Posts from October 2003

windshield rainbow picture

windshield rainbow



George Lakoff Interview

This George Lakoff interview about how conservatives have been successful by framing debates with language is brilliant:
The phrase "Tax relief" began coming out of the White House starting on the very day of Bush's inauguration. It got picked up by the newspapers as if it were a neutral term, which it is not. First, you have the frame for "relief." For there to be relief, there has to be an affliction, an afflicted party, somebody who administers the relief, and an act in which you are relieved of the affliction. The reliever is the hero, and anybody who tries to stop them is the bad guy intent on keeping the affliction going. So, add "tax" to "relief" and you get a metaphor that taxation is an affliction, and anybody against relieving this affliction is a villain.
I've been meaning to pick up Lakoff's book about categorization called Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things for a long time. And now I have another of his to add to my list: Moral Politics. [via boing2]

Fail-Safe Images Remix

Aaron Johnson took the algorithm for checking the existence of Amazon images that I described in Fail-Safe Amazon Images, and showed how you can use it in Java, C#, and Cold Fusion. Very cool, thanks Aaron! Beyond its use for Amazon development, I think this is an interesting exercise in translation between development environments.

fall colors

many leaves

one leaf

Script School Interview

I think I'm doing a live audio interview/chat over at Script School Radio today at 2:30 pacific time. We'll probably talk about weblogs, scripting, Amazon, and other subjects I write about here all the time. We'll see.

Update: Yep, that's exactly what happened. It was good to talk with TDavid about all of the above.

Amazon: Search Inside the Book

Amazon launched a new feature called Search Inside the Book. This lets anyone search the entire text of some (not all) books. More at Business Wire. More at

You can try it by searching the full text of the book We Blog (try "microcontent"). When you click on an individual result, you see the full page (sign-in required) with your search term highlighted. You can also click the arrows to read surrounding pages. Another way to find results is by typing "microcontent" into the standard search form—you'll see an exact location of the word in the books that are returned. Since there are only eight results for "microcontent" I don't think this search is finding every book that contains the word. (But maybe "microcontent" is only mentioned in eight books, I need a better test.)

  • I bet this feature will be added to the API very soon.
  • I wonder how this feature will affect the search results/sales for books that don't have their full text on Amazon.
  • How long will it be before you can pay your money and read the whole book through Amazon?
  • I'd like to see an image search.
  • Libraries should do this.
This opens the door to some potential new Amazon Hacks (this book is not full-text searchable at Amazon, btw). But I

Fail-Safe Amazon Images

I wrote an article for the O'Reilly Network called Fail-Safe Amazon Images. It shows ways you can code to handle products that don't have images (even when the API says they do) and ways to be prepared for non-responsive servers. The article has some server-side code examples in ASP, PHP, and Perl—with a bonus client-side version in JavaScript. I use the JavaScript safety-net on this site anywhere I show Amazon images (to see it in action view source here, there, or anywhere)—along with a modified version of the ASP sample for Weblog Bookwatch.

If you combine the code in this article with Hack #93 in Amazon Hacks (Cache Amazon Images Locally), you can be well prepared for network congestion, products without images, and anything else that could interfere with an Amazon-dependent application.

Ad Literacy

Great article about some new uses for advertising: Selling you a new past: "'What is important these days is not what advertising does to consumers, so much as how consumers use advertising to make statements about themselves to other people." [via KoLi 10/22] I wish critical analysis of the media I consume every day was part of the media I consume every day. (Which reminds me how much I miss Brill's Content.)

House hacking

Today I changed an electrical outlet for a clothes dryer. The obvious difference between hacking electrical outlets vs. code is that electricity can kill you or burn down the house. While working on the outlet I was less tempted to wonder what would happen if I wired it differently.

Kevin Kelly on Amazon Hacks

Kevin Kelly, author of New Rules for the New Economy (and Out of Control) mentioned Amazon Hacks briefly on his Cool Tools weblog: "I picked up this tip from the fabulous book Amazon Hacks, which I feel any serious user of Amazon should read." The tip he was talking about is Hack #46, Track the Ranks of Books Over Time, which walks you through setting up a list of items to track at the great service JungleScan. [heads up via Jason]

GUI zen

Thanks to some more office space and some serious tinkering with my Windows XP interface [via Matt], I've achieved a higher state of workstation consciousness.


Mac OS X on the left, Windows XP on the right—connected. Like Michael Buffington said, an added benefit of two monitors is extra radiation. And if comic books have taught me anything, the high doses of radiation should give me super powers of some kind.

syndicating trust

The other piece to the death of centralized content servers that I mentioned in my last post is Trust. Centralized spaces like Amazon, eBay, etc. provide not only the space, but trust: trust in identities, trust that the transaction will work, trust that if something goes wrong there's a system in place to deal with it. Another part of trust is gathering ratings about users by other users. There is no distributed system for this, so this may be the key role that keeps centralized services around. How do you syndicate trust?

epinions + weblogs

I've been thinking epinions should embrace weblogs (+metadata) since 1999. David Galbraith recently makes the case much better than I did. I still believe sites that rely on users for content will have to realize that people want to publish in their own space. I think it will be up to weblog tool makers to make these integrations happen seamlessly (with metadata, probably). Amazon reviews, I'm looking at you. Friendster and Ryze could be the "about" pages for weblogs. Until people can contribute to group spaces like Friendster or Amazon without any extra effort, weblogs will continue to suck users' contributed thoughts away like a vacuum. I think as soon as a mechanism exists for aggregating reviews, personal identity info, buddy lists, items for sale, etc—centralized content services won't be needed.

Oh yeah, I have a blog...

Oh, hey, it's onfocus, my weblog! I have been extraordinarily busy. Here are some things that have been orbiting and need to be blogged: Hopefully posting will resume here soon.

Indie Oregon Film

Corvallis native Brock Morse put together an independent, feature-length film called Westender. It's a medieval period film shot entirely in Oregon. (The film's website has some great photos of Oregon scenery.) You can see the film tomorrow night at the Portland Art Museum. Here's a story about the film in the Portland Tribune: An Ode to Oregon. I'm out of town, so hopefully they'll have a screening in Corvallis sometime. (Much of the film was shot just 30 miles away.)

Hacks in the Sun-Times

There's a fun article about the Hacks Series in the Chicago Sun-Times: 'Hack' books a big boost to long-suffering geek culture. Mr. Ihnakto sums up the meaning of the series well: "The books pay homage to the spirit that the word 'hack,' enjoyed before it was co-opted by malevolent idiots: a 'hack' is what happens when sublime understanding of a concept allows you to do something wholly wonderful and unexpected with a technology."

There's even a mention of Amazon Hacks after some good-natured ribbing. (Wal-Mart and Burger King Hacks? Come on! Everyone knows McDonald's has the tech-friendly wireless networks. ;) "'s good stuff if you're unaware of the community aspects of Amazon users, or are looking for ways to integrate Amazon content into your Web site."

Typepad Launches!

TypePad is go! (Congrats everyone at Six Apart!)

How To: Build a PseudoSegway

Someone built their own Segway, and showed exactly how they did it. [via Rael]

Money Matt

  1. Start a weblog.
  2. Add Google AdSense ads.
  3. Make money.
Matt explains why targeting is crucial for this to work. That's why this site made $28 in the last three months, and PVRblogs makes enough to buy an aeron chair each month. It bothers me to think that advertising is going to be the way to pay people for their work on the web. I thought we could do better than television.

Traditional book publishers should also read this article. It could be more lucrative for an author to keep a weblog on a subject than write a book on a subject.

Matt's Amazon Hack

Matt's written up a great Amazon Hack: How to send something not on someone's wishlist to that someone. He used it for a great joke too.

AdSense gone

I was trying out Google AdSense ads on a couple pages of this site, but I've removed them because I don't agree with their new draconian terms of service. I used to publish my ad stats so everyone could see how much money I was making from the ads, and that's now prohibited under their terms. (Now that I'm not bound by the terms I can tell you I've made $28.56 to date.) I also don't like that anyone can be barred from the program for secretive, seemingly arbitrary reasons. You also can't mention their terms of service if you're bound by their terms of service. I think that deserves a big collective WTF?.

Google gets just about everything they do right. That's why this behavior is so puzzling. (more at kottke, metafilter, boingboing.)

Six Log Interview

Anil Dash asked me some great questions and I tried to answer them. You can read me mouthing off about weblogs, journalism, scripting, Amazon Hacks, and where permalinks come from in the first Six Log Interview.

There's a TypePad-specific Amazon Hack (that isn't in the book) on the way...but you should still buy Amazon Hacks to get all of the hacky goodness. ;)