Just Shelley

How we deal with death is a reflection of how we view life

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Slashdot has a story about a car accident involving a small group of people driving to Paris from the SANE 2004 conference. Richard Stallman, the leading open source advocate had been in the car but had been dropped off earlier. Unfortunately, a young man, Hans Bakker was killed, and the other two in the car seriously injured.

Much of the Slashdot thread is condolences to the family, but there is the usual Slashdot irreverence to events, the dark humor, and to anything that the readers consider ‘phony’. There is something merciless about being anonymous, but oddly, there’s something honest, too. Overall the thread touches, greatly, on how we respond to the deaths of others, especially those people who we don’t know, directly.

Dave Rogers had written a comment in one of my posts in response to another person who brought up the 3000 killed on 9/11 that I think fits this event in a way (I hope, Dave, you don’t mind the association) and is worth bringing to the front page. Excerpted from the entire comment is the following:

Everybody dies. I just read an article on CNN about flu vaccinations coming out next month for the upcoming flu season. The article mentions that about 36,000 Americans will die this year, as they do pretty much every year, from the flu. Where’s the multi-billion dollar effort in public health improvements to mitigate the loss of life from the flu? “Ah,” you say, “You poor deluded fool, those are natural deaths. Nothing we can do abut that. Regrettable and all that, but it’s not the same thing as terrorism!”

I grow tired of mentioning that about 45 thousand Americans will die in automobile accidents this year. About 16 thousand Americans will be murdered by other Americans this year. And about that same number of Americans will kill themselves. Somehow that all just seems to be part of the cost of doing business to everyone except the people who loved them.

Everybody gets to die. Not everybody gets to choose how or when, except perhaps for those poor, desperate 16 thousand that take their own lives, but everybody gets to die. Not everybody gets to live. Not when they choose to live their lives in fear.

But when 3 thousand Americans are killed in a terrorist act, which might otherwise be termed 21st century barbarian street theater, well, then we have to go and do something!

There’s no overstating the horror of 9/11. But there is the possibility, which has long since become the reality, of turning it into a fetish, an obsession, and an excuse.

Dying is easy. Living is hard. Everybody gets to die. Not everybody gets to live. There’s a danger in paying so much attention to the deaths of a relative few, however horrifying, that we lose sight of what it means to live. There’s more to life than the fear of death. There’s more to living than trying to protect yourself by killing others; or endorsing and supporting the killing of others. Living in fear makes people do terrible things, and no one is immune to that – not “them,” not “us.” But living is hard. Living life in faith is harder still.

Dying is easy. Living is hard. Everybody gets to die. Not everybody gets to live.

I’ve been trying to write a post on how not choosing to die is not the same as choosing to live. It reflects much of what’s been going on in my life, and the lives of my family; it also touches on two young men, webloggers, who when faced with life and death, chose death. But I haven’t been able to finish the writing because I’m still waiting on the denouement.

Until then, ponder Dave’s very compelling words, and read the comments at Slashdot. If the discussion there has ‘degenerated’ into the usual quarrel as it always does with this site, there is still much food for thought.


Submission dues (or is that dux or ducks?)

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I threw caution to the wind and submitted my carefully crafted session proposal to O’Reilly for ETech. I thought about posting it here, but is that bad luck, or poor taste?

Regardless, I will tease you and tell you that is is very complementary to what Sir Tim really wants but doesn’t know it yet. He looks for a revolution and Great Things and a crescendo of meaning; the rest of us just want to find things.

Silly things.


What is he talking about?

I’m not stupid and I know all the technologies and people referenced, but I read this recent article by Steve Gillmor and I haven’t the foggiest what he’s trying to communicate.

He begins about the recent fooflah with Robert Scoble and the attack of the 50 foot syndication feed, using this to launch a tirade against timed updates of syndication feeds. From there, though, he travels many odd and strangely branded paths, flowing eerily from Firefox terrorizing Office, to aggregators all timed to check for updates at the same time bringing down the internet, and finally to Adam Curry’s golden-locked croon through an iPod.

Throughout his article what Gillmor seems to be doing is trying to establish an argument that syndication feeds based on RSS need to be realtime. If this is so, then what is the relationship of the following to this premise, other than a gratuitous swipe at Microsoft for Scoble daring to be critical of RSS?

The rewards for adopting the RSS model are greater for those who lag in the current online economy. By contrast, Microsoft has little apparent incentive to destabilize Office by extending the free browser to support not just content aggregation but creation. Yet that is exactly what the competition is moving toward: an RSS console that automates the capture, consumption, and routing of strategic information.

Rather than the polling of the pull model of syndication feeds, Gillmor pushes for P2P feeds based on the BitTorrent model of using networked peers to handle the loads. In this model you ‘earn’ download time by donating an equivalent upload time. In other words, you get a stream of data equivalent to donated bandwidth. Well, cool. Of course, this only requires that everyone who subscribes to a syndicated feed now agree to be a part of a P2P network. And understands what that means. And that this works within the current weblog publishing model, where over half of webloggers don’t publish to their own servers, any may not even use their own computers to access feeds through Bloglines. And may be accessing these feeds from their phones. And…

Strategic considerations aside, Gillmore trips onto the iPod platform as an example of on-demand stream I assume, and from there segues into a confusing mish-mash of names and applications that have little relation to each other–other than they’re going to replace TV and Radio and a bunch of middle aged guys with too much money and way too much ego can finally have their own shows in both mediums.

Or as Snappy the Clam states:

See how many gladhanding, namedropping shoutouts you can find in this latest conflict-ridden (now with no disclosure!) advertorial puffball from RSS cheerleader and “tech journalist” Steve Gillmor.

Exploring new ways of delivering feeds is a good thing and should be applauded, but not at the expense of losing one’s independence from the blackhole that the RSS 2.0 community seems to be at times. Most importantly, regardless of the mechanisms involved syndication technology needs to be accessible by those who don’t live and breath RSS.

(And did I happen to mention that RSS is first and foremost just a specification for a syndication feed? Not a cure for the common cold? And that it won’t solve world hunger?)