Curiouser and curiouser!

 24 September 2003

9:08:52 AM     : The road to hell

How the protection of law was lost is a fascinating piece about the state of the modern American justice system.  It begins with a consideration of the impact of Sarbanes-Oxley and a brief history of how previous attempts at financial regulation have lead to this point.  As the article says:

Reformers assume that rules can substitute for character, and they ignore the unintended incentives created by rule making.

which could be read as the more familiar:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The article then delves into the thoroughly murky world of justice US style.  Some highlights:

The congressional delegation of lawmaking power to regulatory agencies.  Delegation combined statutory authority and enforcement authority in the same hands. The bureaucrats’ ability to define criminal offenses by their interpretation of the regulations that they write gives regulatory police vast discretion. A cooperative "offender" may get off with a civil penalty, whereas a person who sticks up for his rights or a person who presents a high profile opportunity to an ambitious prosecutor may receive a criminal indictment. The bureaucrats’ ability to create criminal offenses spontaneously by interpretation makes law uncertain and incapable of fulfilling its purpose of commanding what is right and prohibiting what is wrong.


Plea bargains have corrupted the justice system by creating fictional crimes in place of real ones. The practice of having people admit to what did not happen in order to avoid charges for what did happen, or is alleged to have happened, creates a legal culture that elevates fiction over truth. By making the facts of the case malleable, plea bargains enable prosecutors to supplement weak evidence with psychological pressure. Prosecutors pile on charges, as in the Mike Milken case, until the defendant or his lawyers throw in the towel. Many innocent people cop a plea just to end their ordeal.


In our book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, Larry Stratton and I devote a chapter to asset confiscations. I have not kept up with forfeiture since the book was published in 2000. According to the latest information we had at that time, the 1984 forfeiture provision, which targeted drug trafficking, had been expanded to cover 140 other federal criminal offenses. Scores of similar state and local forfeiture laws have been added to the books. According to former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, Florida, Texas and other states permit civil forfeiture for any criminal activity. New Jersey allows forfeiture for any alleged criminal activity.

The innocent owner’s defense is extremely weak. Police and prosecutors have taken advantage of it. Levy reports that in 80% of forfeiture cases no charges are filed against owners of confiscated property (Levy, 1996). In other words, the confiscations acknowledge that the owners whose properties were seized are innocent of the alleged criminal activity for which their property was confiscated. As Rep. Hyde said, Americans face "endless possibilities to be caught in the snare of government forfeiture" (Hyde, 1995, 10).

The Patriot Act and follow-up proposals are destroying habeas corpus and permitting warrentless searches and spying. Supposedly, these police state measures are directed toward terrorists, but they are certain to expand, just as asset freezes and forfeitures expanded. On May 21 of this year the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department acknowledged in a 60-page report to the House Judiciary Committee that it has used many of the anti-terrorism powers granted in the wake of September 11 to pursue defendants for crimes unrelated to terrorism, including drug violations, credit card fraud and bank theft. Some people say police and prosecutors will protect the innocent by exercising careful discretion. If asset forfeiture is the example of police discretion, 80% of those incarcerated under the new anti-terror laws will be innocent.

I think that you'll find the whole thing worth reading and encourage you to do so (especially if you live in the US).

 23 September 2003

11:29:50 PM     : Picking out the gems

Adding Waypath Referencing to My Weblog.

Summary: A chance to scan weblogs that also deal with the same topic? Useful, helpful, even to the writer who in some real sense discovers the subject after having completed the effort. But useful, certainly, to the reader who found the blog entry through, say, Google, and then has some Waypath located blogs to follow.

Lilia got Waypath to work for her.

Waypath plug-in installed.

I wrote earlier about Waypath Radio plug-in, but didn't have time to install it. I did it today - check my homepage to see how it works (I'd like to play a bit more with styling, but this is for another time).

Let's see if it survives in my templates :)


If you see some links below... then it will have worked for me too. ;o]} [Connectivity: Spike Hall's RU Weblog]

Waypath looks interesting.  They claim to have over 8 million posts in their database which is a lot.  It'll be interesting to see how this develops and how often  they pick out the gems from among that lot :-)

11:10:10 PM     : Left of Gandhi

On the politcal compass I score -6.00 (economic scale) and -5.69 (authoritarian/libertarian scale). This puts me a little to the left of Gandhi, a man who once said:

"Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man."

I'm happy with that. Which reminds me, I saw the movie again recently. It's sad to think of his vision and see where the world is today.

[Politcal compass via]

9:50:32 PM     : Calling all lexicographers!

If anyone has any contacts in their local lexicography department please drop me a line.  I'm really interested in talking to people who do text analysis because they love it! :-)

9:33:41 PM     : A journey with Phil

So, I don't have the patience to do a complete re-write but here is a recap of some of the highlights of my conversation with Phil.

Obviously, since we were using it, we talked about Skype (i'm pronouncing it 'sky'-'p'). I guess I'm both impressed and frustrated in equal measure. Most of the time (we were talking for hours, god knows what state Phil was in the next day) the quality was good, but it did crap out on us quite a bit. It definitely needs a cell-phone style signal meter. We even mused that, since Skype knows your address it could tap into the Internet Weather Report to tell you what sort of call to expect!

We talked about the possible applications for a good, free, VOIP client and there are many. One in particular appeals to me and that is seeing Skype support bundled with the software I buy. What I want is that when I need to contact a vendor I can press a Skype me button. This lets them know that a CSA or Techie should get in touch with me. It's convenient for me because it means that I will be at the computer when they call. The win for the vendor is that they only need to call when they see me online and the cost is significantly cheaper than how they do this today. (As an example, doing webcallback via Netcall means the vendor has to pay for 2 PSTN calls. One from the Netcall server to the CSA and one from the Netcall server to the customer. Then they have to pay Netcall to manage it all as well. Gets expensive).

Phil and I are both lefties so we rapped about the war, Bush and the Dean campaign. It's incredibly for a guy that seemed such an outside 12 months ago that if you search for Howard on Google, Dean for America is no. #2. What is particularly impressive is the way the Dean campaign have leveraged their digital savvy into on the ground support. Would that any UK politician had the same nouse. I can't imagine being so impressed with any MP I have come across that i'd actually go talk about them. I would love to feel differently though!

I gave Phil a quick head's up on the work we are doing with K-Collector/W4, he hadn't seen it since BlogTalk (it seems so long ago now...) and we've put a lot of effort in since then.  We also talked about what's needed to get corporates into blogging.

Oh he put me onto Ruled Brittania (by Harry Turtledove) which is an alternate reality novel set in an England conquered by Spain.  I'm a complete sucker for this stuff so that went straight onto my wishlist.  In return I suggested Fatherland (by Robert Harris) a detective thriller set in a victorious post WW II Germany and The Man in the High Castle (by Philip K. Dick and personal favourite of mine) set in an America split down the middle by Germany and Japan.

There was lots more but I'm running out of steam...

9:26:47 PM     : Forms and XML

One of the projects I am involved with at the moment involves a large scale application of forms, XML and document management.  We're looking at using Adobe Forms as the front-end technology and hoping to have them produce XML (although it remains to be seen if this will be possible in the pilot timescale).

Today I started playing with XML Schema in anger.  Since I don't want to edit by hand I am testing tools for both schema and general document editing.  Currently I am evaluating Tibco's Turbo XML.  It seems quite capable if a little clunky.  Does anyone have any opinions?  Or recomendations of tools they like?

Even though the client has OpenText Livelink we're taking a good look at XML storage.  In particular Sleepy Cat's DB XML seems to have a lot going for it.  Native XML storage and query has a lot of attractive possibilities.

More later.

8:52:14 PM     : The peril of the browser

I just wrote an account on the mammoth conversation Phil Wolff and I had yesterday via Skype.  Foolishly I clicked on the FAQ button in Skype to figure out how to write the callme:// URL and, in that moment, my lovingly crafted prose disappeared, never to return.  GAAAAHHHHHH!

8:13:20 PM     : For a brighter outlook, go elsewhere

Why is it that within 10 minutes of starting Outlook (2002) I have 5 outlook.exe processes consuming a total of 124Mb of memory?

 22 September 2003

10:33:42 AM     : eBay - no way

eBay to Feds: come and get what you want. 'Our Privacy Policy has been enhanced to remove your Privacy' [The Register]

I've purchased from eBay once.  Ultimately it wasn't a terribly satisfying experience and I haven't been back.  Reading this means that I will never go back.  I'm not looking for companies to shield villains but this goes too far.  If law enforcement have a case they should have a court order.  Any company that has so little respect for my privacy doesn't deserve my business.


 19 September 2003

9:17:22 PM     : Whose the nimrod now?

Following up on my previous post about MSN messenger and Trillian it looks like I was wrong which, I guess, makes me the nimrod in this case.

If Microsoft are providing a way for any client to integrate properly with the MSN infrastructure and simply charging users for using their infrastructure then I have no complaint (provided the charge is reasonable).  As to the argument about it being free using MSN but not free using a 3rd party client well I guess Microsoft must be getting something back by users using the MSN client.

In this light Microsoft's approach seems better than that of either Yahoo or AOL who both seem intent on destroying the idea of vendor neutral IM.

6:06:12 PM     : Verislime fight back?

Verisign backlash gathers force. All your Web typos aren't belong to us [The Register]

Hmm... I tried to sign the petition.  When I approved my signature I got a 404 "Cannot find server or DNS error."

Are Verislime fighting back?


5:52:44 PM     : Nimrods ye are

Dan Shafer calls us "nimrods" for turning off his IM client. Well, the way I look at it is we're still a business. Our bandwidth costs us money. Our servers, and their upkeep, costs us money. My salary costs Microsoft money. Our shareholders demand that we return a profit (so much so that one shareholder recently asked us to stop giving money to charity -- I'll come back to that in a minute).

Plus, we're making our service more secure and it does more now than it ever did before and now we'd like to start selling our IM infrastructure to third parties. Seems to me that's fair. Dan, do you work for free? How about you send me your latest books for free? Or, even better yet, what would your publisher say if I went to Borders, bought a book of yours, then retyped it and put it onto the Internet for all my readers to use for free?

As to charity, one of our shareholders wants us to be forbidden to spend any money on charity. That's just plain bad business. Why? Because it makes me feel good as a Microsoft employee that Microsoft is one of the world's largest charitable givers -- it's a major reason that Microsoft has one of industry's lowest turnover rates. It also improves our brand's reputation (which does need all the help it can get). It also lets us invest in growing areas like education that can't afford the latest technology. That lets us learn best practices that we can incorporate into our products.

[The Scobleizer Weblog]

No you're nimrods.

You're trying to defend cutting off the oxygen to vendor neutral IM.   I'd think the same if I found that my next Outlook upgrade suddenly meant I could only email other Outlook users.

I'll be boycotting MSN from October until a work-around is found.  Of course you could save me this bother and just make your damn software interoperable!

2:25:11 PM     : Boycotting Y! and MSN

Yahoo to Lock out Trillian. Yahoo makes a fatal blunder in following Microsoft to lock out Trillian users. Yahoo is responding to its current competitive definitions rather that thinking forward strategically. Trillians error is just the type of strategy advice I was given yesterday. [Unbound Spiral]

This sucks.

Yahoo! and MSN both blocking 3rd party clients?  Unless Cerulean Studios can work around this as they have before then I shall be boycotting both those networks from Sep 24th and Oct 15th respectively.

 17 September 2003

2:35:00 PM     : Too many social networks spoil something or other...

I am still trying to wrap my head around how to turn FOAF (Friend of a Friend) into a viral tool that can compete with Friendster (Paljunction is another one). Others are thinking about this too. The objective would be to keep the FOAF info open and let mulitple companies compete for the interface. Eventually, however, I suspect that the IM players are going to absorb this functionality and blow away all of the Web interface players, so if we can get the data in an open format, we can get interoperability. [John Robb's Weblog]

One way to tell when the market has reached saturation - all the good names are gone.  I mean Paljunction?  Come on...

2:32:15 PM     : Skype not 1.0 yet


Just got Skype. Try Skyping me using the Skype button under my portrait. There has been some problem finding people so Skype might be mostly hype. It's VoIP technology might be up to snuff, but it sure is difficult finding anyone to talk to. If situation doesn't change, it's being uninstalled after a few days. Yipes!

[Don Park's Daily Habit]

The idea of being able to say "hello" to Don was enough to make me install Skype.  Sadly I had no more luck than the other people who tried.  I could never find Don let alone be told he wasn't online...  Looks like they meant it when they said beta.  Uninstalled.

Paolo and I have been using iChatAV.  This too is proper beta software (I find it locks the Mac solid when you attempt a second chat session without rebooting).  When it works though the quality though is awesome.

On the PC I have found TeleSyms Symphone client to provide excellent voice over IP (they can also do integration with PSTN) but not it's not free.  If Skype 1.0 works properly and provides good quality then it will make a great alternative to iChat AV for Windows conversations.

2:06:37 PM     : Patenting over our right of way


Tim Bray confesses about having two patents in the pipeline and goes on to talk about software patents. I also have a couple of security-related patents in the pipeline. To me, it's not the software patents but patents that violate public's right of passage.

GIF patent was legit but Unisys was standing there and charging toll on what most of us considered public road. What is public road and what is not? The distinction is simple. If your enforcement of the patent hurts your public relations more than it adds to your bottomline, then you are standing on a public road.

To be more precise, if your patent gives your solution advantages in quality of service, then it's legit. But if your patent leads to the only solution, then you are a troll. If your patented formula makes cars go faster, I am fine with that. If you patented the idea of automobiles, I am not all right with that and all for public's right to steamroll over such patents.

My justification is this. Since patent laws can be changed or even banished by the people, the people has the right to selectively change or banish any specific patent it chooses. Implementation is problematic, but the principle is sound IMHO.

[Don Park's Daily Habit]

Don's really captured my feelings on patents.

It's like toll-roads over here.  In principle I'm okay with private money being used to build toll-roads to relieve congested public roads.  On the other hand if it was suggested that a toll-road be the only way to get from A to B then I'd have a big problem with that (like for example what happened on the Isle of Skye).

So it is with patents.

A few days ago Simon Phipps was talking about the problem of patents retroactively breaking established standards (in the light of the EOLAS patent dispute).  As Don says the issue of implemting a sensible approach to overriding patents is complex, but I think it's necessary if we are to keep building.

The case in Europe doesn't look great.  It seems the vested interests are wielding their mighty chequebooks as effectively over here as they do in Washington.

1:38:54 PM     : Boycott verislime

VeriSign Wildcard.

This article provides a pretty good summary of the issues around VeriSign's recent action to take over all unassigned domains in .com and .net.

VeriSign redirects error pages

Criticism is quickly growing over VeriSign's surprise decision to take control of all unassigned .com and .net domain names, a move that has wreaked havoc on many e-mail utilities and antispam filters.
[High Context]

Okay another company makes the list.  Verisign, Symantec.  Any more?

10:10:45 AM     : XPath-searchable blog

Kimbro Staken's XPath-searchable blog. Kimbro Staken's new blog software, built on top of Sleepycat's Berkeley DB XML, echoes a theme I've been working with myself for a while. A collection of well-formed weblog entries is, implicitly, an XML database whose contents can be searched and intelligently recombined. I've been toying with a simple file-based solution that creates an XPath search interface to my blog content. Kimbro's approach takes the next step:
Now the really interesting feature of this system is that it's really an XML database Web Service. I exposed an XPath query facility through the URL so that the database can be queried via HTTP GET. [Inspirational Technology]
... [Jon's Radio]

Funky (in a good way)!

9:57:23 AM     : Breaking the conspicuocity threshold

Never That Bad. It's never that bad.



Despite the fact that if we declare the following variables:

N = Number of friends/family who say "relax, you'll be fine."

I = Importance of outcome

P = Perceived chance of failure (between 0 and 1)

C = Perceived complexity of task. (orthogonal to 'P', where 0 is understanding men and 1 is understanding women)

S = Overall stress level

T = Time 'til "doomsday" (i.e. the time at which the task is either scheduled or deadlined)

that Stress (S) can be derived as follows:

S = ((I /P)^(N /C))/T

Note that "actual difficulty of task" doesn't enter in to it.

Broken down into normal language it goes something like this:

I (how important it is to succeed) divided by P (a fractional chance of failure as perceived by the person in question) is what I'll call the Retard Fraction. The more important something is, and/or the less likely you believe you are to succeed, the more retarded you're going to be about handling the situation. The Retard Fraction measures your own inability to look in the mirror HAVING failed. "I need this" divided by "I can't do this" well... you can only get so screwed up about that post-hoc. However, "I need this" divided by "I've done it 1000 times, what's 1001" yield a mirror-smashing session upon failure.

But that's just a base number. Raise this to the power of the Conspicuocity Threshold; which is defined by the number of people who tell you "ah, it's no big deal" divided by how complex you believe the task itself to be. The Conspicuocity Threshold measure how much of an ASS (that's not a TLA, I really mean ass) you think you'll look like if you fail. For instance, if 100 people "ah, you'll be fine" you, and you estimate the complexity of the task at 0, then you will look like (100/0) a perfect asshole if you fail, to all 100 people, and beyond. What is interesting is that the Conspicuocity Threshold, on success, is precisely equivalent to The Duh factor: The vehemence and projection of voice used to express "Well duh, of course I did it. What was the big deal anyway?"

This gives you your base stress level. Divide the base stress level by the number of seconds until Doomsday and you have your "Stress" at any point in time.

Of course, this is a dramatic oversimplification. In truth the function cannot be so simply isolated from parallel stress (the Advanced Correlative Stress Matrix). The fully-expressed function is also fractal in that Base Stress is used in determining Perceived Chance of Failure (P) and Perceived Complexity of Task (C) (two related but not equivalent numbers) for successive points in time series.

Again. Note that the ACTUAL difficulty of the task or your REAL aptitude at completing it do not enter into the equation at all.

For instance: Taking a driving test at 34, having driven for something distressingly close to 20 years.

Well DUH. What's the big deal anyway? [The Universal Church Of Cosmic Uncertainty]

I feel sure that this theorem will prove invaluable in daily life.

 15 September 2003

10:25:14 AM     : Mediaevil

Williams sister killing: Man held. A 24-year-old man is arrested in connection with the murder of a sister of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. [BBC News | World | UK Edition]

This item bothered me because they don't even give the poor girls name!  She's just "sister of tennis stars Venus and Serena."  What a fate.

10:17:35 AM     : Relationships are multi-valent

Granularities of relationships.

September 14, 2003

Codifying Relationships
  - Posted by Liz Lawley at 2:22 PM

One of the problems that plagues the “YASNSes” (as Clay calls the growing number of social networking systems) is how to define or codify relationships.

On the one hand, trying to make all relationships equal and bidirectional, as Friendster and LinkedIn currently do, is clearly problematic. As I wrote on Joi Ito’s LinkedIn wiki page:

I’d also like to be able to differentiate between (at the minimum) two types of contacts—those whom I’m willing to receive referrals from, and those whom I’m willing to have make referrals on my behalf. There are far more in the first category than the second. I’m more than happy, for example, to have Meg Hourihan or Anil Dash send someone to me. But since I don’t have extensive working relationships with either one, I’m not sure I’d want them to be the first line of introduction for me to someone else—for that, I’d be more comfortable with someone like Joi or Clay Shirky or someone I’ve worked more closely with.

But today I was playing with a pre-alpha version of a new system that does in fact allow me to define types of relationships, and as others have pointed out, that has its own set of problems. In the system I was looking at, I was given the following options:

  • I am a close friend of this person
  • I am a friend of this person
  • I am an acquaintance of this person
  • I know this person (by reputation)
  • I know this person (in passing)
  • I am related to this person
  • I would like to know this person

I was trying to categorize my relationship to another system user, a well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur. I’ve met the person at a party, and had a brief conversation, but I have no idea if the person remembers me. I’d like to get to know the person better. So…I might be “an acquaintance,” I do “know the person in passing,” I definitely “know the person by reputation,” and “I would like to know this person” better. What do I choose? (I ended up giving up, btw, and not choosing anything.)

This is where David Weinberger’s concerns about making the implicit explicit become most relevant for me. Relationships are complicated. Expressing them algorithmically is terrifically difficult. Reducing the complexity takes something important way from the relationship. And forcing users into these choices without a clear and compelling payoff for doing so (payoff for the users, that is…clearly the marketers and demographers get a payoff!) seems doomed to failure. [Many-to-Many]

Marc's response to Liz's post............

My bet is that there WILL be a way to algorithmically express dynamic - changing relationships.  Afterall - that's what real life is.

Dynamic, adaptive user experiences are where it's at.

I also bet that this new system Liz is talking about will be able to handle OTHER kinds of challenges presented to the social networking world - like "why would I want someone to link to my FOAF file?" or "what I show to a stranger should be different than what I show to a close friend." 

I also have it from a very good source, that this un-named new pre-alpha system will attempt to grapple perhaps the BIGGEST challenge of them all: "how do we inter-connect and share social networks BETWEEN disparate social networks"?  You have to imagine aggregating people together, but if 'someone' could do it - that would be totally cool.

[Marc's Voice]

I've thought about this a little and I think the problem here is that the current approaches only tackle half the problem.

It is reasonable to expect that being able to define a relationship in more accurate terms than the simple "friend" is a good thing.  Yet in Liz' case the increase in granularity lead to hieghtened indecision and ultimately an inability to make a choice.  We know granularity is important, yet further increasing it will lead to more indecision, not less.

My take is that the missing piece is a recognition that relationships are multi-valent.  From such a viewpoint statements like:

  • I know this person (by reputation)
  • I would like to know this person

do not define a relationship, but name some of it's many characteristics.  Being able to choose many of these statements (and you could expand the list of statements considerably) allows you to provide depth and, where necessary, inconsistency to how you view the relationship at that time.

 14 September 2003

11:59:41 AM     : The biran is wnurdeofl tnhig

Reading Fact I Didn't Know.

I didn't know this until Corinne forwarded it to me. Interesting that you can't really question whether or not it's true, since it proves itself.

Aoccdrnig to rareasch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is that the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a

... [TruerWords]

Cool.  I wonder how it works.

 11 September 2003

9:49:36 AM     : More silly money

Insurers sue '9/11 plotters'. Insurers in the United States claim billions of dollars from dozens of defendants for the 11 September 2001 attacks. [BBC News | World | UK Edition]

According to this article the insurers have paid out $4bn.  So, then, why are they claiming $300bn?

 10 September 2003

12:26:49 PM     : The RIAA's absurb numbers

RIAA "settles" with 12-year girl. For a $2000 fine, the RIAA will drop charges against the family of a 12-year old girl living in a... [BookBlog]

I think that part of the problem is the absurb penalty for each infraction - $150,000 per song.   Where the hell do they get a number like this from?  If the RIAA can threaten you with potential fines in the millions they really have a huge and unreasonable weapon to extort any deal they want.

If the penalty was more like $2 per infringement (that is each proven event of a track shared with another user) and they had to prove the number of infrignements (which only seems fair & legal) then I think the landscape would be different.

 05 September 2003

5:43:56 PM     : No sanity for the DMCA

Garage door makers battle over DMCA. Open and shut case [The Register]

Quoting from the above:

Can you imagine a world where every electronic item you possess would legally have to be accessed using a piece of equipment from a particular manufacturer? Well, you nearly had to.

There is some sanity in the world then. ®

You know I kind of wish they there hadn't been.  I wish the judge had upheld the DMCA and established this precedent.  Let people live with for a while with the consequences of allowing corrupt or inept politicians to pass such laws.

Maybe then the whole of the DMCA could be addressed (and the issue of patents along with it)?

3:13:53 PM     : The Lost Generation

The Lost Generation - Middle class Kids. Stuart sent me this. It is the best piece I have seen yet on why so many of our kids are in trouble [Robert Paterson's Radio Weblog]

Very interesting.  I don't have children so I have no genuine frame of reference but what I read here seems worthy of serious consideration to me.

1:29:35 PM     : As ye sow...

US 'offers UN greater Iraq role'. President Bush is ready to cede some power in Iraq in exchange for more troops from other countries. [BBC News | World | UK Edition]

1:12:30 PM     : Gimme the money

$6bn seized in global drugs raids. Police investigating Colombian drug traffickers find cash, drugs and bonds worth up to $6bn in London. [BBC News | World | UK Edition]

It remains to be seen whether these bonds are genuine but if they are then the question becomes; Who gets to spend them?

11:40:17 AM     : Aggregator as hub

Intranet aggregators. I spent most of the week visiting small and large companies. The more I talk with "real people working in real companies" (meaning: not nerds spending their whole days hacking), the more convinced I am that a news aggregator is the ideal center for any Intranet.

The basic idea is merge to the same server contents coming from:

  • internal sources (accounting, trouble ticketing, exiting document management applications, other data bases: we should be able to get a feed from any internal app)
  • k-logs (every member of the group has one)
  • external news sources (general news, weblogs, specialized sources, scraped pages)

The output of the aggregator should be both html that people can browser with their browser and more feeds which could end up in personal aggregators or funneled in other applications.

Centralized aggregators should not necessarily mean that every user has to read all feeds. There should be both the kind of personalization allowed by personal aggregators (deciding which feeds to subscribe to) but also added vaue services that would allow users to discover additional sources of information and anyway give different relevance to different kind of information snippets that are displayed on the page.
[Paolo Valdemarin: Paolo's Weblog]

Paolo has put it succinctly. The aggregator becomes the organisational hub gathering information from all sources and using personalisation and intelligence to filter & recombine information in useful ways before presenting it either as views or as feeds for other consumers.

 04 September 2003

8:57:21 PM     : Don't start with me

Thanks to Don for blogging his discovery of jusched.exe running on his system. I've just disabled that and a few other applications that have kindly been installed for me.  I should probably install Mike Lin's StartupMonitor to prevent further unwanted guests.

 03 September 2003

11:10:18 AM     : Goddamn Microsoft crap!

Damnit I had to go and say I was happy didn't I?!?

So this morning my laptop won't connect to anything.  The setup looks fine, I can ping okay but no DNS resolution.  So I fiddle about disconnecting things from the router, hard coding the DNS server that kind of stuff.

Then I notice that ping is displaying odd non-ascii characters instead of the name, and a little bit later DHCP stops working.  It won't assign the address.  I can't get host names and ipconfig is telling me unpleasant stories about how things aren't sockets any more.

Of course my little Mac is fine.

It kinda spiralled downwards from there.  I tried various fixes (including the netsh TCP/IP reset trick) all to no available.

Last night perfect working laptop.  This morning broken laptop.  What did I change?  I plugged it into the dock this morning.

To be fair to Microsoft when, in desparation, I tried their system restore tool it did work.  I've lost some installed applications (but not data) and configuration but TCP/IP is back.

However not wishing to be too fair I would estimate that M$ have cost me 3 days of lost productivity just over the last week with having to reinstall and then another 2 hours this morning trying to debug this fscking problem.

You better believe I will be buying a Mac next time around.

 02 September 2003

11:46:36 PM     : Ted Nelson at Hypertext 2003

Ted Nelson @ Hypertext 2003. Here in Nottingham at Hypertext '03.  Ted Nelson is up to talk about the computer science's obsession with emulating paper and hierarchies.

  • "you should only have to type in a thing once" -- easy record keeping, nothing lost
  • Driven by overlapping categories. How to represent variations on bull fighting (mex, span, mycean)?
  • Why can't you trasnclude texts like images in www? But you can with external script files and document.write.
  • And the payoff, - a mozilla based attempt to enable arbitrary content level linking.
  • transclusion is every santa claus at xmas times sharing knowledge


I've always had a soft spot for Ted.  I'd love to see him speak.

11:18:13 PM     : Casting some light on XPath

Lantern illuminates XPath. Lantern is a tool for visualizing the results of XPath queries. This looks more functional than XPath Explorer, which is what I've been using. [Ted Leung on the air]

Lantern looks like a really useful tool.

11:09:35 PM     : It's not quite a PowerBook but...

I've been offline for a few days rebuilding my laptop.  I'm now back up and running with about 5% of the installed software, a registry a good deal smaller than 80Mb and a new copy of McAfee virus scan doing duty scanning my files & email.

Even if it may not have turned my laptop into a PowerBook I'm a good deal happier now.