What's That Noise?! [Ian Kallen's Weblog]

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20040831 Tuesday August 31, 2004

Trout Canned For Candor

While I found the trumpetting about PHP being the reason for Friendster's relaunch success was misplaced, I was *shocked* *SHOCKED I TELL YOU* to learn that Friendster's cluetrain ticket was misplaced as well.

It's apparently true: Troutgirl was canned.

Was it truly because of her candid blog posts about Friendster's technology foibles? Getting screwed and having it attributed to your publishing activities is not unprecedented but I'd really have expected better from the Friendster folks. Really.

( Aug 31 2004, 07:35:46 AM PDT ) Permalink

20040825 Wednesday August 25, 2004

Filtering "Reply-to" links by authority

An important point regarding reply-to links was identified by David Gammel: the same knuckleheads who link farm on dummy blogs can spam the conversation stream.
As we puts it:

Neat idea, but I'm not sure it would solve the spam problem. Won't you still end up with spam from bogus blogs that create false 'reply-to' links? It would invert referral spam. I guess the bogus sites would be easier to filter but it would still require overhead to manage.

The efforts to combat index spam in general would be helpful here as well. Technorati can rate the value of conversation elements with its authority ranking. Google's page rank for a for a blog could also be a factor. Spammers inevitably acquire new tactics and new innovations will have to be put into play to counter those tactics -- the history of SMTP and NNTP message stream use provide good learning precedents to drive those innovations.

( Aug 25 2004, 01:27:36 PM PDT ) Permalink

The California legislative session better wrap up this week The republicans have a trip to New York they're eager to move on and the girliemen are all gearing up for Burning Man. ( Aug 25 2004, 11:47:35 AM PDT ) Permalink

20040824 Tuesday August 24, 2004

Are blogs conversation platforms?

Comments on blogs are problematic for the same reason that email is problematic. When anyone can say anything without accountability, the spam and other types of garbage comes pouring on. SMTP and NNTP are strong supporting evidence for this. So how do we work around this?

Using a centralized authentication key like typekey is a nice band-aid but it still doesn't address the underlying problem that's difficult to contextualize who is behind the voice in the conversation. Besides, it's not nice. It's a vendor bound and therefore borg-like.

The owner of the voice is important. You can't link to their Orkut profile; afterall, the voice might not speak in Portugese. Who owns that conversational voice that's longing to participate?

Using trackbacks to string together post references is another hack to try get around the absence of conversation in blogs. But talking about a post is not the same as replying. And furthermore, it requires more protocol infrastructure since it requires every blog to be a pingable resource. And pings themselves are untrustworthy data payloads. It just doesn't seem to fit.

Sure, you can reference another post merely by linking to it. However, replying to it as you would a conversation is missing from the blogosphere.

Now suppose a link to a blog was enriched with an attribute to indicate that it is a reply. Say, a rel attribute like rel="reply-to" -- blogging tools and mapping engines could be enabled to thread together conversations by traversing these link relationships. SMTP and NNTP message readers have been threading conversations (i.e. correlating the "In-Reply-To" header) for years. It's time to bring this facility to the blogosphere.

( Aug 24 2004, 10:58:43 PM PDT ) Permalink
Comments [1]

20040816 Monday August 16, 2004

Scaling Nagios Maintaining a healthy state in a complex system of hosts and services requires fastidious proactive management. Though I try my best to stay focused on software, operations has been the biggest pain point at work lately and my focus has, at least in recent months, had to shift to where the pain is.

Besides the runtime scaling characteristics, I'm very concerned with the scalability of human maintenance. When hosts and services are coming into and going out of service on a regular basis, keeping a monitoring framework upto date with the current state of the inventory can be quite onerous. While Nagios provides a reasonable facility for keeping track of resource availability, it provides no help with keeping the inventory current. After poking around the perldoc for Nagios::Object, it looks like some thought gone into programmatic generation of Nagios configuration stanzas but it seems kinda laughable that Nagios itself can't be programmatically updated; it has to read config files to know what hosts and services to monitor. Ya know what they say: there are high maintenance girlfriends and low maintenance girlfriends and then there are the worst kind... the high maintenance ones who think they are low maintenance. Nagios is a high maintenance girlfriend. Since I don't have it I sure hope someone finds the time on their hands to make the Nagios configuration data-driven; I'd like to have a RDBMS housed inventory system tied into my monitoring framework.

Oh, wait. I worked on such a beast already in an endeavor that begat Hyperic.

( Aug 16 2004, 10:09:25 PM PDT ) Permalink

20040803 Tuesday August 03, 2004

Parameterizable Web Components What do Struts w/tiles and HTML::Mason have in common? One is part of a Java MVC framework, the other a Perl component system. But they both provide parameterizable components. People I've spoke to who have never used a component system that use named parameters in component calls often just don't get it. But it's really very simple. So lets see if we can shed some light on this.

Let's say you have a page called "query_results.html" that internally calls a table widget "query_results_table.html". And let's say the table widget takes a parameter for which column to sort the rendered table on and a title for the table caption. So the calling component might invoke the widget like this (assuming .html are handled as JSP):

<!-- could also spec a symbolic name in the tiles definition xml -->
<tiles:insert page="query_results_table.html">             
  <tiles:put name="title" value="Widget Query Results"/>   <!-- some literal text -->
  <tiles:put name="sort_order" beanName="sortOrder" />     <!-- a java.lang.String -->

The called component (query_results_table.html) then has this

<tiles:importAttribute name="title" ignore="true"/>          <!-- an optional parameter -->
<tiles:importAttribute name="sort_order" />                  <!-- a mandatory parameter -->

HTML::Mason provides a similar facility.

<& query_results_table.html, title=>'Widget QueryResults',sort_order=>$so &>

or equivalently, call out to Perl-land

% $m->comp('query_results_table.html',title=>'Widget QueryResults',sort_order=>$so);

The called component would have something like this

$title => 'Default Title'
$sort_order                     # mandatory parameter

So what does it look like without parameterizable components? Well, for instance every PHP project I've seen is rife with stuffing things into globals and then using an include like

$title = 'fubar';
$sort_order = 'cereal';

The component has magical variables in scope and it hopes that the caller set them (yech).

echo "$title";

This is unacceptably lame speghetti-bait. There very well may be some better ways to do it in PHP, too bad they're not prevalent. All of the PHP code I've seen has semi-random groupings of functions stuffed into include files like that. If you're lucky, there might actually be class definitions in there. But the UI components can't take a distinct set of parameters; you're either hoping that the caller stuffed the right variables into the current scope or you're going to write a lot validation code.

I didn't want to get into naming conventions for components or any of the other real life deltas you'd want to see in production code; I just to want keep it illustrative. Hopefully this example isn't too simple and contrived that it fails to illuminate the importance. OK, maybe not... so why is this important? Relying on the presence (or absence) of variables set externally is a problem plagued, buggy development practice. A component's instrumentation should be unambiguous. The Java and Perl examples illustrate clear, explicit parameterization. Which params are mandatory and which are optional is obvious from the the way they are declared in the component. Using named parameters leads to cleaner, less buggy code that's easy to reuse and change. Rapid development and agility, that's what I want.

Now I know there are perfectly reasonable people who are happy with PHP in every respect and will take umbrage at my dis. Well, it's nothing personal folks. Rapid prototyping is cool but structuring a language so it's easier to make a mess than to keep it clean is not.

( Aug 03 2004, 12:53:29 AM PDT ) Permalink
Comments [1]

20040801 Sunday August 01, 2004

Technorati in WSJ The Wall Street Journal doesn't want you to know what they're talking about or link to them without a bunch of rigamarole and commitment. Yet they "get it" well enough to cover the blogging story at the Democratic National Convention. Clueless and clueful, an enigma and a riddle. And so it goes.

I thought it was really cool that Technorati was in WSJ last week for the Blogwatch joint endeavor with CNN. But the irony is not lost on me that while most of the media makes it a point to provide access to what they're talking about, WSJ has an iron curtain drawn around their content.

So here it is, in all of its glory (it's so glorious, you can't link to it):

Bloggers Enter Big-Media Tent

Boston's Political Circus Lends
New Legitimacy to Web Scribes

July 27, 2004; Page A6

(See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

Bloggers have written their way into the mainstream, and the media may never be the same.

This week Democrats have granted official media credentials for their convention to more than 35 political Web loggers, or bloggers.

They range from 16-year-old Stephen Yellin of New Jersey, who writes for the widely read dailykos.com, to David Weinberger, a 53-year-old fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Their attendance signals a new legitimacy for Web commentators and has spurred intense debate about their place under the media tent.

At the same time, the mainstream media have rushed to join the blogger party. MSNBC rolled out a site this week called "Hardblogger," featuring postings from Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell and Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for Web-savvy candidate Howard Dean. CNN is partnering with the Web-tracking site Technorati to produce Blogwatch, a feature that is tracking the musings of the credentialed bloggers. And the Associated Press launched its first blog, featuring the insights of veteran newsman Walter Mears.

At least one established media outlet plucked a popular blogger to report from Boston. MTV News hired Ana Marie Cox, who writes the risque, inside-the-Beltway gossip blog Wonkette.com, to report live from the floor of the Fleet Center arena where the convention is being held. She seems to find the whole experience amusing. "So what does MTV want with you?" Ms. Cox asked herself in a pre-Boston departure post, as blog reports are called. "We have no idea. They just put a pile of money on the doorstep, handed us a plane ticket, said something about 'sink or swim' and ran away."

In his first entry from Boston, Josh Marshall, author of the popular talkingpointsmemo.com, wrote, "The whole thing is mystifying to me. Blogs make up a small, specialized niche within the interdependent media ecosystem...not producers but primary or usually secondary consumers -- like small field mice, ferrets, or bats."

Whatever type of political animal they may be, bloggers are very much a part of the circus. Inside the Fleet Center, one of the windows at the Democratic News Service is reserved for bloggers so they can arrange interviews with politicians and delegates. "Bloggers Boulevard," as the seating area inside the arena for bloggers is called, is outfitted with wireless technology so the bloggers can post from mobile devices while watching the festivities.

Yesterday morning, the Democratic National Committee even hosted a fancy breakfast attended by about 30 bloggers at the Hilton Back Bay Hotel. For every blogger, there seemed to be a reporter from a traditional news organization ready to conduct an interview. As a further show of the bloggers' growing clout, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama of Illinois, who will deliver the convention's keynote speech tonight, stopped by to speak and answer questions.

Among those absent is Andrew Sullivan, the former New Republic editor who writes Daily Dish, one of the most popular and continually updated conservative blogs. "I think the conventions are a waste of time," says Mr. Sullivan, who didn't bother to apply for credentials. "They're a TV show, so I'll watch them on TV. I'm not a big fan of schmoozing with other journalists just for the hell of it."

Several bloggers were disinvited because too many people had been accepted, says Mike Liddell, the convention's online communications director. One of them, Adele Stan, decided to come to Boston anyway. "The great thing about blogging is you don't need no stinking badges," she writes. "Whatever happens to you, wherever you wind up, whoever you meet, that's what you write about."

Mr. Liddell expects bloggers to give readers an unvarnished look at what goes on at the convention. But the topic on many minds inside the media pavilion is the creeping impact that blogs are having on the mainstream press. In a recent dispatch on his site thetruthlaidbear.com, N.Z. Bear wrote: "They may not know it yet, but the bloggers aren't there to cover the convention. They're there to cover the journalists."

Bloggers already have been doing that. In December 2002, Mr. Marshall jumped on Sen. Trent Lott's comments praising the late Sen. Strom Thurmond's segregationist Dixiecrat party. Eventually, the mainstream press seized on the remarks and they became a major scandal, forcing Mr. Lott to step down as Senate majority leader.

This sort of back-and-forth with the mainstream press -- whom bloggers depend on for material but relentlessly skewer for what they call overplaying or underplaying stories, bias and other perceived errors -- is an oft-stated goal of bloggers.

Campaigndesk.org, a site that continually critiques professional journalism in a blog format, is having an impact, too. "Editors like us and reporters don't," says Steve Lovelady, the site's managing editor. "Some scream bloody murder...nobody's as thin-skinned as reporters."

Eventually, the distinctions between blogs and other media will blur, predicts blogger Daniel Drezner, who was recently hired to write an online foreign policy column for The New Republic.

Write to Christopher Conkey at christopher.conkey@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications:

The Web address of N.Z. Bear's blog, The Truth Laid Bear, is truthlaidbear.com. This article incorrectly listed the Internet address as thetruthlaidbear.com.

So that's it in its entirity. I'm not normally into violating terms of services, copyright infringement or voiding my warranty. I'm posting this as a statement to WSJ: join the rest of the planet and figure out how to be read and linked to without all of the high ceremony and obligations. You might hope that by the time the repelican convention hits, they'll have caught the cluetrain, but don't count on it. ( Aug 01 2004, 03:16:19 PM PDT ) Permalink