Michael is twittering his wife's labour. Scary.
She should consider herself lucky it's not a Flickr photostream.
Update: OMFG, he's not alone: Realtime results for contractions.
I was well aware that Adrian Holovaty is a very big name in the Python world. He's one of the two original developers of Django (my personal favorite web-app development framework) about which he's written the book. He's since used it to power some very cool mashups; chicagocrime.org and everyblock.com, amongst others.
Adrian's talk was inspiring, both to the few techies in attendance and to most of the journalists, who made up the bulk of the audience. His central idea is that we should ensure that the information that the journalists have collected is stored in a structured way wherever possible. It's hard, skilled work gathering that valuable information, but full use is not being made of it. If it were stored in a structured fashion (rather than just in the text of a story; in a "blob" as Adrian put it) it could be made use of in many different ways.
Another interesting strand to Adrian's talk was the automated collection of data. The Washington Post runs a congressional voting record site, almost all the data for which is collected automatically. everyblock.com is another example of this kind of thing.
Explorability is crucial. Think how often you get stuck in the Wikipedia, 'cos there are just so many interesting links to follow. You go in to read one article, and find yourself with half a dozen tabs open all containing apparently unrelated corners of the 'pedia that you've stumbled upon, all of which you want to read. Don't you want your site to be like that?
Jemima Kiss has written up Adrian's talk better than I ever could here: Future of Journalism: Adrian Holovaty's vision for data-friendly journalists. Well, she is a pro.
The creepy stalkerish twitter-scanning side of this aside, this so reminds me of New Labour. Whenever some New Labour apparatchnik appears on TV to discuss an unpopular policy, the line always seems to be "we accept that we have to work harder to get our message across". The idea that we all understand the message perfectly well, but don't like it, doesn't seem to occur.
We often have applause rippling around our office. Usually it's positive but not always...
Yesterday, one of our devs (who shall remain nameless) was looking for duplication in some form of content or other, and came up with a script. It was always going to be evil - it was in Perl. The script made calls to Google, looking for duplicate results. He kicked it off, then went out for lunch.
Of course, we've all done it. Haven't we? But blocking the entire Guardian was a bit of a coup.
Took us a while, but we managed to find the box in question and kill the script. The nameless dev was late back from lunch - we were speculating that he might have been bundled into a black van with a G on the side. But he did get back safe and sound, to a rousing round of applause from the entire office.
Backward looking old fart that I am, I've only just started twittering.
One of the most interesting things about the GAE to me is the non-relational data store. I've blogged only recently about my doubts about that approach.
A friend of mine from the big G go back to me about this. "To answer your question about what's wrong with a real database, the datastore is all about scalability. The API trades off flexibility with access paths and transaction boundaries for the ability to store terrifyingly huge volumes of data, while serving a bazillion concurrent accesses.
Compared to an RDBMS, I find this style of data storage requires a bit more thought and design up front. However, almost every RDBMS based app I've ever written has required me to go back and optimise my schema and queries any way, so overall, schema-related work is about the same. Not having SQL does make running arbitrary reports and so forth more difficult."
Hmmmm. Now, coming from Google, this bears thinking about. Scalability as an issue I can see. We do have to put in a lot of work to keep guardian.co.uk performant, and it's almost all at the database, fiddling with schema and queries level. Much to think about...
Other people's thoughts on this; Google Datastore and the shift from a RDBMS and Google AppEngine, BigTable and why RDBMS mentality is harmful.
More on the GAE:
- Google App Engine for developers
- Analysis: Google App Engine alluring, will be hard to escape
- Google App Engine: The good, the bad, and the ugly?
Loads of stuff in the blogsphere about the Google App Engine, unsurprisingly, some of it even worth reading.
- Ruby fanboys throw their toys out of the pram. You will be assimilated. Mwahahahahaha!
- Python is the new BASIC
- Tomato tracking. "It’s going to be the world’s greatest web application." ;-)
- Django on Google App Engine in 13 simple steps. Nice getting started tutorial.
- Experimenting with Google App Engine. "The lack of SQL is actually refreshing." ... "I am impressed. The App Engine team has done a fantastic job, and I think they have already changed the way I do hobby projects."
So, it's looking good, though I'm still concerned about lock-in. It's not just the Datastore API which locks you in - that's probably fairly east to emulate - but also the Authentication and Authorization API, which looks much trickier.
The Guardian wins the website of the year award at the British Press Awards. Well done us. There will be cake today. ;-)
Fingers crossed for the webbies...
Oh, and some people appreciate the fine details, too.
And there was me that thinking that the way to dump someone these days was to mark yourself as single on Facebook. Clearly I'm not as Web 2.0 as I thought I was.
Next up for re-launch, Sport. And given the storm-in-a-teacup over the removal of the football link from the front page, and you imagine what it'll be like when the entire sport site changes?
Fake Steve Jobs has really nailed the Microsoft/Yahoo! merger here: Monkey Boy's three-legged race.
Nasty stuff on Facebook. I'm really going off it, I must say.
Bebo seems to be all the rage with the primary school attending demographic all of a sudden. Both my girls are on it, terms of service or no, and were squabbling over the computer all weekend. It's sort of like a Fisher-Price Facebook.
I'm happy enough for them to be on there, so long as I watch over their shoulders to make sure they aren't up to no good. Besides, we've had the whole "The Internet can be a dangerous place, don't trust (or especially meet) strangers" talk, and they are smart girls.
I don't think I'll be able to make QCon, London this year - my current employer doesn't really see the point of conferences. Which is a shame, 'cos it could have been designed for us. There are an uncanny number of speakers relevant to us: Jeff Sutherland ('cos we Scrum), Gavin King ('cos we use Hibernate), Rod Johnson ('cos we use Spring), and Alex Russell ('cos we use Dojo), plus movers and shakers like Martin Fowler, Werner Vogels, Kylie, and Dave Thomas. I might be lying about one of those, though.
Never mind - there's always PyCamp!
And who knows - I might win a ticket. ;-)
We'll have to re-think a few things:
Via Media Influencer.
Steve pointed me at a nice new route planning site - Walk It. The difference between this and, say, Google Map is that (as the name suggests) Walk It is aimed at pedestrians. I'm fed up with being told that I can't take a footpath or walk both ways up a one way street. ;-)
My main issue with the site itself is its lack of obvious URL hackability. The site won't show you the URLs it generates for the searches, unlike Google Maps. There is an "Email to a friend" option, though, and having played with the URLs sent by that, it turns out that you can use URLs in this form: http://www.walkit.com/validate.aspx?from=e18an&to=se18lp. (That's me meeting Steve for a beer this evening sorted!)
Naturally, some of the routes it suggests are sub-optimal - it's pretty new, and besides, software generated routes often look a bit odd to me.
Anyone care to guess how long it will be before Google Maps' route finder includes an "on foot" checkbox, swatting this impudent newcomer like a fly?
I appear to be #1 page for any old crap. Fantastic.
I'm no longer the only hit for "I hate Carol Vorderman", but I'm still #1 for that too. Top!
Update: Also irritating habits.
How does Google Mail decide what is and is not spam anyway? Is it based on what I've marked as spam, or is it a community effort? Might I perhaps have marked one of Fredrik's posts as spam by accident?
Other than that, Google Mail just keeps on getting better and better - Google-turning-evil concerns aside. The new integrated chat works very well. (You may have to pretend to be a yank to get it, though.) One less widget that I need hanging around my desktop. The only thing it's missing is some prominent way of notifying me that someone's trying to message me, but they've done the best they can given the limitations of the browser window, and I'm sure that forthcoming versions of the GMail Notifer will have something.
I've been looking at IRC recently, and it's really nice for techies. I've been using Bersirc as a client and Freenode as a server, and it's dead good. I've had some really useful help with Spring on #spring, and #python is cool too. (Say "Hi" if you are around there - I'm on as "small_values".)
But is it good for non-techies? If not, what should I recommend to her instead? Trillian? Miranda? Using what protocol? ICQ? (Anyone mentioning MSN can bugger off. These people are Buddhists, and need to keep their souls pure.)
My locals. Shocking, the lot of them.
Update: See also Google SMS UK.
The Internet went missing today. It's only just come back - hence no posts today.
I think the sys-admins eventually found it under the sofa.
Update Wednesday 2nd: This was it - Redbus power failure - companies form group to voice concerns.
How do they work out the ranking? Mind reading, that's my theory. They just know what you want. They are that good.
Update: see also The enemy within. ;-)
I've just been flamed by El Presidente for bottom-posting, would you believe!
I did steer him towards Top-posting vs. bottom-posting - or - Microsoft Outlook vs. The Right ThingTM, a good, non-dogmatic, seeing both sides of the argument overview, but he's not having any of it: "personally it irritates, my eye skips backwards and forwards trying to find the pertinent point without having to re read all the text". :-(
Anyway, that's me off down the pub now.
Two weeks? That's evil. Isn't there something in the Geneva Convention about that kind of thing?
Firefox extensions. Geddit? (Whistling wind, tumbleweed.)
There are a few extensions that I'd hate to be without that he doesn't mention:
- Linky allows you to drag-select a bunch of links and open them all at once.
- IE View allows you to open a page or link in IE - dead handy for testing. And like it or not, you have to test with IE.
- Tabbrowser Extensions allows you to drag and drop tags, close loads of tags at once, and quite a few more things. Give it a try.
- Google Bar - a clone of Google's IE toolbar.
That's what I use, but your needs are probably different, so check out all the Firefox Extensions and see what you fancy.
Charles Miller's controlled growth theory is such a brilliant but simple idea that I'm sure it has to be true - in which case, we might see Gmail's doors thrown open to all and sundry any time soon. Still, in the meantime, I have invites if anyone wants one...
BTW, Charles' reply is a scream.
Update: Perhaps the marked isn't as sated as I thought - only one more invite to go...
People have been mentioning del.icio.us, the on-line bookmark manager, on and off for some time, but I've only in the last couple of days got around to giving it a go. It's fabulous! I'll never save bookmarks to my desktop again. It's very simple, but it does everything it needs to do. Give it a go.
I'm not what the general populace calls a hacker (and what we nerds call a cracker). I don't have the skills, and I've never had the inclination.
(I am also not what I'd call a hacker - but I'd like to be.)
I've never had the inclination before, but oh boy, I'd love to take these guys out...
Two and a half years ago, I suggested that my company publish an industry news feed, and build a feed reader into the web applications that we build for our clients. Most of our clients are in a very vertical market, so this could have flown, I thought - we could have delivered useful news, and slipped product release information in there too.
Did my company pick up this idea and run with it? Did they buggery.
Well, it appears that it wasn't such a stupid idea after all. Even Bill Gates thinks that blogs are useful business communication tool now.
This is distinct from the plogging idea I mentioned recently, BTW. Plogging is the use of a blog as an internal communication tool - Gates was talking about using them as external communication tools, too.
Lucky you're not a monk, Mum - A bhikshu who has his private e-mail account with the result that he spends an inordinate amount of time in making unnecessary communications or communications which foster attachment commits an offence for which he must express regret.
Lucky I'm not a monk, too, I suppose. Besides, my existence is monk-like enough as it is. :-(
I'm still on client site, so I missed the warning email. It wasn't until brunningonline.net disappeared that I know there was a problem. Sigh. All OK now, though.
Am I a pedantic arse?
I know I'm abusing it when I use it to hide rude messages in peoples' names, but that's another matter entirely...
poxy proxy server is dead, so we have no Internet access and no external email today. Sigh.
Update: I'm back.
I've had a bit of a play with orkut now, and it's quite interesting. I'm still far from sure where it's all going to go, but there is a lot of potential here.
I think that Sam's right in that orkut is better at providing a framework for existing communities than it is at creating new ones. Similarly, it's not really a way of making new friends; it's just a way of linking to friends you already have.
One thing it would be good for, though, is enabling people to make contact with friends of friends. If I wanted, say, to get in touch with that interesting friend of Steve's that I met in the pub the other night, then orkut could provide a path.
The community forums don't really seem to have taken off. What would you discuss at the Python community forum, for example, that wouldn't be better discussed at c.l.py?
A few gripes:
Why do I have to be someone's friend before I can be their fan? I've put myself down as a friend of Alex Martelli and Steve Holden, for example, though I've met the former once and the latter never at all. I had to do this in order to register myself as a fan.
Also, there aren't enough categories. "Haven't met", "acquaintance", "friend", "good friend" and "best friend" are all very well, but where do I put my mother in there? (Well, out of those options, obviously it's got to be "best friend" - especially since she reads this blog. ;-)
Well, I like to think it doesn't, but one day it might...
OK, OK, perhaps it does. :-(
If your blog had a smell, what would it smell of?
Watch out for this new worm: Mydoom spreading as fast as Sobig.
On the other hand, if it's going to perform a denial of service attack on SCO, I'm tempted to let it in...
And via Ben, the pun of the year (so far) - “And why stop at a knighthood? They should make him an Url.”
I just received a very odd email. Clearly it's a scam of some kind, but I can't work out exactly what's going on.
The mail's "Subject" was "Transaction Receipt (UKCards)", and it claimed to be from "UKCards [firstname.lastname@example.org]". The body of the mail was as follows:
"Please note: All charges to your statement
will appear in the name "UKCARDS LIMITED".
Merchant Name: HUNTINGDON MAIL ORDER
Description: iPod Music Player 40GB
Telephone: 01480 456111
47 Silver Street, London, NW1 5TR
If you have any questions on the delivery
of this order or product details please contact
the merchant directly using the above details."
Needless to say, I've placed no such order. (I only wish I could. Mmmm, iPod.)
Now, no credit card details are mentioned - certainly 'cos they don't have my credit card details. "NW1 5TR" isn't a valid postcode, and there is no Silver Street anywhere in NW1.
Here's the really funny bit - 01480 456111 is the phone number for the Cambridgeshire Constabulary. WTF is going on here?
Update: Bogus Apple iPod spam attempts to launch attack on police phone system, Sophos comments. "On 8 December, police announced that a 21-year-old man has been arrested and released on bail in connection with the incident."
Spam - it's a bad thing. So far, so uncontentious.
The volume of spam that people are receiving these days is such that many are using automated tools to filter it out. Many of the state-of-the-art use Bayesian Filtering to decide if something is spam or not. SpamBayes seems to be one of the most successful at the moment.
In Bayesian Dark Side, Ian Bicking raises an important issue which hadn't occurred to me. An oppressive government could use this technology to control its citizens' access to the 'net. The better spam filters become, the more effective they might be as censorware. And they are getting very good indeed, given the Red Queen style arms race that the spammers and the spam tool writers are engaged in.
This is a great website. It's a recipe database, with superb search facilities.
Via Minnow town.
You can't con an honest man, they say. An avaricious fuckwit, OTOH...
This is the sort of thing that makes generating spam worthwhile. If one recipient in a million falls for it, the spammers are quids in.
Update 17th December: Good God, they got Polly Toynbee now!
Break email altogether! Thank you, Derek Wyatt MP, for showing us just how well informed the UK decision making process is.
Via random stuff.
Norton is sending it to Davy Jones' locker, so I hope everyone updates right smartly.
I spotted Microsoft Press' Writing Secure Code the other day. Yeah, right, I'm sure that's a top seller.
It's one of those moments when one can feel really proud to be British. They seem to be getting rare these days - the last one I can remember was when Gordon Brown wrote off hundreds of millions of Third World debt.
Anyway, Danny O'Brien's coverage is excellent - freeing the bbc.
Sobig is biggest virus of all. Nasty.
I've not had any of these at all. This is odd, 'cos the anti-virus software we use quarantines email viruses, but the emails themselves do get through. I suppose that out security guys must have done something clever with the firewall or something, to strip this virus out before it even hits our email server.
They use Windows to run nuclear power stations? That's insane.
One day, though, WiFi may be free. Charging for online usage would be like charging for salt and pepper.
Is Jail Babes some kind of a joke? It must be, surely?
Via Yorkshire Soul.
Rebecca Blood points out that society has moved from a being an oral society to being a literate one in the (comparatively) recent time. She also suggests that we are now moving towards post-literacy.
This is resulting in Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder. I know exactly what she's talking about here...
The Internet, we all know, is flooding us with information. Rebecca points out that this isn't all bad, but that it's giving us problems with focus.
(Post-literate doesn't mean that we can't or won't read, BTW. Read the article.)
(Also BTW - is Rebecca Blood a real name? It's too good to be true for a goth to be born with 'Blood' for a surname.)
So there's this question "What is required to make a large, long-lived online group successful?" and I think I can now answer with some confidence: "It depends." I'm hoping to flesh that answer out a little bit in the next ten years.
As a participant (to one extent or another) in several online communities, I found this a fascinating read.
Well, I'm with Andy on this one. And there's two of us, and only one of him. Besides, he doesn't even seem to know that 'Internet' should be capitalised! Stupid bastard.
And with arguments like those in our arsenal, the argument is as good as won.
The Google Toolbar 2.0 is in beta. The popup blocker is fab, and I'm sure the 'Blog This' button would be great too, if I were a Blogger user.
But what happened to the info button? Version 1.0 if the toolbar had one, and it allowed quick access to English translations and back references (amongst other things). I miss it!
This is a shame, 'cos I'm sad enough to think that a beer.com address was pretty cool. But it was bouncing mails sent to me, and those that did arrive were not becoming visible for an hour or two. Yahoo, though not cool, works fine.
Anyone had any notable experiences, good or bad, with a free web-based email account?
If I've ever sent you an email from work, you'll have seen the big wodge of cruft at the bottom.
The information in this email is confidential and may be legally
privileged. It is intended solely for the addressee. Access to this
email by anyone else is unauthorised. If you are not the intended
recipient, any disclosure, copying, distribution, or any action taken or
omitted to be taken in reliance on it, is prohibited and may be
unlawful. <My Employer> Ltd. cannot accept liability for statements made
which are clearly the senders own.
This is pretty embarrassing - since this was added, I've posted to c.l.py and the like very much less frequently.
Well, it looks like companies are pretty much obliged to put this stuff in these days - you can't get insurance without it. So it looks like we'll just have to put up with this waste-of-perfectly-good-bandwidth in future. Sigh.
Oh, and the missing apostrophe in "senders" is just the icing on the cake. ;-)
For all your on-line shop search needs - Google's new Froogle service.
So it's not just me, then.
Google News, for all your news gathering needs. What more is there to say?
It's the 20th anniversary if the first smiley next Thursday.
International Smiley Day. I like it.
Via The Register.
It's a good thang that I don't have any good ideas, isn't it.
The Yanks are up in arms about it, naturally. "Other nations shouldn't be allowed to impose their laws on our citizens! Only we should be able to do that sort of thing!"
More light than heat at Slashdot, for a change.
This one is good, too.
But don't look at this one. Trust me, you don't want to see it.
I'm the top Simon Brunning. But then I'm the only Simon Brunning, so that isn't saying much. I don't show up under Simon at all, so far as I can see. But there are over four million hits - I'm probably in there somewhere.
It's, er, a history of teapots. No, really.
Safe for work. Very safe for work.
Palladium is Microsoft's attempt to gain full control for once and for all.
Amongst other things "Palladium won't run unauthorized programs". And Microsoft get to decide which programs are authorized. Yeah, right.
"However, the number of pages in an index is only one indicator of a search engine's power. Others include how often it is updated, how easy it is to use and how quickly its results are generated", they say. Even more important, I think, is how good the links are. From Google you get quality rather than quantity - the link that I want is usually on the first page.
Besides, AlltheWeb doesn't support Elmer Fudd.
Sick, sick, sick.
A new version of Duncan Grisby's CORBA ORB for C++ and Python, omniORB, has been released.
Try Battlefield God and find out.
I took two hits, and bit no bullets.
There are some other philosophical games here too.
Check out some of Google's new toys.
Pretty cool, most of them. But Voice Search? Why?
Update: Ha! Beat them to it! BTW, don't expect quick responses from Google's lab machines for a while.
What an excellent pub guide!
Combine with CurryPages, and all your evening planning needs are catered for.
Also check out the pulling guide. I follow the Nik and James technique myself.
They have nerdyness in common, I suppose, but other than that, they are pretty varied.
Quite how they thought they could improve upon Google, I can't imagine. Still, it's only money. Our money, that is.