never know until you test it out.

API Convergence: BookPost

Amazon released their new Web Services today. As an experiment, I put together a little tool for weblog authors called BookPost. It uses Amazon's new Web Services along with the Blogger API. BookPost assembles all of the HTML involved with linking to any given book on Amazon (and/or using an image of the book cover); which lets you focus on posting about the book. You can either enter an ISBN, or click on it as a bookmarklet from any Amazon.com product page. Let me know what you think! If you have any ideas about how to improve it, bugs to report, or ways to make the process easier, send them my way. Here are the bookmarklet and details. (with screenshots!)

If you'd rather skip the instructions and start playing around, here's the link:

Bookmarklet: BookPost (drag to your toolbar)

I wasn't too happy with this Joy of Tech cartoon about blogging [via Rael] until I realized she left him because he called it a blog site instead of simply blog. I'm sure she appreciates the efficiency of not repeating information vocally when it's already been blogged, but how could Samantha stay with someone who uses such a redundant phrase?

The film Metropolis has been restored and re-translated (NYT) to bring back the director's original vision. From the article: "Far from a historical curio, 'Metropolis' arrives, three-quarters of a century late, like an artifact from the future. At last we have the movie every would-be cinematic visionary has been trying to make since 1927." Check out these accompanying cool photos from the making of metropolis (pop-up). I hope they do a wide release to theaters. Luckily they've restored the original score and decided not to use the 1984 re-release soundtrack featuring Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, and Adam Ant. When I rented that version I had to turn off the sound completely.

Speaking of scary, the LA Deputy DA who called into a radio talk show to speak with the guy who shot video of a man being beaten by the police was sending a message to public: if you videotape the LA Police beating people, you will be harassed and intimidated. This seems like exactly the wrong public relations tact for them to be taking after something like this.

Ralph Nader, Commercial Alert, and 27 authors and scholars in a letter to Borders: Don't do it! "According to the May 20, 2002 Wall Street Journal, you [Borders] have devised 250 categories for books, each to be captained by a publishing firm. These firms will pay you a large annual fee -- in excess of $110,000 according to the Journal -- which will be hard for most small and medium-sized publishers to muster. In return, the "captains" will be able to decide which books you carry, how many are bought, and where they are placed. Although you say you will keep final authority over book-buying, Borders will be an agent of the publishers rather than of its customers."

When you cut through the way Borders is framing this deal, it sounds to me like the large publishers would be paying Borders to remove the competition from their shelves. That Borders is even considering a plan like this shows how much the large publishers control demand as well as supply. Scary stuff when you think of books as a repository for diverse ideas.

Hot enough for ya?

whoa, someone connected an etch-a-sketch to a computer via motorized pulleys. [via BoingBoing] It would be cool if someone wrote software to approximate images (like people have done with ASCII characters).

TrackBack Experiment

I'm playing around with Movable Type's new TrackBack feature by plugging it into my comments system. If you maintain your site with Movable Type you can include the following URL in your "URL(s) to ping" while posting:

http://www.onfocus.com/tb.asp?id=2842

Once you've posted and it pings my site, the title, permalink, and an excerpt of your post will appear as a comment on this post.

The ID in the URL above is my local system's ID of this post. (I'm not using Movable Type to maintain my weblog.) By changing the ID, you can comment both remotely and locally (at the same time!) on any post here. I'm trying to come up with some way to automate this process a little more. I can't really test this because I'm not using Movable Type to maintain any public blogs. If you try it out and it doesn't work, please let me know by leaving a comment here the old fashioned way. Thanks!

Do you think this would be a useful addition to existing weblog comment systems?

Ev speaks the truth. In early 1998 I wrote a paper for a class I was taking at the University of Nebraska, Anthropology 472: Belief Systems in Anthropological Perspective. The paper was about the emerging group of Y2K survivalists and how their behavior and beliefs mirrored classic millennial religious movements throughout history—with a new technological twist. It had lots of quotes from mid-90's Wired visionaries mixed with quotes from Anthony Wallace. I posted the paper to the 1998 incarnation of this site, because, I figured, why not? Ev was at O'Reilly in Sebastopol, California and sent the link to skp (who was close to drawing up plans for stockpiling food and moving to the desert to avoid the inevitable catastrophe). She had some questions about the paper and we started emailing and ICQing. Fast forward to 2002, marriage. Is there anything that can bring two people together like apocalyptic visions of the future shared over the Internet? I doubt it. Thanks, Ev! (I got an A-minus on the paper...not enough attention to the role charismatic leaders play in millennial movements.)

stuck in a loop: charborg by pinback.

Last night we saw Neil Finn at The Fillmore. He has put together a spectacular band, and the show was a lot of fun. They were excited to be there and they did several things that seemed like they weren't planned. At one point Neil needed to tune his guitar so he turned to his band and said, "Does anyone have a song?" Lisa Germano was on keyboards and everyone was quiet while she played her song Wood Floors. Sebastian Steinberg (formerly of Soul Coughing) was playing bass. About halfway through the show, Johnny Marr came out and played with the band the rest of the night. They even did a few Smiths tunes including How Soon is Now and There is a Light that Never Goes Out. In another tuning-inspired moment, Neil sat at the keyboards all by himself and played Last Day of June and Message to My Girl (an old Split Enz song—the whole band did One Step Ahead earlier in the night). And there were plenty of audience-sing-along Crowded House favorites thrown in for good measure.

It was a good time, and a nice way to end my week of vacation. Now, back to work!

Here are a few photos from the Portland Japanese Garden.

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

By the way, skp and I are engaged!

skp and I just got back from the fireworks display in Portland, Oregon. (They were just for you, skp, Happy Birthday!) Here are a few photos:

fireworks
A crowd gathering at the waterfront

fireworks
People with their own fireworks

fireworks
Fireworks over the water

I'm away—but I'll be back soon. Happy 4th!