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

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20060430 Sunday April 30, 2006

Link Raising Won't Pay The Bills

I have developed a great deal of respect for those who do fund raising full time as a profession, it's a tough business. The Happy Valley Odyssey of the Mind teams are trying to raise money to send themselves (the kids) and their coaches to the World Finals and, so far, it's been tough moving that along. With basically three weeks left before the big trip to Ames, Iowa, the thermometer still has quite a ways to go. If you can't donate today, how about linking to their site? Sure links won't pay the bills directly but if getting the word out means that someone who can help with the bills will find out about it, maybe it can help indirectly.

Put a badge on your site with this code :

A study cited by the pros found that donors say they have more money than time. In this case, the teams are putting in all of the time (that's the point of Odyssey of the Mind, it's all of the kids' creativity and intellect applied to problem solving); now they just need to pay some bills. If you can't donate cash and donating your time won't impact their endeavor, what can you do? Donate attention! OK, admittedly badges aren't the most attractive things, but you can take this one down after the World competition. So for the month of May, if you can't send money, send 'em some links!


( Apr 30 2006, 09:42:34 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060428 Friday April 28, 2006

Search Crib Notes

There are so many weird and wonderful things on the big search services, you need cheat sheets to keep track of the specialized types of search that they provide. The Yahoo! Shortcuts page has a bunch o' tricks for searching Yahoo! The Google Cheat Sheet has coverage on the search operators and parameters that can be fed to their query systems. Well, we don't have crib notes or hacks books about us (yet) at Technorati, but we're working on being that cool, too <g>


( Apr 28 2006, 10:51:05 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060427 Thursday April 27, 2006

Pinging Technorati

There are lots of ways to ping Technorati. Your blogging platform may do it already. You could use a slick editing tool like ecto that will do it for you. You can even roll it yourself in c-sharp. But however you do it, it's important that you let Technorati include you in the distributed conversation by notifying that you've posted.

Recently, there have been some problems with Ping-o-Matic that I worked with Matt to unravel. If you use a ping relaying service and are having difficulty getting indexed by Technorati, please ping directly! Of course Technorati will continue working with ping relayers such as Ping-o-Matic, Pingoat and so forth; they're providing a valuable service to the blogging communities that we are grateful for. However, when in doubt take the direct route!

More soon to come on the Technorati Weblog!


( Apr 27 2006, 11:27:31 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060425 Tuesday April 25, 2006

GData and Goofles

Since Niall mentioned GData, I've been meaning to look into it further. Today Otis mentioned that one of the Apache/Summer of Code projects proposed is a lucene-based GData server implementation.

I took a look at the docs and realized that this is actually a really old spec, as old as the epoch as a matter of fact. Check it out:

But seriously folks, the G-man and his crue have done a fine job providing client implementations (as long as your not waiting on Ruby or one of the P-languages, no perl, python or php yet). Even a nice set of examples for the Java implementation. Thanks, G!


( Apr 25 2006, 08:17:45 PM PDT ) Permalink

The Google Web Spam Ecosystem

Over the last year and a half, I've spoken extensively to friends, colleagues and audiences about web spam. At eTech I showed how spam blogs behave statistically atypical, as soon as you start looking at the publishing characteristics (such as linking and posting rates), the spam comes percolating up to the top. For instance, this chart is a sample of linked-to domains from blogs hosted by Google's blogspot service (the y-axis is in thousands of links per day):

The highlighted domains are sites that the spammers are trying to put in front of mouse cursors by making them look important. Besides being a nuisance, this is part of a larger hazard to the whole web advertising market.

While Technology Evangelist pointed out Google News' role in the spam ecosystem, Niall has previously noted that Google provides lots of tools for perpetrators of web spam to employ. AdSense is the prime object and subject of spam. A video posted yesterday on YouTube details the anatomy of some typical AdSense abuse:

There has been a recent explosion in abuse of AdWords, Google's PPC (pay per click) advertising platform. It is apparent that the techniques do not follow Google's own clear guidelines. Unfortunately, users and legitimate advertisers pay the price, while Google and the unscrupulous advertisers profit.
Google has always put its users first and one would hope that they will continue to abide by their charter. My aim with this video is to urge them to do something about these issues sooner rather than later.
Web spam isn't new, this has been going on for years and at this point, one must conclude that Google's not serious about doing anything about their spam problems. There used to be a qualification step for AdSense and they'd reject sites that didn't meet some basic criteria as legitimate sources of content. But that stopped about a year and a half ago and the spam has been pouring on ever since. The video is a call to action to complain to Google; they have a fidicuary responsibility to move against the abuse. The video shows a search for forklifts to illustrate rampant ad policy violations. The video narration asks, "Why is google allowing this to happen?" and answers
This is the dirty little secret about these tactics: Google profits from every click on it's network. Be it on ads that are clicked on google.com or ads that are clicked on websites that are running google ads throuth the adsense program. This is a very difficult thing for them to self police because doing something about it will effect their short term profits.
I'm not condemning AdSense per se, it's a great service and revitalized web advertising after the flame-out a few years ago. But black-hat SEO's have definitely cranked up the game over the last year or so and are putting the whole market at risk again. Google may not be particularly motivated to go out and find the abuse but they have to act against it when you bring it to their attention. Watch this video:


( Apr 25 2006, 12:28:25 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060424 Monday April 24, 2006

AJP13 for Ruby on Rails!

A few months ago, I mused that we should be able to abandon FastCGI (with extreme prejudice) and use AJP13 with Ruby on Rails instead. Well, unbeknownst to me at the time, someone was hatching just such a plot, the Ruby/AJP Project! I'd heard last month that David Andersen was tinkering on installing it... well, he not only got it online but he blogged how he did it. Take a look at his compile time and run time configuration details using Apache 2.2's native AJP13 protocol plugin for mod_proxy (i.e. no mod_jk, good riddance), it's really cool! Way to go, David!


( Apr 24 2006, 08:48:30 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060423 Sunday April 23, 2006

Using the Google Maps API

Just for giggles, I fiddled around with the Google Maps API on the Happy Valley Odyssey of the Mind blog by putting up a map of Ames, Iowa, where the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals take place.

I tried setting polylines to outline the perimeter of the Iowa State University campus but it seems like the Google Maps API is pretty brittle; if you get it wrong, there's no debugging apparent (I checked the Javascript console), you just get a blank map. I'll have to poke at it a bit more some other day. Doing the basic stuff is easy though, check out How to add a Google Map to any web page.

Be sure to stop by the Happy Valley Odyssey of the Mind blog and make a donation, it's a great cause!


( Apr 23 2006, 07:36:08 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060422 Saturday April 22, 2006

I'm The Decider

If there's anything to be said for the innovations in the tools of creation and distribution of our present day, it's that contemporary political humor has gotten so much funnier!

Sitting on my own brain, waiting for the end of days
Corporation profits, Bloody oil money
I'm above the law and I'll decide what's right or wrong

I am the egg head, I'm the Commander, I'm the Decider

(check it out)
Thanks, Adam!


( Apr 22 2006, 05:26:39 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060421 Friday April 21, 2006

The Hard Work of Making Java Easy

The Java backlash that began a few years ago was mostly a J2EE backlash, not against the Java language per se. Too many people took the blueprints too seriously, too literally or just too damned religiously. Too many applications that didn't need EJBs were using them, letting the container manage low level application plumbing invited slow and buggy behaviors that were painful to debug. The backlash has made a lot Perl/Python/PHP enthusiasts express self-righteous vindication and have helped morph the J2EE backlash into a broader Java backlash. Geez, even IBM is getting all spun up on PHP, whodathunk? But I think the dismissal of Java is premature. None of the P languages or Java are without hazards. These days a lot of developers are over the blueprint kool-aid and are standardizing on a simplified and productive stack:

However, there is still a rapid development gap. I've heard Java called a "high ceremony" language. Where you can often prototype a lot of functionality in a modest amount of code with the P languages, you end up writing a lot more code to do the same things in Java. On the other hand, the run time errors, sorcerers and hackers adherent to the P languages are at least as guilty of the same brand of excessive zealotry as the blueprint adherents. The practical heresy demands recognizing that you can get it really wrong in just about any programming language. As far as the high ceremony, Java and J2EE are guilty as charged. As if to punish Sun, the developer community has innovated just fine without advance posturing within Sun's prescribed processes (the good news there: many within Sun seem to realize that they can't carry on as a cathedral and, in fact, are embracing the bazaar, bravo!). Spring and Hibernate each offer a degree of code simplification but require a bit of XML-hell. Even though the XML is way simpler to maintain than say, struts-config.xml and EJB deployment descriptors, you've reduced your compile-time safety code maintenance but increased your runtime hazards with more XML. Xdoclet or JSR-175 annotations can simplify a lot of the XML configulation required for Struts and Hibernate but then you might end up in another kind of hell: annotation hell. Choose your hell well!

To really bring rapid development and prototyping to a Java environment, there a lot options to look at such as dynamic JVM languages:

By most accounts, a mature but quirky Python for the JVM
An immature but progressing Ruby for the JVM
A failed experiment or work in progress, depending on who you talk to
Ruby on Rails doesn't run on JRuby (supposedly, it's coming). Grails (the artist formerly known as Groovy on Rails) is on v0.1, I'm not holding my breath. What about getting the simple life "convention-over-configuration" in Java? You get some of it simply by using Maven; organize your code to the Maven convention and compiling, testing and packaging your application just works. Eclipse provides so much developer support for Java already, using Maven and Eclipse together is great way to keep a lot of the high ceremony out of your way. But for application development, there are a few rails-alike frameworks for Java that I'm still interested in trying: rife and trails.

I expect in the months ahead to be writing applications with plugin support and that the big win for the dynamic JVM languages for me will be in easing the rapid development of plugins. In other words, I probably wouldn't write an end to end application with them but given a set of interfaces for extension points that can be automatically tested, writing the extensions in JRuby or Groovy sounds compelling.

I actually haven't had time and opportunity to substantially try half the things I've mentioned thus far. Surveying the number of tools, languages and frameworks it's clear that there are a lot of things to consider and that a lot people are concerned with (and working hard on) bringing the down the high ceremony of Java. I'll still be using P languages in the future, too. Down the road, I suspect virtual machines (JVM? parrot? mono/CLR?) will make a lot of these issues fade away and the questions at hand will be around when to use closures and when to use objects, when to annotate and when to externally declare, when to explicitly type or auto-type and so forth. The languages will be incidental as they support shared constructs and virtual machines.


( Apr 21 2006, 09:03:42 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060420 Thursday April 20, 2006

Mindstorms Open Source

I've been wondering how Lego will maintain a business around Mindstorms and at last, I think we have an answer: they'll hop on ye olde cluetrain. By enabling the community of Mindstorms enthusiasts to drive innovation openly, I finally feel confident that the Mindstorms technology will enjoy long term viability. From the Gizmodo post:

Jon Lund took some time out from liveblogging the CustomerMade conference in Copenhagen to email in and tell us that according to Soren Lund of Lego, the software behind the upcoming highly anticipated Mindstorms NXT will be published as open source; Lego is currently in the last stage, figuring out which public domain license to use before releasing it. Power to the people! (read on)
The dreaded EOL'ing scenario, such as that suffered by the Sony Aibo, would have been a really crappy outcome for Mindstorms. Instead, they're innovating and opening up. Thanks, Lego! Oh, and one hting: BSD/Apache style licenses, please!


( Apr 20 2006, 03:25:53 PM PDT ) Permalink

Commuter Blues

I suspect I'll be opting to casual carpool more often with BART eliminating free parking at the Contra Costa county stations I frequent. That could raise my already-not-inconsequential commute costs 15%. And how timely. Gas is already exceeding $3/gallon and the chatter on the radio is to expect $4/gallon! In that scenario, I wouldn't be surprised to see carpool drivers putting a cup out for the riders as their fuel prices put them in the squeeze. Meanwhile, the Big Oil Companies are ringing in record profits...

One possible ray of light for the BART ride option is the report of WiMax service coming:

WiMAX is similar to WiFi but can carry signals across greater distances. WiMax is also being considered by Silicon Valley public transportation officials (free registration) who want to let passengers browse the Internet on local train systems like BART. They want to run a test from July to December. WiMAX, they believe, might be a better technology to do hand-offs as the train rushes through various wireless coverage zones. read on
(via burtonator)

Maybe the price hikes will help them pay for a software test harness; BART's bugs have rendered the system unusable in the past.


( Apr 20 2006, 07:19:57 AM PDT ) Permalink

20060419 Wednesday April 19, 2006

Air Force One Tagged

This is totally amazing! With all of the gazillions of dollars and BTU's of hot air poured out over "homeland security," here comes Marc Ecko laughing in the face of the beast by tagging (as in, the spray paint kind, not folksonomy) Air Force One!

Coming next: "Mark Ecko In Gitmo"


( Apr 19 2006, 09:29:21 AM PDT ) Permalink

Buh Bye Scott McClellan

Here comes a changing of the guard at the War House: McClellan Out as White House Press Secretary. Now I just wonder what the final parting words from Dubya to exiting Press Secretary Scott McClellan will be, let's see:

  1. You're dead to me.
  2. Will ya still be joining us in Kennebunkport?
  3. Recall the first rule of the war club: nobody talks about the war club.
  4. Keep what you've seen to yourself 'cause I have some stories of my own. Remember that cutie in Helsinki?
  5. Don't go writing any books now, you know I don't read!
  6. Ya know what they say, Scotty: What happens at the white house, stays at the white house.
  7. Publish memoirs and I'll make sure you're joining Dick Cheney's next hunting party...
  8. Ya know the "forget everything you've just seen" light flash in Men In Black? Was that real? Ya think we can do that? It'd be for the good of us all.
  9. You're not going to one of those quote think tanks, are ya?
  10. If things don't go well in Donnie's corner, would ya like to come back as Secretary of Defense?
Follow along.


( Apr 19 2006, 06:43:50 AM PDT ) Permalink

20060418 Tuesday April 18, 2006

Taking on the World

I posted last month about how winning feels good. With the thrill of victory comes a new challenge: what's next? Well, my daughter's team's second place showing in the Odyssey of the Mind regionals was followed up by first place in the State competition, so next up: the World!

The World competition is in Ames, Iowa. I've never been there. I've flown over Iowa plenty of times, traveling to and from Chicago. But the corn fields, cattle corrals and pig pokes of Iowa ... will be a new to me. All told, we're running up thousands of dollars to pull this off but I'm sure for the kids this will be one of life's great experiences, so it's all worth it. I have an alter-ego running a separate blog to track that endeavor and our challenges. We've got paypal links to accept donations (tax deductible, even) but simply talking about and linking to that blog will help, so please shine a little light on us.


( Apr 18 2006, 05:20:20 PM PDT ) Permalink

20060411 Tuesday April 11, 2006

User Generated Content By Any Other Name

Today, like many days, the phrase "user generated content" left my lips in the course of conversation. It's a habit. OK, maybe it's a bad habit. Since Tim Bray posted about his hatred for the label, I've been increasingly self-conscious about using those words. I agree, it's laden with exploitative connotations. Derek Powazek adeptly decomposed the nastiness further. Yes, not long ago editorial, movie editing, audio mixing and other tools of creation were only accessible to the pros. Yes, the burst of creativity that has accompanied the mass-amateurization of media of all kinds begs for an improvement of the vernacular. However, Scott Rosenberg, lamenting the absence of a credible replacement, reminds us that content from the pro's still has value (Seymour Hersh didn't blog the latest plan of attack, now did he?). Breaking habits often requires conscious adoption of an alternative. So, what? People Contributed Media? Individual Creations? Actually, I'm more intrigued by "user distributed content" but maybe I'll post about that later and then I'll have to wring my hands over a better name for it.


( Apr 11 2006, 09:57:02 PM PDT ) Permalink