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

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20050530 Monday May 30, 2005

Annotation Shmannotation Among the most interesting things that the blogospere has demonstrated in the last few years is its capacity as a medium for distributed conversation and meme propagation. Implicit and spontaneous communities coalesce and atrophy and the web has become the transport for peer-to-peer publishing.

A post showed up recently on Ideant, Facilitating the social annotation and commentary of web pages that drew me in but then turned me off. It's a review of working or proposed systems that use anchor/name tags, rdf, autolink-ish page transformations and browser plugins for annotation systems. There's a lot of great stuff there about eliminating the distinction between authors and respondents, filtering, open infrastructure, and so on (read it)... but I can't figure out the emphasis on annotation.

The post goes badly astray with this requirement for distributed textual discourse:

Hypertextual granularity. Discourse participants are able to hypertextually annotate every fragment of an online text, instead of having to refer to online texts as wholes which cannot be annotated.
Every fragment? If I want to identify a particular sentence or two as part of a conversation, I'd be more inclined to simply cite and respond:
  <blockquote cite="http://ideant.typepad.com/ideant/2005/05/facilitating_th.html#challenges">
    Discourse participants are able to hypertextually annotate every fragment of an online text
  Well, that level of granularity is an edge case requirement
In fact, the ability to address every fragment of text is not a requirement for dispersed discourse. That all of these systems reviewed to support annotation are so intrusive on the author is indicative of how problematic this requirement is.

HTML's intrinsic support for linking, anchoring and citing provide a sufficient medium for binding together dispersed discourse. Browser plugins? Your blog is your platform for citation. Parallel universes (rdf) or structural modifications to make everything "citable" beyond the author's original intention smells like gratuitous complexity. Let the web be the web.

( May 30 2005, 10:30:55 PM PDT ) Permalink

One Chance Only for Mozilla Mail to Thunderbird Migration? A family member had mistakenly hit "Cancel" when firing up Thunderbird for the first time when prompted to import from Mozilla/Netscape 7. Astonishingly, the Thunderbird developers don't make that option available from that point forward. You can import from Eudora, Outlook (yea, this is a Windows box) or Navigator 4 but there's no option to import from Mozilla. Must be graduates from the School of Masochistic User Interfaces.

Assuming the user (or you if this is your problem) hasn't starting using the Thunderbird installation so the profile can be safely, here's the work around:


More details and scenario options are available at mozillaZine

( May 30 2005, 01:14:41 PM PDT ) Permalink

20050529 Sunday May 29, 2005

Technorati Japan The lift of weightlessness and the carthasis of a product release is one of the great rewards of ushering a project to fruition.

So it is with this pleasure that I bring your attention to the beta release of Technorati Japan. This is a true eat-your-own-dogfood story; the localizable code base behind the website is built with all searches as clients of the Technorati API, woof. Coinciding with this release is Joi's inaugural post to the Technorati Japan Blog. To toast the efforts of my colleagues at Technorati and the Tokyo team @ technorati.jp, I raise my virtual sake glass!

And if you read Japanese, we hope for your feedback and that you enjoy the site!

( May 29 2005, 11:45:27 AM PDT ) Permalink

Thwarting Spam With GMail and Procmail I've been self hosting my mail for almost 10 years now and I'm not about to quit. But the growing ineffectiveness of SpamAssassin has made me consider it. While SpamAssassin was catching a lot of spam, at least as much was still getting through. It'd really gotten a lot worse lately. I probably could have done more with it (and I may still dig deeper into how to configure SpamAssassin to work better for me) but I was intrigued by the idea of using a web mail host as a pass-through service to do it for me.

I've used GMail since last summer but really haven't had a whole lot need for it... it's a nice place to subscribe to mailing lists from. When I'd read Using Gmail as a Spam Filter a while back it intrigued me but the idioscyncrasies of procmail and qmail made it seem like more of project than I'd wanted to undertake (yea, yea... one of these days I'll migrate to postfix but I have a lot of legacy ezmlm stuff running, I need to figure out how to migrate that to mailman or something).

Well since I had a ton of GMail invites sitting around, I invited myself to create another account (one that no spammers will know the name of, I hope... we'll call it gmail.username for now). I followed the GMail side of the instructions at the site above, e-z nuf. And then I got to the stuff on my server. This is what I ended up doing in my procmailrc to get procmail to forward a message and accept it again once GMail took its turn on it:

* ! ^X-Forwarded-For: gmail.username@gmail.com my.username@my.domain.com
| /usr/bin/formail -R Delivered-To X-Delivered-To | \
/usr/sbin/sendmail -oi gmail.username@gmail.com
I probably could've used qmail-inject instead sendmail but whatever, this works. So what's up with the pipe to formail -R Delivered-To X-Delivered-To?
Well, without it qmail got very grouchy. Well, grouchy in that inimitable qmail'ish way:
Hi. This is the qmail-send program at my.domain.com.
I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses.
This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.

This message is looping: it already has my Delivered-To line. (#5.4.6)
OK, so qmail's loop detection worked a little too well for me; I worked around it by munging the Delivered-To line.

My vindication came in the hours that followed as dozens of pieces of junk messages ended caught by GMail's spam detection and the mail that I wanted got through to me on my longstanding but spam-threatened email address.

Warning: if you want to email me something without Google knowing about it (i.e. say you have a business proposition that is a "google killer"), ask me for some alternate methods.

( May 29 2005, 01:02:26 AM PDT ) Permalink

20050519 Thursday May 19, 2005

Blinkin' Blog I haven't been blogging here frequently as of late. I've been really busy with work; too busy to blog, ironically. So I tend to post things here that've been on my mind for a while. I don't have any rules about it per se, it's just been my modus operandi in recent daze.

As an experiment, I've been blogging my brief whims into ecto (a stolen moment on BART may be my best opportunity to blog). The ecto posts have been going to another blog on blogger, I think the blogger API implementation on this old version of roller is busted, I gave up using ecto with it. I don't know if I'll maintain a separation of ideas that've had a gestation period from passing fancies, but for now that's how it is.

At least the markup and CSS on the other blog are a lot tidier than the one here. I'll have to upgrade this roller implementation soon.

( May 19 2005, 10:29:43 PM PDT ) Permalink

20050518 Wednesday May 18, 2005

Sad Mac You know you're working too hard when your computer just starts falling apart under your fingers.

I've gotta make a trip to the Apple Store, I've been using the left side of my left shift key almost a week since the right side collapsed. It's a sad sad Mac.

crumbling powerbook

I'm ditching work tomorrow, making my powerbook happy again and then... I'm gonna chill.

( May 18 2005, 05:11:44 PM PDT ) Permalink

The Goats Are Back In Town 'member the adverts for Berkeley Farms Milk? "Cows in Berkeley?" Well, yesterday there were goats in Lafayette. At least in my secluded corner of it.

We've had the winter that never seems to leave; it's the month of May and the creekbed in the back of the house, the one that should be down to a trickle, is still gurgling. The stints of warm weather between the storm systems have made for almost tropical conditions (hint to my boss: I'd still take that break in Kauai, were it handed to me). The earth is teeming with flora... or maybe they're just weeds (yep).

It's the time of year when the weed whackers are whacking and leaf barrels are brimming. But instead of hiring a legion of landscapers to clear the hillside across the street from me, the church across the street from me engages the services of goats. Several dozen of them, perhaps over a hundred, in fact.

Apparently Goats R Us will cordon off areas of land and release their goats on to it to let them.... be goats. The bleating army of horned munching machines made quick work of the hillside. Clearing the ground cover of grass and weeds, nibbling away at the shrubs and getting up on their hind legs to pick at the trees, the goats didn't take long to transform the wild overgrown landscape into one shorn back to earth.

goats goats
Though it's rained yet some more today, soon enough things will start drying out and the lush growth will turn into ripe kindling; a fire hazard that puts everyone on edge when the summer sunshine cranks up. I wish I'dve taken the opportunity to hi-jack a couple of the hooved lawnmowers for a few hours. The hillside looming over the house, over on my side of the street, could really stand to be cleared. It's only about probably an 8th of acre give or take but it's pretty steep terrain for me to go climbing around with a weed whacker.

( May 18 2005, 03:55:44 PM PDT ) Permalink

20050516 Monday May 16, 2005

Baking Components With Velocity For years I've advocated that heavyweight content generation should be moved out of the CMS and that publishing systems should do most their work asynchronously.

Recently, I've been generating Velocity components that should be evaluated at request-time but have at least some of the values they must work with calculated asynchronously when the component is generated. Here's an example that involves localizable content:

<div  class="fubars">
$text.get("fubars.per.second", [ $fubarRate ])
So let's say the ResourceBundle has a key in it for fubars.per.second like so
fubars.per.second=Number of Fubars Per Second: {0}
If all of the calculation is done at request time, MessageTool would do its thing and this would Just Work. However, if $fubarRate is part of a heavier weight calculation that is done offline, we have to set it. So this is where I use Velocity to generate Velocity code:
  #set($fr = '#set($fubarRate = ')
  #set($fr = "${fr} $measurement.fubarRate)")
Notice the use of single quotes and double quotes to get the right combination of literal and interpolated evaluation. If my measurement object has a fubarRate property set to 42 then the last line simply outputs
 #set($fubarRate = 42)
and later, after the generated component gets its request time evaluation, the display is rendered as
<div class="fubars">
Number of Fubars Per Second: 42

Sure, I could generate my components with the web tier's ResourceBundle to get messages evaluated async as well. This would be 100% baking instead of 90% but it would be bad in other ways:

This separation of baking versus frying ain't new. I advocated it a long time ago in a talk at the O'Reilly Open Source Conference. I was hot on mod_perl and HTML::Mason back then (and, given a Perl environment, I still like them ...but I'd prefer a Java web application environment for i18n hands down), however the same basic ideas hold water using Velocity. At the time, application server misuse was in vogue and hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars were being poured into "Enterprise Content Management" systems that coupled the CMS functions with those of publishing and request handling. Count that as millions of dollars squandered. There are still people struggling with the legacy of slow and stupid systems that can't be replaced because they spent too much money on it already (yea, what'd Forrest Gump say about stupid?). A few years later, when Aaron Swartz wrote about baking content he was insistent that he didn't care about performance, which is cool. The other benefits of baking that he mentions are perfectly valid. In fact, the publishing system at Salon.com distributes baked goods (HTML::Mason components generated with HTML::Mason components) to the web servers akin to Aaron's call to have something you can just do filesystem operations on. However, that's just the beginning. My maxim is that things that can scale independently should. The users of Bricolage, MovableType and other CMS and blog platforms that separate the management of editorial data, the publish cycle and content serving are enjoying that benefit right now.

( May 16 2005, 11:31:22 AM PDT ) Permalink

20050506 Friday May 06, 2005

Ottmar Liebert's blog I just found Ottmar Liebert's blog. He's got an archive that goes back over 11 years! I've long enjoyed his music -- his mix of staccato and graceful classically inspired melodies and textures have always appealed to me; looks like his blog is clueful too and now I've got a new feed to read!

His blog posts cover the gamut of canned food selections at Whole Foods (I've been to that one he shops at in Santa Fe, it's an oasis of good eats), tour dates, instruments, creative commons and tech toys. He's also got an impressive flickr stream. Good to see musicians showing up with a voice other than the one on their recorded works and better to find ones whose repertoire you already dig.

Here are some selections that I'll often have on the 'phones when I'm writing code

Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra

Nouveau Flamenco
Ottmar Liebert

Ottmar Liebert

( May 06 2005, 07:42:35 AM PDT ) Permalink