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April 30, 2004

Another syndication shitfest.

Yet another RSS/Atom conflict has broken out, and I think we can draw some conclusions from it.

This is an almost completely intractable situation. A satisfactory solution to this problem is not going to be negotiated between the 2 sides. It's gone way too far for that now, and in the end, it's going to play out in the market.

On the one hand, simply patting the users on the head and saying "Don't you worry your pretty little creative head about it" and expecting them to respond, "ooh, OK" is unrealistic. People are perfectly right to be concerned about the viability of the tools they use. Personally I tend to side with those who say that this is mostly a matter for tool developers. Syndication formats and APIs are infrastructure-level details. Those who argue that users need access to be able to troubleshoot glitches are already so far ahead technically of the majority of people who will use syndication feeds that it's like saying that you need to be able to edit packets by hand so you can troubleshoot your Ethernet connection.

On the other, setting this up as the Imminent Death of All We've Worked So Hard For In Syndication is also a mistake and I think neglects some of the personality conflicts going on behind the whole situation. Some users have been the I think unwitting dupes of this approach, having been convinced by certain interested parties that RSS == scrappy user-lovin' puppies and Atom == baby-eating corporate Nazis. Aside from the fact that Adam Curry can hardly be called a disinterested party to this problem, his ability to publish (or "broadcast" as he puts it) his content through RSS seems safe for the foreseeable future, and should Atom prevail, he's still not going to be typing out his feeds by hand - it's a matter for his tool vendor to address, though I think in this case it's a safe bet that said vendor is not going to be supporting it anytime soon. Saying things like "Asking me to provide 2 formats is a waste of my time" puts me in mind of the insfrastructure argument again - he's not making any effort to publish the format now, the tool vendor is. Aside from the fact that a friend of his who happens to have a horse in this race will be disappointed if Atom wins, why should he possibly have anything invested in why one format or the other wins? I know he thinks that Google's backing of Atom is the end of homey little guy blogging, but I'm not sure how much of this is based in fact and how much it isn't just an odd "what HE said!" version of Stockholm syndrome.

I think the current difficulties for the RSS crowd comes from a certain originating party's past refusal to accept suggestions from other developers wrt the format. Much is made of how receptive he was to end-user requests, but in the case of a file format, the developers are your users as well, and by both giving them little or no say in RSS features, and almost spitefully limiting the format's extensibility, the scene was set to make the Atom fork inevitable. The bluff was called. At this point in time, making purported "offers" which basically just amount to asking the Atom people to drop their work and rename RSS "RSS/Atom" would be insulting if it weren't so laughable. And given past history, Blogger's choice of Atom as their feed standard was pretty much inevitable, one might even say karmic, as well. Atom is not going to disappear, and casting Google as evil (for this anyway, but that's another story) isn't going to work either. I also suspect that had Google announced they were uninterested in supporting Atom and solely endorsed RSS, the reaction would be quite different.

So, enjoy the flamefests, because they're certainly not going to be over anytime soon.

Unsettled feelings.

I just looked at the date since that last entry, and it's been a while. There's 3 things going on here:

  • We moved last week. We're in a house now, for the first time in my adult life. It's exciting and disorienting at the same time. We've got the cable modem working, and the laptops and wi-fi. I'm planning on getting the file server up this weekend. We're starting to slog through boxes.

  • Baseball season's started, so work has been crazier than usual.

  • I'm definitely burning out on the self-referential, self-congratulatory world of blogging. With some exceptions, most of the blogs I read (and pretty much all of the BigBlog/A-List ones) have become extremely dull and uninteresting. I get the impression that '04 is the year when blogging hits a tipping point and goes from "potentially interesting alternative media" to "yet another exploitable piece of corporate whore grist." Note for one the subtle shift from "weblogging" to "personal publishing" in certain expansion-happy quarters.

Anyway, I'm mulling over what to do next.


ecto needs some infrastructure work.

I like the blogging client ecto, but their fit and finish leaves something to be desired. I'm writing this on an older version, and when I started it up, it notified me that there was an update. I clicked the download button, and it took me to my browser, where it tried to connect first to kung-foo.tv and then ecto.bloghosts.com, failing both times. I then attempted to download the software myself from the website. Which, as it has many times before, lead to a screenful of control characters, as Firefox attempted to render the gzipped disk image. My guess is that there's a screwed up MIME type somewhere. mt.el may not have as many features, or as slick a GUI, but it's looking real good these days.

April 20, 2004

TV explores our World.

Buzzmachine: Turn-off turn-off week

Reason editor Nick Gillespie skewers and roasts the bozos who push TV Turn-Off Week -- which is like pushing turn-off culture week; turn-off interaction week; turn-off curiosity week.

Ah, it's lovely to see extremism answered with extremism, isn't it? I can maybe, on the outside, see TV equated with culture, but interaction? Where's the interactivity in television? Curiosity? "Hey, I've got a hankering to know more about my world. What I need is a Full House marathon on Nick at Nite!" Somebody might be a tad sensitive on this topic, you think?

Full disclosure: I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly.

April 16, 2004

Make backups.

firstamendmentcenter.org: news

Prison officials destroyed computer files containing inmates' personal writing days after a prisoner won a national writing award, best-selling author Wally Lamb said.

And they weren't even writing about their crimes, though, even if they were, big deal. The department of corrections is blaming this on "miscommunication" and is ordering an investigation.

This writing program, taught by Wally Lamb, who wrote She's Come Undone, resulted in an anthology of women's prison writing called Couldn't Keep it to Myself last year. One of the women has just won a $25K writing prize; under current CT law, she would forfeit this. So let me get this straight - if you're not profiting from your actual crime, what's wrong with discovering you have a renumerative skill in prison? Isn't that point of rehabilitation the first place?

April 14, 2004

You know who my friends are.

Don't Editorialize. Clymerize! - Nagourney's breakthrough. By Mickey Kaus

Here's Mickey Kaus quoting a Times story. The context is that ex-Timesman (and Bush-appointed "major league asshole") Adam Clymer can now serve as a mouthpiece for Nagourney's opinion without appearing "biased:"

"I would be surprised if television coverage of American servicemen getting shot or killed in Iraq, or of people questioning what the Bush campaign did in response to 9/11, is good for the president's re-election," said Adam Clymer, a former political reporter for The New York Times ..

Note, though, that "former political reporter for the New York Times" in there, which I think mitigates Kaus' criticism somewhat, since it serves as at least minimal disclosure.

On the other hand, come to think of it, were the same sentence to appear in almost any A-list blog, it might probably look like this:

"I would be surprised if television coverage of American servicemen getting shot or killed in Iraq, or of people questioning what the Bush campaign did in response to 9/11, is good for the president's re-election," said Adam Clymer.

April 13, 2004

The same old song.

BuzzMachine ... by Jeff Jarvis

The conversation gets more and more voices. It's a chorus.

This would explain all the preaching to the choir.

The plane, boss. The plane.

The Doc Searls Weblog : Tuesday, April 13, 2004

On the minus side, the Red Carpet Club folks have replaced their aging instant-espresso (also mocha, cappuccino, etc.) machines with new ones that dispense a beverage called "cappuccino," but instead is something sweet and undrinkable, in the manner of the hot flavored syrup that comes out of the other spigots on the machine, labeled "hot chocolate," "swiss mocha," "english toffee" and "french vanilla." You'd think, with lines of flyers at Starbucks outside the door, that they'd get a clue.

Jeez, life's a bitch, ain't it. Is anyone else getting tired of the blogging subgenre of bitching about the amenities/lack thereof pertaining to your constant travel to and from conferences et al?

April 10, 2004

Gmail is the new Orkut.

Well, the gmail reports are starting to roll in. As per usual, Google has decided to go with a relative sampling of the usual ubiquitous clique. This is probably just bitter whining from someone who got turned down for AdSense initially on the grounds of "questionable content," and then, when pressed for a more specific answer was told that they couldn't figure out what sort of ads they could place on this site. I guess they don't get many chowder houses advertising.

April 8, 2004

Record company ponytail guys, part 1.

Mark Bernstein: Apr0401

The measured pace of weblog response, and the distance between rival weblogs, makes measured discourse possible. Comments let idiots deface your weblog, and that's intolerable.

Good Christ. "Measured discourse?" What we really need is for O'Reilly to sponsor A-List Emergent Mud Wrestling. Let's get Kottke and Glenn Reynolds in a big, deep mud pit, ring a couple bells and go to town. There's how you can make money on blogs, right there.

April 7, 2004

A conundrum.

Scripting News: 4/7/2004

I was thinking of going to dinner at Sammy's Rumanian in NYC, so I looked it up on Google to find out if they're open when I want to go, and I have the first and only hit. (emphasis mine)

Sometimes I don't know what to make of this.

Search Google for "Sammy's Rumanian" and see what you get.

Does he have the first hit? Yes.

But the only hit? Hardly. Most of the results are links about Sammy's including, about halfway down the page, a link from a info site with the address and phone number of the restaurant clearly visible in the excerpt.

Did he think that nobody would fact-check his ass?

Is it overweening megalomania, an ego so big that it simply chooses to disregard conflicting reality?

Did he just glance at the page, see himself at the top, and stop reading?

You make the call. In any case, I say it's spinach, and the hell with it.

April 5, 2004

Just do it monkey-boy.

21st Century Digital Boy: A treatise on programming

This is very good. Almost any working geek will relate to this essay - well worth reading. Among the really good quotes:

By the time the code is in production, maybe you didn't know about it, or you just didn't have time to fix it. Then it's some other poor dickweed's job to summon the unfuck fairy.

As a friend of mine says, Programming is an art form that fights back. Sometimes stuff happens, and you just don't know why. Sometimes the big picture eludes the programmer because they weren't there when it was painted.

Sometimes programmers, and by that I mean professional ones who do nothing all day but write code, get themselves in a state where done is better than perfect.

And often you can't get a handle on the big picture because you don't have the time to read the whole code base, and you've just gotta get this one part to work again. The life of the maintenance programmer.

Read the whole thing, it's good.

April 3, 2004

His tin ear.

BuzzMachine ... by Jeff Jarvis

The messages are, to my ear, less shrill in citizens' media than in major media, which tries to portray us as a nation at war, red-against-blue, while online, I see people talking to people, still quite opinionated but more open to conversation. I believe that broad social agreements will be easier to reach as the conversation grows wider.

Mmmm, this citizen's kool-aid is delicious. Read your comments section lately? I thought not.

If I were King of the Forest.

Scripting News: 4/3/2004

Journalists do all that they think bloggers do, with an extra added bonus of arrogance. There's no accountability. No equivalent of the ABA or AMA.

It must be pot and kettle day or something. Behold the spectacle of a software developer lecturing journalists about accountability. One of the few professions where you actually charge for the stuff you didn't do right in the last version. What's accountable about that?

Oh, one thing.

From the Times Sunday Westchester section:

A restaurant review of Il Cigno in Scarsdale last Sunday said that Steve DePietro, who was described as "long the star of the kitchen," seemed to be absent, and that "entrees suffered without him." After th article was published, Mr. DePietro's relatives reported to the Times that he died last August. The reviewer telephoned the restaurant before publication to ask if staff changes had occurred, but was not told about the death.

My letter to Kinja.

Subject: Big bug

I have tried on several different platforms and in several different browsers to get your site to accept my 77k OPML subscriptions file. Alas, I continually get an error message telling me that the file is somehow gaining an additional 435K in transit and thus too big. Though I know I am not your target audience, this is severely limiting my ability to use the service.


April 1, 2004

pre-emptive daily links blurb

Kinja launches
Congrats to Meg and Nick on a fantastic project I've long thought was needed in personal publishing