Storms

Dug out from a storm this week and the winds are still blowing, and the lighting still lighting up the sky and none of this has anything to do with the weather. Well, there was a storm earlier, which blew down the tree across from us. Lots of trees down online, too.

I emerged from various uninteresting things and went online this morning and found all these moods today. For instance, there’s an anti-intellectual/postmodern thing going on, links pulled together by AKMA, who attaches his own take on the discussion.

I don’t know enough about postmodernism to be hostile about it, one way or another. I used to be insecure about this — now I’m glad. Ignorance really is bliss.

Jeneane’s leading the charge against the Jupiter Biz Blog conference — too many people attending too many conferences, and all of them are blogging about them, but what’s worse is their blogging about each other blogging about each other and I’m getting dizzy.

One more person writes “What’s a weblog” and I’m going to lose my cookies.

I found out I can’t use Plesk to manage accounts on the new co-op server because it’s dependent on MySQL 3.23, and we’ll be using MySQL 4.x. That’s okay, though, because we should use open source solutions like Webmin instead. Speaking of open source, from Ken’s posting today, sounds like there have been a few trees down out in the Apache world.

Tom Shugart doesn’t think much of the heartland or people with weight problems:

Each time I find myself back in the heartland, it seems to get worse. The food seems to get more and more tasteless and toxic, and the inhabitants more and more rotund. How can the food be so bad—and so bad for you, I wonder, in the middle of one of the richest agricultural areas in the world?

True, the small towns don’t always have the fancy cuisine, though you look about a bit and you might be surprised; and the people are just plain folks — many of them making little money because of unemployment, so they fill their diet with potatoes and pasta and Big Macs — cheap food but starchy and fattening. As Tom noted.

But one thing I’ll say about the Midwest, which also includes my beautiful new home, Missouri: I’ve never noticed a lack of courtesy in the people — something I found in short supply in California. Generosity, too, as several of us prepare for this weekend’s Race for the Cure, thinking how best to waddle around the 5K course.

I just had an exchange of emails with News is Free about linking directly to my photographs — that whirring sound you hear is my bandwidth being sucked dry.

Me: Don’t scrape my pages.
Them: Your RSS feed is hard to find.
Me: Autodiscovery.
Them: Human beings and handy little orange XML button.
Me: Your personal requirement does not make my courtesy into an imperative. Don’t like little orange button.

So, who is not in a pissy mood? Speak up.

At least nature always comes through: the fireflies made their debut last night. No photos — they’re camera shy. I’d send you all a bouquet of fireflies to cheer you up, but they don’t like the tiny little leashes and keep tearing off the bows. And FedEx said no way.

Archived with comments at Wayback Machine

Guest Blog #2

Originally published at Many-to-Many now archived at the Wayback Machine

Every once in a while I let someone talk me into using an instant messaging service, such as ICQ. I would forget that I had it installed and be working happily away on some book or article, or doing my taxes when there’d be this knocking sound coming from my computer, and the little ICQ flower would change appearance — someone wants to message me, the flower would say. I would think to just ignore it, but this seems so rude because the little ICQ spy I allowed to be installed on my machine would be telling everyone that I am online, I am home, I can’t close the curtains and pretend otherwise. I would go online and have this typed conversation with the other person, which usually consisted of me frantically typing away as fast as I could while the other person, more adept at these sorts of things, would be using this cryptic pseudo-underground language endemic to the medium to send me short bursts of compacted meaning. ROTFLOL! (Real Off The Feeder Looping Out Lonely? Rather Old Testy Fart Laying Out Licenses?)

The thing that sets social software apart from the software we use to balance our checkbooks and order our next book is the interactive element of it: Instant messaging implies there’s someone to answer one’s virtual knock at the door; file sharing implies one person is out there sharing, another borrowing; discussions groups have, well, discussions. And weblogs have all the trappings of a personal journal, but one whose pages are instantly ripped out and passed around to a host of people, some known, some not. For most of the software, the interactive element is quite obvious, as in your face as that annoying little ICQ flower; but with

For most of the software, the interactive element is quite obvious, as in your face as that annoying little ICQ flower; but with weblogging the interactive element is more subtle. Within these journals, we can turn off comments and trackbacks, not provide RSS files, and even remove any concept of a permalink to discourage anyone from linking to something we write. We can disdain reading other’s work, and never reference other webloggers in our writing. We can refrain from leaving comments in other weblogs, and even forgo pinging weblogs.com. Once we’ve done our best to isolate ourselves we can congratulate ourselves about our independence, but really it’s a sham, a mockery, nothing more than feeble self-delusion. Weblogging by its nature is a social animal, and if you ignore that aspect of it too long, it will destroy your furniture and eat your best plant. Metaphorically, of course. No matter how much we may say we’re writing the weblog because we want to write, for self-discovery, or for posterity, we are impacted by our surroundings, by the very nature of the beast. Eventually, we find ourselves being influenced by the medium. Over time, we may be forced to make a decision: to either accept the ‘social’ aspect of

Weblogging by its nature is a social animal, and if you ignore that aspect of it too long, it will destroy your furniture and eat your best plant. Metaphorically, of course. No matter how much we may say we’re writing the weblog because we want to write, for self-discovery, or for posterity, we are impacted by our surroundings, by the very nature of the beast. Eventually, we find ourselves being influenced by the medium. Over time, we may be forced to make a decision: to either accept the ‘social’ aspect of weblogging, or abandon weblogging altogether. Since this is about social software, I won’t focus on the person who decides that the interaction takes more energy

Since this is about social software, I won’t focus on the person who decides that the interaction takes more energy than they have at the moment and leaves weblogging. Instead, we’ll look at the people who have decided that they’re game and ready to join, or stay with, the party. People like me. Perhaps people like you. We implement the permalinks and publish the many different versions of RSS files — plain XML, RDF/RSS, Blue RSS, Red RSS, RSS for Bad Hair Mondays. We also enable comments and trackbacks and all the other accouterments that say “Come on in, join the fun!” Once we’re ready, we introduce ourselves to the neighborhood by writing comments in other weblogs and referencing other’s work in our own writing. Pretty soon, we find ourselves surrounded by a friendly group of supportive new friends. Nothing but grins and giggles. That

Pretty soon, we find ourselves surrounded by a friendly group of supportive new friends. Nothing but grins and giggles. That is, until someone comes along and drops The Bomb. What is The Bomb? It’s different for everyone, and for every post. It’s the comments by the person or persons that criticize the original posting, or something someone else has said in an earlier comment. Many times the comment is thoughtful, perhaps even brilliant. Other times it’s taunting, provoking, even downright nasty. Regardless of the tenor, it’s the introduction of a discordant note into an otherwise harmonious whole. Now the introduction of this note isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If we all thought alike and agreed on most things, we’d all be pretty boring and would spend our time sitting around, exchanging daily epiphanies with each other. However, depending on the nature of The Bomb, your comment thread either excels to new heights of intelligence and insight, leading you to congratulate yourself on attracting such witty and urbane contributors; or your comments degenerate into a slugfest that would make the back alleys of your nearest Big City seem tame by comparison. Regardless, your comment thread most likely has now taken on a life of its own, one that’s not quite in your control anymore; and that’s a bit tough to take because, you say to yourself, you are the Writer of this Weblog. The Leader of this Little World. You are King or Queen of your Domain. Who are these people who just come on in and lay their thing in your space, without a by your leave? Shit on a shingle, but what did we do to bring this down on ourselves? Personally, in my comments I’ve been told to get a life, to stop doing drugs, to start doing drugs, that I’m sad, bad, and mad, and words that have come

Now the introduction of this note isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If we all thought alike and agreed on most things, we’d all be pretty boring and would spend our time sitting around, exchanging daily epiphanies with each other. However, depending on the nature of The Bomb, your comment thread either excels to new heights of intelligence and insight, leading you to congratulate yourself on attracting such witty and urbane contributors; or your comments degenerate into a slugfest that would make the back alleys of your nearest Big City seem tame by comparison. Regardless, your comment thread most likely has now taken on a life of its own, one that’s not quite in your control anymore; and that’s a bit tough to take because, you say to yourself, you are the Writer of this Weblog. The Leader of this Little World. You are King or Queen of your Domain. Who are these people who just come on in and lay their thing in your space, without a by your leave? Shit on a shingle, but what did we do to bring this down on ourselves? Personally, in my comments, I’ve been told to get a life, to stop doing drugs, to start doing drugs, that I’m sad, bad, and mad, and words that have come

Personally, in my comments, I’ve been told to get a life, to stop doing drugs, to start doing drugs, that I’m sad, bad, and mad, and words that have come perilously close to all I really need is a good medicinal f**k. And I’ve been known to come back swinging. A time or two. During your first few flame wars, at your weblog or within others, you might be invigorated, even refreshed. After a time though, after your fifth, tenth, or Nth flamefest, you wonder whether you should just turn comments off, and stop commenting elsewhere. You see promising thread after promising thread breakdown into name calling and accusations of the worst kind. You see people call each other names you haven’t heard since puberty, and there’s more than a whiff of the schoolyard dust about the exchanges. You just get tired of it. Depressed. Discouraged. Tired. You think about that lone weblogger who doesn’t have comments, or trackbacks, and who ignores others as they are ignored themselves, and you find within yourself a wistful thought that you wish you had taken the path less stomped. But then, just when you’re about to turn off comments and pull into your hermitage, someone comes along and writes something absolutely breathless, and you think to yourself, how could you cut something like this from your life? Dilemma. You start thinking about how you can control the ‘bad’ but encourage the good. Things to Do to Control Comments in a Nutshell. You might ban the IP addresses of repeat offenders, or disallow anonymous commenters. Perhaps you’ll force registration, with the hope of forcing people to identify themselves, and thus be more responsible with their words. However, none of these truly eliminate

Dilemma. You start thinking about how you can control the ‘bad’ but encourage the good. Things to Do to Control Comments in a Nutshell. You might ban the IP addresses of repeat offenders, or disallow anonymous commenters. Perhaps you’ll force registration, with the hope of forcing people to identify themselves, and thus be more responsible with their words. However, none of these truly eliminate flamefests because most are started by people who would gladly register, who give their names freely, and you can’t ban because they log on with different IPs all the time. At that point you might start getting a little more determined. For instance, you’ll delete comments from spammers, or from anonymous cowards who slam and run. You might warn specific people that if they continue to post Nasty Things, you’ll start deleting their comments. In other words, you start policing your comments — your weblog is no longer a journal but a country, with its own set of rules and regulations; it’s up to visitors to learn these or suffer the consequences. Still, even the thought of comment deletion won’t stop all folks, and sometimes there’s more than one person slamming away. So what are you going to do now? Delete all the comments? In this situation, you may decide to take a step in a direction you probably told yourself you would never do when you started a weblog: you begin to edit comments. You annotate, you delete, you edit. Unfortunately, editing comments is a path of no return, and weblogging and the easy communication you shared with others is no longer the same. Issues of blogging territory as compared to ownership of words enters the picture and, for good or ill, the spontaneity is gone. There was a trust between weblog reader and weblog writer and it’s been broken, but who’s to say who broke it first? At a minimum, the next time a journalist sticks a mike in your face, you’ll find yourself stumbling over the description of the open nature of weblogging. We all will. No matter how you wrap it up or what you call it, you’ve just become a

So what are you going to do now? Delete all the comments? In this situation, you may decide to take a step in a direction you probably told yourself you would never do when you started a weblog: you begin to edit comments. You annotate, you delete, you edit. Unfortunately, editing comments is a path of no return, and weblogging and the easy communication you shared with others is no longer the same. Issues of blogging territory as compared to ownership of words enters the picture and, for good or ill, the spontaneity is gone. There was a trust between weblog reader and weblog writer and it’s been broken, but who’s to say who broke it first? At a minimum, the next time a journalist sticks a mike in your face, you’ll find yourself stumbling over the description of the open nature of weblogging. We all will. No matter how you wrap it up or what you call it, you’ve just become a censor. (To be cont…)

Guest Blog #1

Originally posted at Many-to-Many, now archived at Wayback Machine

Software developers have traditionally used one phrase when testing text output in a new programming environment — “Hello, World!” We need to devise a new form of “Hello World” when testing unfamiliar weblogging software because every weblog post we write is a form of “Hello World!” Our words are recorded and literally thrown out, bounced against the aether, hanging brightly on the page like lures to little fishies. Except the little fishies are people like me, and you. Come here fishy, fishy, fishy.

I wrote once, long ago, that sometimes you have to stop in the middle of writing a weblog post and realize exactly what you’re doing: You’re writing into this void, hoping that someone wanders by and is interested enough to stop and read what you’re saying. It’s equivalent to being in a big room full of walls, and you’re shouting at the walls and faintly you hear other people shout at their walls and every once in a while, someone hears you crying out “Hello? Hello?” and answers back. Contact!

“Hello? World? Is that you?” “Yes! Yes! I hear you! “By the way, your taste in poetry really sucks. Did you know?”

What a unique out of body experience. You can take the voice out of the body, but you can’t teach it manners.

I guess this writing, this post (a word I dislike) is my equivalent of a weblogging “Hello, World!” — a rambling, disjointed shout out on nothing in particular into the threaded void. A tap at your monitor to let you know I’m in the neighborhood and tomorrow, I’ll be by with something useful. Or not.

A Common Interface

When people say something I want to respond to, I respond to it. And other people are, hopefully, responding to me if I say something interesting. When I respond to what others write, it is a compliment. It means that what was said definitely got my interest, regardless of whether I agree with what was said or not. When people respond to me, I take it as a compliment, even when they call me nasty things. (Go ahead! Call me a bitch! I live for this!)

Having carefully said all this, I find I do want to respond to something Dave said on Scripting News. I have to respond — to hold it in will cause me an injury.

I was a developer before the Web was even a twinkle in Berners-Lee’s eyes. I love to program, and have worked — worked mind you — with 18 different programming languages, including C, C++, Java, Perl, Snobol (any of you recognize this one?), Smalltalk, Ada, Pascal, Modula II, FORTRAN, LISP, and so on. And I still love to program, though I spend most of my time designing technology architectures and writing now.

When the web came along, it was love at first byte. I thought that this was great stuff — a universal front end to any application. I was so sold that I focused as much of my professional life on the web as I could, and still pay the bills.

I wrote books and articles on CGI and DHTML and JavaScript and XML and CSS and ASP and a host of other web technologies. Even today I find I am as fascinated by the web as I was waaaaaaaaaay back in the beginning. I’ve never seen that the web is low-tech. If anything, I find myself being stretched more by the web than by traditional programming.

In all this time, I just don’t remember there ever being a battle between C developers (I’m assuming by this Dave meant people who don’t want to use the web as an environment for their applications) and web developers. Not all applications fit the web, and not all companies have chosen the web for their environment — but that’s not developers, that’s just business. Most companies today use applications from both environments, something that will probably continue to be the norm into the future. (We don’t want to use Word over the Internet as a service, no matter what Microsoft says. Same for PhotoShop)

There’s discussions — constantly — between server-side folks and the designers. I know that I’ve had a lively chat or two with the WSP people who are, primarily, web designers. But most developers I know of, such as myself, are thrilled to play with the new technologies the web has provided. There might be a few who don’t want to play web, but most of us are as happy (or more) working with web development as we are with traditional development.

The whole thing is really about services isn’t it? Providing services to people who need them. Most computer-based functionality is nothing more than services wrapped in a front end — doesn’t matter if the front end is a VB application or a web page. All that matters is that the services are prompt, efficient, secure, accurate, and effective. If some people prefer to create the front end in VB and put both service and front end on one machine, that’s cool. If they prefer a web page, that’s cool. Where’s the battle? Apples and oranges.

As for Netscape and Microsoft and the W3C not having a vision for the future of the web, oh they most certainly do and did. Microsoft’s whole vision is .NET and owning the internet. In fact, the company’s vision scares me most of the time. Netscape also had strong designs on the web before they became the underdog. As for the W3C, we wouldn’t have the web without this organization’s efforts. I may preach chaos, but I practice chaos on top of a specific development platform, and I have that platform thanks to the W3C.

The key is that there are a lot of groups and people who have their own visions for what is the future of the web. If we continue to work towards a common interface, then we can each practice our own vision and our own chaos behind that interface. But we must have this interface, and I’d rather it be provided by an organization that doesn’t profit, then one that does. The interface cannot be owned by any one company, any one organization, or any one person.

More on Zeldman rant

There’s been confusion about why I reacted so strongly to Zeldman’s posting, earlier in the day. Copied from an email I just to a friend:

Zeldman sees only wrong within the Internet. The industry is stupid. Content created without web writers is bad. He seems incapable of seeing the wonder that surrounds him, and that touches him in his everyday interaction.

Case in point – metadata has nothing to do with websites being visited or not. Not really. It’s all about how to generate buzz. We know this from weblogging; it’s all a game. None of us uses meta-data to connect via weblogging. In fact, we’re seeing the beginning instances of a truly semantic web through the human element contained in weblogging — and all Zeldman “sees” is that too many sites aren’t accessible.

I agree with him that web writers aren’t valued as highly as they should; I disagree with the assumption that only web writers can create good content.

It’s elitism and I’ve been fighting this on the internet since day 1. Zeldman is an elitist. If he’s talking about hiring firms, I’m not seeing this from his post. Perhaps the viewpoint is based on our different perspectives of Zeldman.