This morning, I was chasing down a bug in some python code, fatal errors like this
UnicodeDecodeError: 'ascii' codec can't decode byte 0xe2 in position 193: ordinal not in range(128)was getting tickled in some debug logging code (IOW, it wasn't even what the codes core purpose was but a bug in the bebuggerin). I put some proper exception handling in the debug logging and voila: bug gone. It's great when things work!
Working on that over breakfast made me kinda late and I needed to drive into town today 'cause tonight I'm gonna see some friends from the old school. I'm gonna be late! I probably won't be able to pick up any carpoolers.
I rolled into the carpool pick-up near the Orinda BART station, waited a few minutes and promptly got two riders. The radio was warning about an injury accident on the upper deck of the Bay Bridge... darn, I'll be late rolling into The City. Well, I get to The Bridge and alles goot. I made into San Francisco in good time and got to what I needed to do. It's great when things work!
We've been working on technologies to support scalable widget publishing and serving over at Technorati. One product of that effort is the recently announced Blog Tag Cloud Widget. With this widget, your readers can browse your blog by pivoting on the tags in your posts.
Wow! I'm sure the executive search announcement (Embracing Change) that Dave Sifry just posted will elicit a range of responses from the blogosphere. While I expect a lot of speculation and innuendo around it, I probably have a unique perspective owing to my three years working with Dave at Technorati (this week was my third anniversary). I'd like to share some of that perspective.
It started for me in the Spring of 2004, I was trying to figure out to do next. At the time, I was frankly very skeptical of Technorati when a friend suggested that I make that my next stop. Most of the time that I visited, the website was unavailable or had PHP errors all over the place, what a trainwreck! Maybe I can fix it.
What I expected to be a short conversation with Dave that fateful day in March 2004 turned into one that lasted for hours. After much discussion about the impact technology developments have on publishing and social discourse, I was struck by Dave's insight, inspiration and passion. In turn, I committed myself to taking what I knew about scaling web sites, learning what ever I needed to scale for the blogosphere's unique requirements and fixing the technical problems that plagued Technorati; I joined Dave to make Technorati the real time engine that would provide micropublishers with the connective tissue of community.
In the years since then, I've worn many hats. Software developer, DBA, sysadmin or whatever-it-takes; I came to Technorati determined by-any-means-necessary to sustain and improve Technorati's state of the art. The company has grown (there were about five us back then). The blogosphere has grown (there were only a few millions blogs back then). And all of us working together at Technorati have grown as people. Today, I still collaborate closely with Dave and Adam. I lead the Core Services group and work with our fabulous front end (led by Dorion) and search engineering (led by Brian) teams as an architect of Technorati's evolution. In helping lead the reshaping of Technorati's infrastructure, we've sought the right path between oft conflicted goals of flexibility, economy and run time optimization. We haven't always gotten it right. Technorati's storied episodes of instability and poor performance were often the source of much sleepless grief and perhaps opportunity costs. There have been business directions that have led our attention up some blind alleys. There have been technical errors. Project execution errors. Hiring errors. And so on. But, if I may add without being too immodest, we've done a lot of things well; I think ultimately the right things have happened. It is an honor and privilege to work with these folks, except for how wonderful my kids are, I couldn't be prouder of them!
So that brings us to where we are today and my ongoing working relationship with Dave. Dave's not going anywhere else. He may do some hat trading. But I expect to enjoy the benefits of working with him... for as long as I can!
Through good times and bad, Dave provides vision and inspiration. Synthesizing new ideas, asking tough questions and supporting the creativity and enthusiasm of all us working on Technorati, Dave is a catalyzing force. Among the principles Dave demonstrates that are important to me is internal transparency. Being open with factual matters about the company, the markets we address and the competitive landscape enables myself and others at Technorati to contribute their smarts and creativity in ways that a closed environment would never benefit from. Because that openness isn't always extended to parties outside the company, Technorati has been accused of being secretive. Well, sure. We don't answer rumors or trumpet funding events. But being judicious about external transparency is part of life; we could spend all day fielding the probes and inqueries from outside parties but to what benefit?
Throughout my years working with Dave, we've made it a point to hire only great people at Technorati. "Good" isn't good enough and "can do the job" can't; we only hire great people, period (and we've passed on a lot of good people who could ostensibly do the job if there was doubt about their greatness). It seems entirely plausible that there may be great people other than Dave who can wear the CEO hat better than he can. There might not be. I support Dave's launch of this search to find out. I'm looking forward to meeting this person; if he or she exists, there are some incredible shoes to fill (and hats and a buncha good stuff in between)! However, I expect to continue collaborating with Dave irrespective of if or when there is another CEO. Regardless of what hat he's wearing and which one I am, I'm looking forward to working with Dave towards Technorati's continued success.
So, wow! I'm posting this as an embrace of Dave, a virtual hug and an assurance of my unflagging support.( Apr 06 2007, 12:16:22 PM PDT ) Permalink
The long drive down to Visalia didn't quite go as planned. Since my daughter is doing a Shakespeare theater camp this summer, I figured listening to a "Romeo and Juliet" dramatization for three and half hours on the road would provide enriching entertainment. But by the time we got to The Five, I sayeth unto myself, as if Yoda did Shakespeare, "Patience for lengthy dialog in British accents, thou hath not." Eject that CD. We ended up yacking and partaking in Dave Matthews, Green Day and Queen instead.
Besides the California state Odyssey of the Mind competition this weekend, Visalia seemed to be hosting a soccer event and a gathering of evangelical christians. I'm sorry, but really. The latter are very silly people, they take themselves and their world view way too seriously. But I guess if you're convinced you have a divine and ultimate truth, that could happen.
Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem solving competition. It's an exercise in questioning boundaries.
Evangelicals seem to think their prophetic fantasy has to unfold, and I... have some problems with that. Having a grand Test Case scripted in advance for all validation to be held against is a set of boundaries that are probably only best applied to technology development. Test-driven damnation is just too wacky for moi. At least some of the evangelicals have a sense of humor, evidenced by the license plate frames and bumper stickers in a Visalia hotel parking lot:
On to the outcomes. My daughter's Odyssey team has, for the second year in a row, achieved victory in the state arena and are headed to the World Finals. I understand that the Michigan State campus will be much more of a class act than last year's in Ames, Iowa (there's really not far to go to make that claim).
OK, perhaps I'm not doing too good tonight. Since I've only written a few words but have already managed to offend my Iowan, British and Christian friends, perhaps I should exit my Highway to Hell and call it a night. Forgive me while I grasp at excuses: too much driving and sleep deprivation precipitates rambling snark.
But seriously folks, I'm still blown away by the kids' victory, they're a young team for division II (four 5th graders, 3 in 6th). I was keeping the faith but also expecting to quietly go home and have that be the end of the OM road. However, their long term scores dominated the competition despite a poor showing in spontaneous. East Lansing, here we come!( Apr 01 2007, 10:06:07 PM PDT ) Permalink
I wasn't in the station long enough to use it but my laptop picked up a signal from Wifi_Rail_BART at the Embarcadero BART station. Hmmm... perhaps this is a new service that BART is rolling out. Now if they'd just install access points uplinked to EVDO connections on the trains, that'd be awesome! I'd heard that there were RFP's out last year from Amtrak to provide WiMax to the Capitol Corridor line, that's cool. But there's a much larger population of BART riders who I'd imagine would be as grateful as I would be to read feeds, mail ...and access source control.( Mar 29 2007, 08:02:22 PM PDT ) Permalink
I've been using social software for a few decades now. It started with dial-up BBS' (300 baud modems worked pretty good when you had tweets of text) and compuserve (user ID's were numbers and commas, IIRC). In the 1990's I used usenet and The WeLL to great delight, chagrin and all sorts of other things. In all of these goings about, the motivations to participate have ranged from voyeuristic curiosity, to chit-chatting and connecting, to utilitarian knowledge sharing, to being of service to others, to showing off in front of others or something else altogether social.
Lately, it seems to me that the blogosphere is buckling under the corrosive forces of greed. You can't trust voices to be authentic. PR firms and marketing departments are hiring bloggers or ghost writing for pretenders. You have buffoons (who may describe themselves as a "Dot Com Moguls") selling links to other blogs with prices based on their Technorati and Alexa ranks. There are all of these schemes like ReviewMe, Algoco and PayPerPost twisting our trust of the things we read. Is that blogger really talking about a great bike or was there some payola slipped in to pimp it? I don't know. My cynicism rises (further).
What's a "pro blogger" anyway? Are folks really discussing or dialing for dollars? SEO is increasingly turning publishing into a perverse sport. If I wanted to watch infomercials, Comcast is already piping a couple of hundred channels of crap through the coax in my living room, I could passively drink the nonsense all day if that's what I wanted.
But that's not what I want. It's a total cluetrain derailment. Instead of using social media to empower meme sharing and synthesis, as a way to expand the collective consciousness, I'm seeing it turned into another exploitation ploy.
Our country is in a brain-dead war, podcasts are published, urban public schools are in shambles, photos are being uploaded, illiteracy is rampant, a funny thing happened at the dog park, baseball season is starting soon, technology innovations are blossoming in our midsts, pandemics threaten us every flu season, tuition is going up (again), omega-3 fatty acids, look at this video of a 4-way tricycle collision, Osama is still who-the-hell-knows-where, Dick Cheney is still satan, Jimi Hendrix is still god, god is still dead, lives are beginning and ending all around us... lives are being lived. The rhythmic thrum of life, that's what I want.
(Disclosure: there are links on this site from AdSense and Amazon. They don't do much for me but then, I don't think they should, that's not why I blog. If you click 'em: thanks, maybe I'll get pizza next week)
Putting a few ads or Amazon links to benefit from the accidental tourist that Google sends you from time to time is one thing. Superficially making it the object of your publishing is just, well, bullshit!
BTW, this is not necessarily the opinion of my employer. In fact, it's probably not. I may be a cynical bastard but this is my authentic voice. You can't buy it.( Mar 28 2007, 09:52:17 PM PDT ) Permalink
If you've seen Charlie Hunter play guitar, you know he's just fantastic. I first saw him play at The Nightbreak on Haight Street about 16 years ago or so (Primus was headlining, Kirk Hammett jammed with Primus too that evening, IIRC). I thought about how it's been too long since I've seen Charlie Hunter play whilst putting down some alaska rolls last night at Yoshi's. I missed Charlie Hunter's shows there last December. But now I don't have to miss them.
Here's a sample:
But that's not a recording you'd take with you.
However, you can buy a recording of the performance directly from the artist, Charlie Hunter Trio: Recorded live at Yoshi's in Oakland, CA (12/15/2006). I confess to knowing little about Fast Atmosphere. But I do know the media establishment needs a severe beating with a clue-stick. Providing services for recording artists that enhances their ability to sell their creations directly to their audience sounds like an appropriate truncheon. Fast Atmosphere has other Charlie Hunter recordings (and more names you might know, like Norah Jones and others you might not), check them out and support direct-sale art.
Next time Charlie Hunter stops at Yoshi's, I'm there.( Mar 19 2007, 09:54:29 PM PDT ) Permalink
Do you ever meet somebody who reminds you of someone else and have to remind yourself, "No, don't mix up the two"? An odd moment fell upon me when I accidentally found myself watching Some Kind of Monster on TV the other night. There was a flashback. And then a flashforward. Ya see, when I was a teenager, our crowd, we hated the music industry and wanted to subvert it by any means necessary. Disco music and the just-following-orders spineless vermin that ran the press establishment and radio stations (the program managers) amused and sickened us. I had a radio show on KUSF and actively tapped underground music scenes, looking for that undiscovered stroke of worldchanging noise. Perhaps my efforts of the last 15 years or so building applications on the web are an extension of the same jaded disdain I have for the media establishments. They're in-bred pay-for-play following-orders brain-washers. Let me tell you how I really feel. Complacency is not an option.
Hetfield rides tricked out choppers. I don't make it to San Rafael much except to visit Bubbe (I hope I make it through the long haul the way she has!). But if I lived in San Rafael I'd probably run into Hetfield all over the place; our kids are similar ages so we'd probably share Thin Lizzy on a boombox while the offspringlings are in the sandbox. When I was living in The City, I'd run into Kirk Hammett all of the time (like, the vegetable isle at Whole Foods).
On the other hand, I work in the South-of-Market part of The City and Veen is oft spotted tooling around in a mini-cooper. I don't think he's into Merciful Fate or Thin Lizzy. But then, I've never asked him.
"Hey, what's James doing driving 'round here in that? Oh, yea... that's Jeff Veen."
Hetfield doodles on his guitars.
So they're about the same height and share some conversational mannerisms. Maybe their hairlines are about the same. The spectacles and goatee look might do it, too. But (rational voice) these guys are nothing alike and the context I know them from are completely different. And yet the introverted sensing part of me always draws the association when I run into one of them face to face or flipping TV channels and stumbling upon VH1; there is the odd familiarity of Hetfield when I run into Veen. I should invite Veen to share a bottle of stolichnaya and crank up Black Sabbath to see how he takes to it, maybe it'd just come naturally.
Clocks have received (or are overdue for) day-light savings time adjustments, flags with Matt Cain and Barry Bonds are on the lamp posts of 3rd Street, kids are at play; recreational softball/baseball on the weekend and Odyssey of the Mind state championships are coming up. The hills are green and blossoms and blooms abound. Spring has sprung.
Have a nice day!( Mar 14 2007, 01:30:52 PM PDT ) Permalink
In case you haven't noticed, there's been an unmistakable groundswell around OpenID in recent months. The proliferation of new web 2.0 services and the resulting "password fatigue" (except for those who are using OpenID) are contributing mass to the movement but the adoption of OpenID by established services (Technorati, Digg) and big players (AOL, Microsoft) are catalyzing acceleration. I'll cite these headlines as evidence:
Tim Bray raised a lot of great questions about OpenID. I'll summarize a response by simply saying that one of the virtues of using OpenID for URL-based user-centric authentication is the granularity of control available, it's all "opt-in":
Given current implementations, I'm probably not ready to use OpenID for online banking or verification that I'm old enough to buy wine (but I'll be grateful if you ask, I miss getting carded). However, I see no reason why the standards and practices can't be advanced to support those activities. The potential for phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks are a concern but there a lot of applications today where there are many benefits to the opting-in parties but few for the attacker.
Right now, if Tim's comment authentication system was OpenID-enabled, I'd be able to use my Technorati profile URL (http://technorati.com/profile/spidaman) to sign-in to post a comment on his blog. For "low-gravity" authentication requirements (blog comments), OpenID works great, today. For more rigorous authentication , user-attribute verification and trust requirements (like credit score lookups) there's a lot of great discussion underway. What I find heartening is that there seems to be broad acceptance of the Laws of Identity and increasing understanding that there's a big difference between the identity requirements for uploading photos and trading stocks in your IRA account.
URL-based authentication will likely go through the same growing pains raised by using email addresses to identify people. Back in the day when there were email addresses that people paid for and those were distinguishable from free ones, mailing list policies against subscribers with, say, hotmail addresses were often implemented. We may be approaching an era where some URLs are more equal than others, I dunno. But in the meantime, there's a lot of useful services you can use with OpenID today. If you haven't tried OpenID, do so right now by logging in to your Technorati account and then use your profile URL to log into Zooomr; this stuff is easier to use than it is to explain. I wouldn't be surprised if Yahoo! and/or Google get on the bus in the next few months. As the snowball gains mass, you should know how and when to utilize user-centric authentication systems such as OpenID.( Feb 25 2007, 08:17:17 AM PST ) Permalink
In my wild, youthful daze of ... indulgence, I could count on Sam Kress to goad me on to indulge more. We shared a common bond, loathing all that spankles and poofs, reveling in the too-loud-and-too-fast-so-suck-it-up sounds of the day. I learned this day via my bud @ Umlaut of Sam's passing. Crap! Sam was one of those people who leaves on indelable mark on your memory with his fervent exhortations and swaggering enthusiasm. Even just recently (at the Godsmack show), I thought of Sam when I put down a shot of Jack Daniels (yea, I know, I should stick to the cabernet, they say resveratrol is much healthier, good 'nuff excuse for me). I last saw Sam at a reunion party of sorts (a gathering of old-schoolers) about a year ago, I hadn't seen him in maybe 15 years or so but that mischievious gleam in his eye was still there.
Heathen were formed in 1984 by guitarist Lee Altus and drummer Carl Sacco. Even without a bassist, this lineup played a single gig, on April 21st, 1985. Then, Jim Sanguinetti left to form Mordred and was replaced by Doug Piercey on guitars. Sam Kress, who was a better songwriter than vocalist, was kicked out in late 1985 and David Godfrey of Blind Illusion was asked to join.Yea, Dave's a better singer but Sam could growl like a mofo.
So long, Sam. I don't drink much whiskey any more but next time I have the occasion, I'll be raising it for you. I'll probably drink straight out of the bottle and pass it around, just for old times sake.( Dec 02 2006, 04:20:45 PM PST ) Permalink
The new Technorati link count widget provides a way for bloggers to display how many links a blog post gets. Doing it in Roller is easy, add the velocity macro below to WEB-INF/classes/weblog.vm and then call that macro from the default blog page template (Weblog).
Last night, Casey Duncan gave a nice presentation on how Pandora partitions and populates their PostgreSQL data warehouse. The San Francisco PostgreSQL Users Group meeting discussion, Horizontal Scalability with Postgresql: A Case Study, covered how Pandora segments their data set, uses pgpool connection aggregation and Slony for replication and log shipping. I also had great conversation with Greenplum CTO Luke Lonergan, they're definitely pushing the envelope of what's possible with open source database technologies. Kudos to Pandora and Greenplum, great stuff.( Nov 15 2006, 10:50:56 AM PST ) Permalink
An interesting introduction came over the transom recently. I've read Kim Cameron's blog before but the honest truth is: I've really been flumoxed by the wide range in the cast of characters and agendas in the identity fray. Some seem overly concerned with identity as a line of business, others concerned with seeing themselves at the center of the discussion. Meeting Kim was a treat, even though he had the cards stacked against him coming from Microsoft, we had a great conversation. When I think of Microsoft I think of the many aspersions; "the Borg", "the evil empire", "The Man", "the big cathedral", "stifling monopolists", "makers of the Blue Screen Of Death", "vendor lock-in creeps", "virus and security-hole mongering dumbos." OK, I'll stop. Of course the reality is that good people also show up in bad places and they make good things happen nonetheless. C# looks and the .Net framework does great stuff for developer productivity. There's a lot of innovation happening in Microsoft's search and online services divisions. To be fair, a lot of Microsoft bashing is another form of bigotry that we have to get beyond. Microsoft has a lot great people and their executive leadership has done a lot of really bad things, so move along. The good guys inside the cathedral need constructive engagement lest they never prevail over the Matrix; more than anyone they (and Melinda) have the capacity to draw the Sith away from the Dark Side (re "constructive engagement": I'm thinking Clinton's Sino-American oppositional/collaborative stance that rides on the inevitable, not Reagan's failure vis-a-vis South Africa, which was wimpy coddling of the anti-divestment movement).
When the conversation started to heat up after DIDW, the Neo role was being played by a character with the unlikely title of "Architect", working inside the most unlikely company of all: Microsoft. Kim Cameron is his name, and his architecture is the Identity Metasystem. Note that I don't say "Microsoft's Identity Metasystem". That's because Kim and Microsoft are going out of their way to be nonproprietary about it. They know they can't force an identity system on the world. They tried that already with Passport and failed miserably.I prefer to think of the various roles of Identity Providers, Relying Parties and People as part of an ecosystem. But metasystem is fine, let's just stick to that vernacular. Kim is the author of Laws of Identity. Again citing the same article from Doc for a nice summarization:
User Control and Consent: digital identity systems must reveal information identifying a user only with the user's consent.
Limited Disclosure for Limited Use: the solution that discloses the least identifying information and best limits its use is the most stable, long-term solution.
The Law of Fewest Parties: digital identity systems must limit disclosure of identifying information to parties having a necessary and justifiable place in a given identity relationship.
Directed Identity: a universal identity metasystem must support both "omnidirectional" identifiers for use by public entities and "unidirectional" identifiers for private entities, thus facilitating discovery while preventing unnecessary release of correlation handles.
Pluralism of Operators and Technologies: a universal identity metasystem must channel and enable the interworking of multiple identity technologies run by multiple identity providers.
Human Integration: a unifying identity metasystem must define the human user as a component integrated through protected and unambiguous human-machine communications.
Consistent Experience across Contexts: a unifying identity metasystem must provide a simple consistent experience while enabling separation of contexts through multiple operators and technologies.
This is powerful stuff. I'm very pleased with our implementation of OpenID to support blog claiming but I know that this is the tip of the iceberg. There are people on the web who aren't authoring and sharing; they may not have nor want a URL that they can use for their identity. So while I'm committed to extending our support for OpenID, I'm also looking beyond it. The Laws are exemplary guiding principles in my exploration of the topic. Kim and Doc joined Kristopher Tate (the Zooomr dude), Tantek and myself to talk about CardSpace, Microsoft's implementation of an identity metasystem.
After discussing some of the high-level issues facing the web, the blogosphere and
user generated content participant created artifacts in general, we dived deep on CardSpace. Since CardSpace will be shipping with Vista (as well as distributed for Windows XP), by my estimation the coming ubiquity of user-centric identity isn't something to ignore. As we worked through the CardSpace workflow with Kim, Tantek and I came up with this diagram (Glossary: "IDP" = "Identity Provider", "RP" = "Relying Party", CardSpace is a page embedded app so there's both interaction via the browser and directly in the OS). This is of course just Microsoft's implementation but the Good Thing is that they aren't clutching it tightly, folks working on open source implementations (keep an eye on the OSIS working group) will make sure that the identity metasystem isn't a Borg in sheeps clothing.
Identities on the contemporary web suffer from a lot of accountability, authenticity and siloization deficiencies. Pings, trackbacks and comments all suffer from these and in turn we all do in the form of web spam. Reputation systems (such as Technrati's authority ranking) mitigate some of these problems but there is still much to do. I'm really pleased to have met Kim, he's one of the good guys and I look forward to working more folks pushing the online identity envelope. If you're going to be joining Internet Identity Workshop coming up, I'll see you there!( Nov 12 2006, 01:25:24 PM PST ) Permalink