Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I didn’t know this post had actually published to my syndication feed until I spotted references to it in Bloglines. Since the URL is on permanent record now, I decided to provide something to fill the gap.

The best quote related to Web 2.0 comes from Nick Douglas at Blogebrity:

Web 2.0, says Jeff Jarvis, is made of people. As opposed to Web 1.0, which was made of spacer gifs.

Second best:

Like so many San Francisco buildings, it was old, and brick, and recently converted into brand-spanking-new office space. High ceilings and exposed beams and ductwork everywhere. An old black dog lifted its head off the floor next to the reception desk as I entered the roomy VC suite. He barked and grumbled. The receptionist was embarrassed and surprised the dog didn’t like me. I instantly liked the dog, but the feeling was not mutual. I kept my distance.

So I met with the VC. He just came on board at the firm; this was his second day. I already pitched to this firm 18 months earlier, at their old offices. He didn’t know that. Now he did. In those 18 months I’d raised an angel round and an “A” round from other VCs. While Jenny Ondioline played over and over in my head, we talked for a good while about my company and our plans. At the conclusion of the meeting we agreed to follow up in a month or so.

I wonder if the dog is their “invest” / “don’t invest” signal? If the dog excitedly wags his tail with the arrival of a visitor, give ‘em money. If the dog barks and growls, don’t. In a few months maybe I’ll know.

And his follow up is equally good.

Weblogging Writing


Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Through the various link services, last week I found that my RSS entries were being published to a GreatestJournal site. I’d never heard of GreatestJournal, and when I went to contact the site to ask them to remove the feed, there is no contact information. I did find, though, a trouble ticket area and submitted a ticket asking the site to remove the account. The following is the email I received in return:

Below is an answer to your support question regarding “/RSS feed on GJ”

FAQ REFERENCE: Can I edit or delete a syndicated feed?

Dear MS. Powers,

Your RSS feed is open for use on your website, which means that the user in question does NOT violate your copyright.

You might wish to take your feed down if you don’t want people to use it.

GJ Abuse.

NOTICE: This correspondence is the intellectual property of GreatestJournal & may not be reproduced in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of GreatestJournal. Any reproduction of this correspondence on GreatestJournal itself, with or without this notice of copyright, may be grounds for the immediate suspension of the account or accounts used to do so, as well as the account or accounts to which this correspondence was originally sent.

Normally I won’t publish a private email without permission, but I found the company’s disclaimer on intellectual property and the email response to be particularly disingenuous, considering the nature of my request. Perhaps the company will delete the user account since I am publishing the response. Regardless, this is yet another reason not to provide full content within RSS.

First, a clarification: syndication feeds are NOT meant to be republished other than for personal use. I do not provide a syndication feed so that you can duplicate it in your weblog or site in its entirety. This would be no different than using a screenscraper to scrape my web pages and then duplicating them elsewhere. If a person specifically likes an item, or wants to comment on something I write, and quotes a post, then there is a human element involved in the effort and the use is selective; it is not a blanket replication of material, just because technology has made this blanket replication easy.

I’ve had my syndication feeds republished elsewhere, but never as anything other than a feed. There were no separate comments attached; nor name given that implied I created the site.

danah boyd ran into something of a similar nature recently when she found a weblog that was created from a mashup of several different weblog entries. I gather in weblogs like the one she points out, the results are based on searching on specific terms and then pulling together the returned bits from the search engines. A good example of this is a second post where one can see that “star” was the term used in searches.

There is little I can do about my writing being scraped and merged into a hodge podge of posts at some fake weblog; but there are things I can do about my syndication feed. I’ve blocked the GreatestJournal web bot so it can’t access the syndication feed. I’ve also returned to feed excerpts. An unfortunate consequence of this, though, is that when I link to other sites, these links weren’t showing up in any of the aggregators, such as IceRocket or Bloglines.

To counter this, I’ve gone to a rather unusual feed format: encoded to allow HTML, and with a linked list of references from the article. I use RDF to maintain this list of links, which also means that semantic web bots can easily find and consume this data (recognizing it as external links through the use of the SeeAlso relationship). I’m also most likely going to change the print out of this data to use microformats so that bots that prefer microformatted data can also easily consume the list.

Currently at Burningbird, I’m using my SeeAlso metadata extension to maintain these manually, but I’m working on a plugin that should be compatible with WordPress and Wordform, and which automatically scarfs up hypertext link marked as external links and stores the data into RDF files for each page (along with other metadata for a specific post). A second plugin than outputs the list and also the links manually input using the SeeAlso extension (which has already been converted into a metadata extension for WordPress); a third plugin does the same for syndication feeds. You can see the progress of this at my Plugins workspace. As you can see, it’s still a work in progress. Right now, I’m working on a way to access the current linked list count so that new links from an edited post start at the right number.


A habit of giving

As AKMA reminds us, new disasters have happened recently–Hurricane Stan and the earthquake in Pakistan–that seem to have fallen below the blogging radar. This is in addition to the longstanding disasters such as the continued mass starvation in Africa.

With environmental impacts due to global warming, and an increased population that is both more widely distributed and more dense, the events of this year are more likely to become the norm rather than the exception. We have seen thousands killed from earthquakes, flood, mudslides, and storms; these join those who die more slowly, less dramatically, from continuous warfare and starvation. Next year will, most likely, follow the patterns set this year and so on as a population grown too large for the world moves into areas vulnerable to natural events–not to mention unable to support the numbers.

No one is to ‘blame’ for being in the way of catastrophe, and as we know, any one of us could be the next victim. There are no safe spots where nothing is likely to happen; no places of invulnerability. To help others is to help ourselves; the days of geographical isolation are at an end and we have a responsibility to each other regardless of country, race, or religion.

But if we react to each event in a frenzy, soon we’ll burn out and truly catastrophic events will go by with barely a blink. We’re seeing this with Pakistan: it’s not that people aren’t caring; it’s that we’ve just been through one cycle of frantic giving following another a short 8 months ago. It may get to a point where a country would gain help for having an ‘early’ disaster, as compared to a country having a disaster later in the year. Perhaps these countries could stage their catastrophes close to Christmas.

Rather than react impulsively (and stop reacting just as impulsively), we need to establish a habit of giving that will hopefully provide enough support for organizations that meet the needs of people in stricken communities. We should budget in a monthly donation, even if it’s only a few dollars, and contribute consistently: both to international relief organizations and those that are domestic. We should also look at organizations that help in the long-term: with education, family planning, support of basic human rights, and other means to improve overall quality of life.

We should also learn to apply filters when listening to much of the news. Stories from New Orleans match stories from Pakistan where the number of dead leaps by tens of thousands by the minute, and people searching for food in stores become tales of rampant crime and looting. The news emphasizes the worst in all matters, and it’s easy to either develop a sense of despair or disappointment. What’s important is getting help to people, and providing what support we can–facts will fall out later.

After careful consideration, these are the organizations I’ve decided to support: international and national, immediate need and long-term. I am in the process of putting together sidebar images to link to the donation page for each:


The International Red Cross: This organization helps supplement local Red Cross chapters in case these are overwhelmed. I see the Red Cross as an ‘immediate need’ organization.

Oxfam: Oxfam helps not only in the immediate need, but also long-term.

Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)): Whether the problem is natural or political, this organization has never held back from helping regardless of risk to themselves.

World Wildlife Foundation and Rainforest Consevation, sometimes Green Peace: ecological


The National Red Cross: As per above

Habitat for Humanity: I think this organization’s program to provide decent housing for those who may not be able to afford to buy a house is one of the most efficient and best run; as long as religious beliefs are not a part of the decision process about who gets a home, that is.

United Way and Planned Parenthood: Long-term efforts primarily. The United Way supports neighborhood efforts, including programs for kids and the arts. The Planned Parenthood is an organization too long under attack considering what it provides: pre-natal care, examinations for female-related cancers, counseling, and safe birth control. Abortion is only a small, albeit essential, part of what it provides; yet it is consistently penalized because of its unwillingness to give up serving all of a community’s needs. Considering that overpopulation is the number one disease in the world, I consider Planned Parenthood’s efforts to be essential.

The Sierra Club and the HSUS: Care for the environment and critters.

Amnesty International: I consider this local, because when human rights are at stake, we’re all close neighbors.

I also give individually to local organizations with memberships, such as the Botanical Gardens.

Again, I’m making what I call a ‘giving ribbon bar’ to put into my sidebar for permanent display. I suggest you do the same, as well as establish your own policy of giving.


Hello and Goodbye from Vince

If you blinked you missed Hurricane Vince–a storm that formed in cool water, from a small beginning, exploding into a hurricane almost immediately, and then hit Spain: a country never before hit by cyclonic activity.

We may actually make it through the alphabet this hurricane season. And if patterns continue, next year could be worse.

No, no: there’s no such thing as global warming.

Connecting RDF Technology

Portable data

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

In addition to being on a panel at SxSW next year, I’m also giving a full day tutorial on RDF at XML 2005 on November 18th. Which also happens to be my birthday.

This is not going to be a passive exercise. I won’t be putting up slide after Powerpoint slide. There will be no hand waving and promises of Big Things to come. We’ll hit the ground running at the start of the session with a scenario that takes us from understanding the basic structures of the model (demonstrated via modeling tools); to using various tools to build an underlying data structure and application to meet specific needs; to consuming, querying, and re-using the data in various applications.

Those attending will have no time to read or respond to their weblog entries; no time to start a backchannel, because I have every intention of keeping attendees too busy and hopefully interested to be distracted. I’m assuming that the only reason why a person would stay the extra day after the conference is because they’re truly interested. Well, I aim to misbehave.

Oh, wait–wrong event. I am to provide.

The session is going to focus on incorporating RDF into our everyday activities, as I am heavily incorporating RDF into my weblog use. We’ll be exploring how one doesn’t have to use every last aspect of RDF in order to gain advantage from its use. In particular, I plan on exploring the use of RDF as an almost ideal portable data structure that doesn’t require a more formal database in order to operate (though we’ll look at how the two can coincide).

In the last several months, I’ve been experimenting with RDF stored in MySQL, as compared to RDF stored in files. When one considers that all applications eventually hit the file system, including databases, there is something to be said for using direct file-based storage for small, discrete models that may or may not be cached in memory for quick access. About the only time I really need the power of a centralized data store with RDF is querying across models–and heck, I have Piggy-bank on my Windows machine for that. More, I can easily and relatively quickly load all my little individual data stores into the database if I so decide.

This is the true power of RDF over relational: relational doesn’t work well with isolated, discrete objects, while RDF does. It is a truly portable database. Anyone can drop the data in at their sites without worry about having to create a database, or manage it. As for portability: how easy can you copy files?

Of course, since the data stored in RDF is meant to be exposed, then anyone can come along and grab the data and store it, using Piggy-Bank or other means. Combine it with their data, query the hell out of it, and use it as they will. As I can do the same with their RDF-based data.

But to return to the requisite hand waving and star-eyed pronouncements: my use of RDF isn’t Web 1.0 or Web 2.0; Semantic Web or semantic web. This is just the Web, stu…stupendous persons who are reading this.

Now, someone give me a million dollars so I can continue creating small stuff, usefully joined.