Just Shelley

Hire me!

I’ve been in the computer industry for several years, and have two degrees: a BS in Computer Science, and a BA in industrial psychology.

In the past, I’ve worked with some very well known companies, including Boeing, Sierra Geophysics, Stanford University, Harvard University, Standard Insurance Company, John Hancock, Intel, and Nike. I’ve even paid my geeky dues by being the senior software developer/technology architect for a startup that went bust when the tech bubble broke. The first tech bubble, that is.

In the last few years, I’ve focused primarily on writing technical books, with some contracting to various organizations. Though I used to develop for the Windows operating system, and worked extensively with Java in the past, my interest nowadays is with PHP, JavaScript (including Ajax), XHTML/HTML/CSS, and other web-based technologies.

Hire me to write

I love to write. I love to write about technology, but I’ll write on most topics, including history, politics, certain aspects of the law (cyberbullying and arbitration), travel, Missouri, movies, books and eBook technology, digital TV, photography, animals, and video over the internet. I’ve written for many publications, including NetscapeWorld, MSDN,, O’Reilly, and Web Developers Virtual Library (WDVL). I’ve authored or co-authored 16 books, most for the popular tech book company, O’Reilly. I don’t promise that my grammar is perfect, and my punctuation flawless, but I usually manage not to send my editors screaming from the room.

If you need an author for a writing, either large or small, or a tech reviewer/editor, or even a pinch-hitter for a couple of chapters in a book, contact me and we’ll see what we can work out.

Hire me to tweak

I love to tweak web sites almost as much as I love to write. I used to do large application development, but now prefer fixing and tweaking existing sites and applications. I’m not a graphical artist, but I am proficient in most of the modern graphical tools, in addition to XHTML/HTML and CSS. If I can’t make your web page dream come true, I’ll tell you ahead of time before you spend a dime.

Though I have experience with many different PHP-based applications, I prefer to focus on providing support for the two most popular PHP-based content management systems: WordPress and Drupal. This includes help with installation and upgrades, as well as template design and custom Drupal module and WordPress plugin development


Web stats

As of this first week in January, 2009, the web statistics at my five main sites read as follows (only values greater than or equal to two percent are listed):

Burningbird (main page)

Browser stats
Browser and version (if provided) Percentage
MSIE 5.5 4.3%
MSIE 6.0 6.8%
MSIE 7.0 14.6%
Firefox 3.0.5 16%
NetWireNews 8.3%
Safari 6.4%
NewsGator 5.3%
Mozilla 2.7%
Operating System
Operating System and version Percentage
Windows XP 28.7%
Windows Vista 9.8%
Windows 2000 4.9%
GNU Linux 2.2%
Mac OS X 22.2%

Burningbird RealTech (this site)

Browser stats
Browser and version (if provided) Percentage
MSIE 5.5 3.8%
MSIE 6.0 13.8%
MSIE 7.0 8.2%
MSIE 8.0 2.2%
Firefox 2.0 2.0%
Firefox 3.0.5 25.3%
Firefox 3.1 6.4%
Safari 9.5%
Opera 5.9%
Mozilla 3.8%
Operating System
Operating system and version Percentage
Windows XP 39.8%
Windows Vista 9.2%
Windows 2000 5.5%
Linux Ubuntu 3.8%
GNU Linux 2.2%
Mac OS X 25.6%


Browser stats
Browser and version (if provided) Percentage
MSIE 6.0 8.8%
MSIE 7.0 29%
MSIE 8.0 2.1%
Firefox 2.0 2.0%
Firefox 3.0.5 14.3%
Firefox 3.1 8.7%
Safari 11.2%
Operating System
Operating system and version Percentage
Windows XP 42.7%
Windows Vista 6.7%
Windows 2003 3.9%
Mac OS X 24.3%

Secret of Signals

Browser stats
Browser and version (if provided) Percentage
MSIE 6.0 8.3%
MSIE 7.0 12.6%
MSIE 8.0 2.2%
Firefox 3.0.5 19.9%
Firefox 3.1 20.5%
Safari 10.8%
Opera 5.5%
*Mozilla 2.0%
Operating System
Operating system and version Percentage
Windows XP 39.9%
Windows Vista 10.2%
Windows 2000 5.5%
Mac OS X 32.8%

Just Shelley

Browser stats
Browser and version (if provided) Percentage
MSIE 6.0 12.1%
MSIE 7.0 29.3%
Firefox 2.0 2.0%
Firefox 3.0.5 24.5%
NetWireNews 16.8%
Safari 6.4%
Operating System
Operating system and version Percentage
Windows XP 38.3%
Windows Vista 13%
Windows 2003 4.4%
Mac OS X 27.6%


I’m not surprised to see the Windows 2000 users, and am assuming the MSIE 6 users among my stats are primarily based in the Windows 2000 operating system. This state may continue into the new year because of Microsoft’s decision to provide MSIE7 to Windows XP users and up, without providing an official upgrade path for those people still using Windows 2000. Not every Windows 2000 machine can easily upgrade to Windows XP. However, if people can’t upgrade their OS, they can upgrade their browser to Firefox 3.x or Opera 9.x, and possibly other, supported, browsers.

As for MSIE 5.5, good golly folks, it’s time to move on. And no, these are not Mac Classic users, as the Mac Classic OS percentage is typically less than 1%, if it shows at all in my site stats. No, I would imagine that most of these people bought a Windows 95 or 98 machine that came installed with 5.5, and the thing is now too infested with viruses for them to use, much less upgrade the software.

Speaking of upgrading, Firefox 2.x users, as of December, Mozilla is no longer supporting your browser. Firefox 3.1 is just around the corner, and is very sexy. Time for you to move, too.

There are few other browser percentage surprises. My primarily tech sites, RealTech and Secret of Signals, feature a larger percentage of Firefox users than my two non-tech sites, MissouriGreen and Just Shelley. What was pleasantly surprising, though, is that Firefox is becoming the dominant browser at the sites. Just Shelley is about the only one still heavily dominated by MSIE.

Safari’s use is increasing, which isn’t surprising because it really is the best Mac OS X general browser, as well as now being available in Windows. Safari/Webkit’s graphics rendering engine is the best, a topic on which I’ll have more to talk about, directly, in a writing I’m doing on SVG.

I would have expected, though, some increase in Opera use. I started last year with Opera at about 5%, and it’s still about 5%. Actually, the lack of change is a little spooky—who ever heard of a straight line in a chart related to the web?

But where’s Chrome? That’s what I thought when looking at the stats, and finally spotted it at under 1% for this site, only. What did the pundits say last year? Chrome was going to be a threat to Firefox? Well, I don’t think we need to dump our Firefox t-shirts just yet.

Based on the trends from last year to now, when I compare this year’s stats against next year’s stats, I predict they will show the following:

  • The number of users of the new Windows 7 operating system will be inversely proportional to the number of Windows Vista users
  • More Chrome users, but Firefox and Safari should still see incremental growth.
  • Fewer MSIE users, with most switching to Chrome or Firefox.
  • After MSIE8 releases, we’ll quickly be able to see who are the MSIE personal users, versus MSIE corporate users, because of the MSIE8 upgrade blocker.
  • We’ll see a significant reduction in MSIE corporate users, as many will get laid off.
  • Mac OS X use will continue incremental growth, and everyone will still be questioning Steve Jobs’ health
  • Opera will continue with 5% of the browser market. Spooky.

Incorporating RDFa, SIOC, FOAF

Expect breakage…incorporating bunches of stuff…


Reviewing Kindle samples

I purchased my Kindle because I liked the idea of my library of books being at my fingertip. I also liked the fact that ebooks are, typically, cheaper than paper books. What I didn’t expect was how much the Kindle opened up new avenues in reading for me, and it did so through the concept of Kindle samples.

As you’re browsing through books, either with the Kindle, or online at Amazon, if you find one that’s interesting but not sure whether you want to buy it or not, you can download a sample to your device for review. The sample is automatically sent to the Kindle, at no cost. At the end of the sample, you’re asked whether you want to buy the book, or read more about it at Amazon. If you decide you don’t want to buy the book, you can then use the Kindle’s Content Manager to delete the sample.

How big the Kindle samples are depends on the size of books. Some of the samples were quite large, others the briefest of introductions. The structure of the samples differed, too, probably based on the ebook structure as determined by the publisher. Many books started directly in the first chapter, without having to traverse any preliminary dedication or cover. Other books, though, led off with every last bit of paper that proceeded the book in hard format, including copyright pages, forwards, dedications, publisher contact information, and so on.

I have purchased, and enjoyed, several books via Kindle samples—books I probably wouldn’t have bought if it weren’t for the samples. I’ve also avoided many more books because the writing in the samples proved disappointing, or not what I expected.

What was it about each sample that led to the Buy, No Buy decision? In answering, I decided to review the Kindle samples I download, regardless of whether I bought the book based on the sample or not. If I buy the book, the review will then transition into a full book review. If not, then the review will be of the sample, only, including a discussion of why I did not buy the book.

I begin my new sample reviews with an author whose name might be familiar to some of you: Seth Godin’s Tribes.

Just Shelley

Seth Godin’s Tribes

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I hesitated before downloading the Kindle sample for Seth Godin’s Tribes, because Godin’s market-speak, manifesto-laden punditry doesn’t have a lot of appeal to me. More than that, I wondered what Godin could say that wouldn’t end up being a re-hash of the now dusty all is good in the commons genre that marked weblogging’s earlier years—a philosophy challenged by the harsh reality of today’s economy, when most of the commons is facing foreclosure.

Still, the point to trying a sample before buying the book isn’t so that you can try a book by a favorite author. No, samples give us a chance to try out an unfamiliar author, or an author we may not have liked in the past—all in the hope of finding unexpected gold among the dross.

The samples experience for Tribes does not begin well. The cover material for the book and the publisher, including copyright information, and a two item TOC, takes almost half the sample. What this tells us is that the book is going to be very small for the sample to encompass so little. In addition, so much extraneous material puts that much more pressure on the author’s writing, which now has to to sell the book in just a few pages.

Having waded through the preliminary, I reach the first sentence in the book:


Joel Spolsky is a well known author in the technology world, but if you had asked me to list all of the people in technology who I thought were changing the world, Spolsky would not be one of them. However, to Godin, Spolsky has changed the world because he has become a leader to people who hire and manage programmers— a tribe of people, to tie into Godin’s book title.

What do tribes need, Godin asks? Leadership. He writes, You can’t have a tribe without a leader—and you can’t be a leader without a tribe. This seemingly circular thought then leads into the next chapter section, featuring none other than the Grateful Dead.

What, you might ask, do Joel Spolsky and the Grateful Dead have in common? According to Godin, they both attracted groups of like people, or the tribes that are the focus of the book. Tribes make our lives better. And leading a tribe is the best life of all. I imagine that Jerry would agree, but I’m not sure that the world of Dead heads can easily transition into other walks of life. Perhaps the key to the combined power of Spolsky and the Grateful Dead will be made apparent in the next section.

No such luck. The next extremely short section, following the proceeding two short sections, begins to detail yet another example of tribe leadership, but at that point, the sample ended. I was then left with one of life’s greatest mysteries: Do I want to know more about why Joel Spolsky is like the Grateful Dead? More importantly, will my life be richer with this knowledge? My buy, not buy decision, after the fold.

Since half the book sample for Tribes is taken up by extraneous material, Godin only had about two pages to convince me I wanted to buy this book. I was unconvinced.

Short sections, each referencing a group or person with vague allusions to “tribes” and how “tribes are good” is not going to convince me to put down $9.99 for the full copy. There was no lead in to set the stage for the copy that followed, no compelling argument that would keep me reading through what appeared to be a seemingly endless stream of short, shallow anecdotes.

I was also disappointed at the blandness of the platitudes that seemed to ring out each section. I was expecting something snappy, perhaps even edgy. What I got was a modern day variation of the Farmer’s Almanac, except instead of wooly caterpillars, we have leading tribes is the best life of all.

I must admit being surprised seeing that Tribes is currently #87 in the Kindle best selling list at Amazon, with high (*****) ratings. Either the sample did the book a serious disservice. Or all those stories years ago, about fluoride in the drinking water making our brains soft, were true.

Buy or not? Not

update Andrew Warner sent me a link to a video featuring Seth Godin talking about his book, Tribes. This might give you more insight into the book, help with your own buy or not decision.