Oct 30

Jack Bauer Justice

Personal No Comments »

When watching a Bill Mahr show, the right wing floozie talked about the torture craziness that got passed as “Jack Bauer Justice”.

I started off as a 24 fan. As a T.V. show it is fun, and how they made the clock part of the show was ingenious. However, we have stopped watching it in recent seasons as you can’t help but wonder what messages it sends (well it is pretty obvious). Running into a room and putting electrodes on someone shouting “TELL ME WHERE THE BOMB IS” may make for good telly, but that doesn’t actually work. If you did that to me I would tell you where some bomb is to get the electrodes off. Studies have proven this doesn’t work too (this is all besides the point on ethics).

Having this guy use 24 to prove a point scared me. “You all love Jack Bauer. He always gets the guy. We just want to enable Jack to do his job”. Ouch.

Now it is time to turn off the TV and play cards to get the real Jack Bauer.

Oct 27

Experience with scripting languages including Python, Java and PHP

Tech No Comments »

A very large company sent over a job position that included:

Experience with scripting languages including Python, Java and PHP

I am glad that Java is a scripting language now. Maybe it can become a bit more terse ;)

Oct 27

Erlang The Movie

Tech 2 Comments »

This Erlang movie that feels like an educational 1970s video is quality.

I can’t wait to see versions for Ruby, OCaml, ML, ….

You know they are coming!

Oh, and Rails is so 2005. Now we have the Rails killer ErlyWeb.

Oct 27

mmmzr: cheap money

Tech 9 Comments »

When the million dollar homepage came out I couldn’t believe that it actually worked. A dollar per pixel. It reached a tipping point so people bought them.

It seems that the next version is a touch smarter even.

mmmzr is a pyramid scheme where you advertise on the page, and the next person to do so pays you back. If that happens again you can make even more.

These always make me feel a bit sick in the stomach as they aren’t producing anything, and also because “why didn’t I think of that” ;)


Oct 26

Competing with your RSS feed

Tech 23 Comments »

I remember hunting for the “Print Friendly” links on pages because they didn’t have the crud around the page that gets into the way.

Since RSS became en vogue, there was no need for this approach, since you could suck in the content to your feed reader.

Chris Wilson (IE program manager) talked about this in his keynote at The Ajax Experience, and how he reads a lot of content there just because of this reason.

I now think about a web site UI as competing with the feed reader experience.

If a lot of your users would rather use a simple list of article view of your site, then you haven’t done a good job giving them what they want on your actual site.

The process of competing with your RSS feed normally ends up with the following:

  • You do not put too much on a page to overwhelm it
  • You think about exactly what the user wants
  • You provide greater navigation to help them find what they want

If you are winning the batter against your feed, you don’t have to stop there. You can then go into your feeds and see if any of the lessons could be learned and a few subtle tweaks to the feeds could help out. You should be reluctant to put too much into a feed (you could make the feed look exactly the same as the web page if you wanted of course. don’t) but a few things here and there to help the user is not a bad thing.

RSS Feed. En garde.

Oct 25

The freedom of limiting features

Tech 2 Comments »

I was in Douglas Crockford’s JavaScript talk at The Ajax Experience and he said something that resonated a lot.

As a youthful journeyman programmer he used to learn every feature of a language/platform and tried to use everyone on a daily basis.

Now he has a subset of features that he relies on, and he sticks to those.

I have found myself doing the same thing. It makes learning new languages and platforms a lot easier too, as I do not feel the pressure to learn every nuance on day one.

Did I really need to learn about “class <<self;” on day one of Rubyland to be productive in Ruby? No.

I think it is important to learn how to work in a given language, and it isn’t that you should get stuck in your ways and try to write JavaScript as though it is Java (the opposite to what Douglas wants).

Learn the ways, do not feel the pressure to learn every library and feature, and get really good at your subset.

Oct 20

Ruby in the VM: RubyCLR / JRuby

Tech No Comments »

We recently had the great news of seeing two of the JRuby team being paid to work on it via Sun Microsystems.

Today, John Lam posted that he got snapped up by Microsoft to work on RubyCLR.

He jokes about how:


Oct 19

Beta: The Web 2.0 Neverending Clearance Sale

Tech No Comments »

There was a shop in Ilford, Essex that always had a sign up announcing its closing clearance sale:


One day I realised that the same signs had been up for 5 years :)

The tag “beta” is starting to feel similar to this. Beta has been given many values:

  • Not quite ready yet but give it a go
  • Functionally complete
  • We want to get this out there quickly before it is finished
  • If it crashes and burns you may think it is due to not being a final product and will not blame us as much
  • It’s cool. If you are using something beta you are bleeding edge and a hipster. A beta product for an alpha geek

Maybe we should have a time limit on clearance sales and beta tags on web products.

If your product is in beta for a few years, it isn’t beta anymore. Surely you have worked on it during that time?

Maybe if you have thousands of users that rely on you, you should get rid of the beta too :)


Oct 19

Google can search. Next: Reverse Search

Tech 5 Comments »

Google and co. amaze us with their accurate searches. Time and again you search for something so obscure that you are sure the g-man can’t find it.

But although we are getting good at searching for infomation this doesn’t mean that we are good at having the right information available when we need it.

The next frontier will be tools that help this happen. Wouldn’t it be nice if before congress is about to go to war, Scott Ridders analysis comes in and slaps the group in the head.

This idea could have profound consequences, but would also help in the day to day.

As you code a problem, the IDE can tie into the reverse searcher, and it can start to help you out, ideally based on what others have done (wisdom of crowds). I have talked about the clippy for IDEs before, which is really a subset of this idea.

We need callbacks that could run as fast as a Google search to alert us before we do anything silly or wrong (are you SURE you want to send that email to your girlfriend? are you SURE you want to send that email to someone who isn’t your girlfriend?).

I am sure others are thinking and implementing ideas like this. If I had the system it would be able to tell me this! “Do not bother posting submit. It has already been talking about in X, Y, Z”.

Oct 18

Hitchhikers Guide to Humanity: Part One

Tech 47 Comments »

My father in-law is a smart man. Whilst chatting away about something or other, he quickly realised that we pretty much have the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, or at least to planet earth + a bit more.

What has enabled this?

  • The Internet
  • Google (and other search engines)
  • Wikipedia (and other quality content repositories)
  • A mobile device that can connect to these resources
  • A lot of hard work

As I started a path down Wikipedia lane, learning about confederations vs. federations (many think Iraq should go the confederation route (where the parts have sovereignty, not the federal entity)), we realized how amazing it was.

How fantastic that an immense piece of knowledge is now at your fingertips. You could check out editorial fluff like this entry, or read the many versions of the bible.

As a parent this is a huge thing. I will never have to say “hmm, good question son. I am not sure if that is centrafugal or centrapetal forces at action”. Now I can go to backup and instead reply: “I wish I knew. Let’s take a peak and see what we can find out online”.

As I write this, I also have Google Earth spinning around. As a kid I would have given anything for this research tool, or should I say TOY. What a way to learn about the world, and explore it.

By the time my kids are older this will all be quaint I am sure. They will laugh at me for having to look at a “screen” in the old days. However, it all started here, and I am glad to have the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in my own pocket, right next to a towel.