Curiouser and curiouser!

 26 July 2004

8:12:06 AM     : Greater love hath no man than this

I don't cry often but I did trying to read all of these.

 25 July 2004

4:58:46 PM     : Atom test-drive

I was just chatting with Ken MacLeod in #atom, he was helping me with the Atom API, and we got chatting about Test Driven Development as well.  I've gotten into this recently, prompted by Don Park's recent experiences.  It's a bit of a mind wrench, frankly, but TDD: A Practical Guide by David Astels is a good introduction (although Kent Beck's book is good for a general introduction & advocacy I find David's book better for actually teaching you how to do it, e.g. how to do TDD when writing GUI code and so on).  Ken is far more knowledgable than me by the sounds of it and has a good deal more mental flexibility. He's between engagements right now so if you're looking for a developer for a small project check him out. 

 22 July 2004

11:29:52 AM     : Music biz flips out

Listen to the flip side. Finally, my article for The Guardian sees the light of day! W00t!! Thanks to everyone who helped me out with it, particularly Jaime, whom I owe a really big drink next time I am in London.

Right, better go out and buy up all the copies from the local newsagent then! [Chocolate and Vodka]

Congratulations to Suw for getting her piece on the impact of file sharing on CD sales published in the Guardian.

 10 July 2004

10:39:37 AM     : Commenting on the comments

I have had a couple of comments to my last post on comments. I accept the points raised but wanted to point out that what I describe in that post is only 1 dimension of what is wrong with comments/trackbacks today. There are at least two more.  I just wanted to get that analogy down while I could think of it.

The problems with comments/trackback are soluable and, through these solutions, I believe we would end up with a better infrastructure for the blogosphere than the one we have now.

 09 July 2004

9:09:05 AM     : The Horrors of War

Russian soldier Vasily Mishnin writes to his pregnant wife:

We go to the depot to get our rifles. Good Lord, what’s all this? They’re covered in blood, black clotted lumps of it are hanging off them. . . . It is frightening even to sit or lie down here – the rifle is shaking in my hands. My hand comes down on something black: it turns out there are corpses here that haven’t been cleared away. My hair stands on end. I have to sit down. There is no point in staring into the distance – it is pitch dark. All I can feel is fear. I am so frightened of the shells that I want the ground to open up and swallow me. . . . Suddenly a screeching noise pierces the air, I feel a pang in my heart, something whistles past and explodes nearby. My dear Lord, I am so frightened – and I hear this buzzing in my ears. I leave my post and climb into my dugout. It is packed, everyone is shaking and asking again and again, "What’s going on? What’s going on?" One explosion follows another, and another. Two lads are running, shouting our for nurses. They are covered in blood. It is running down their cheeks and hands, and something else is dripping from underneath their bandages. They’re soon dead, shot to pieces. There is screaming, yelling, the earth is shaking from artillery fire and our dugout is rocking from side to side like a boat. . . . Our eyes are full of tears, we wipe them away, but they just keep coming because the shells are full of gas. We are terrified. . . . We will probably never see each other again – all it takes is an instant and I will be no more – and perhaps no one will be able to gather the scattered pieces of my body for burial. . . . A zeppelin attacked Ostrow in the night and dropped a few bombs, many killed. One woman and her two kids got blown to pieces that blew away in the wind.

To get a war to work – to get men to kill other men that have never aggressed against them and that they don’t even know – the state must do two things: convince men to love the state and to hate the members of other states. The first is always cloaked in patriotism, and leads to an acceptance of interventionism. The second is always cloaked in nationalism, and leads to hatred toward foreigners within one’s country.

[The Horrors of War from]

 07 July 2004

9:07:50 PM     : Do it in your own backyard

I thought it would be useful for me to jot down some of my thoughts about dropping comments & trackback while I can still remember them. I used to think that comments & trackbacks as they exist in todays weblogs were a good idea. Mark's keynote at BlogTalk 2.0 and our subsequent conversations have converted me to his way of thinking.

Here is my best anology (so far) for understanding the situation as it is today:

Imagine that you really don't like me. One evening you get mad at me and drive over to my house where you daub the message "Matt Mower is a total asshole" in bright yellow paint on my walls for everyone to see.

The next day I start in horror on seeing this and spend the morning cleaning it off. You may not have signed your work which is lucky for you because I spend the afternoon driving round town with my paintball gun looking to get even. After you've done this a few times I get the message and protect my walls so that nobody can write on them.

But you're not done yet. Since you can't deface my walls any more you go around the neighbourhood painting your message on other peoples walls whether they agree with your message or not. There's not much I can do about it, I probably can't even help them scrub their own walls. The neighbourhood becomes divided over the issue and heated and pointless arguments break out all around.

Note that you haven't daubed your own walls with your message of hate. I think it would be very different if that was what you had to do. I think the inevitable consequence of that would be that you would have to learn to be more moderate or people would stop coming by.

Our comments form part of the overall picture of what sort of person we seem to be. But our comments are dispersed over the many sites we visit. One here, one there, dotted about. Even though they may bear our name the association is made weaker by their not being collected under it and taken together.

If all our comments appeared in one place (our blog) we couldn't so easily escape from them. They would take their place as part of our whole online persona. Anyone whose blog consisted entirely of vitriol and hatred would probably end up ostrasized. But it would be our choice.

Note that I'm not talking about restricting free speech. If people wanted to go visit such sites and read what was said there, that's fine.  Even if it's about me. If people think something is fair comment, they can quote it just like always. But the point is that it's in their back yard, not in mine (nor spread - unwittingly - around the neighbourhood) and that they have to take action to do so. Unfair and unsupported comment will stay where it belongs, hung around the neck of it's author.

 06 July 2004

2:10:30 PM     : Visualizing concepts in weblogs

Anjo Anjewierden & Lilia are demonstrating a very interesting tool for visualizing conceptual relationships within weblogs.  It uses technology similar, but more advanced, to K-Collector for analyzing the content of weblog posts and drawing out concepts which can be analyzed and displayed as a network so that you can explore the relationships.  It also allows comparison of terms between different weblogs.

Very intriguing!

11:17:51 AM     : Lee Bryant on weblogs to build communities where people help each

Lee Bryant is giving what I think is the best presentation of this conference.  Plenty of real, credible, user experience being presented to demonstrate some powerful points.  I'm really pleased we have Lee involved with STES next week.  The event is going to be very conversational in nature (think Late Night with Letterman) so we'll have a great opportunity to dive into the details.

 05 July 2004

11:15:06 PM     :

In BlogTalk 2.0 Thomas & crew have, once again, brought together a lot of interesting people & wherever possible conversations are flourishing as evidenced by tonights get together. It was good to meet Phil again after a year and to meet Mikel for the first time, especially as his talk prompted lots of interesting ideas we might look at for K-Collector. After a day where I had felt very tired and jaded I found the atmosphere quite reviving.

I had the pleasure of dining with Paolo, Mark Bernstein, Stephanie Hendrick, and Therese Örnberg. Mark gave a very interesting keynote this morning which provoked lots of questions for me. Stephanie & Therese gave, I think, the most stylish presentation of the day (including an amusing near-death audioblog to end) and their discussion of presence and spaces was stimulating. From my perspective a happy coincidence that we all ended up together. We had an interesting discussion about a range of topics spanning language, blogging, literary discourse, topics, flame wars, comments & trackbacks, software tools and how you build them, tinderbox, Dave Allen, and test first development.

Taking antibiotics means I cannot drink alchohol so my opinions whilst maybe better formed were far less robust than usual & I was open to colonization ;-) I got persuaded that comments are bad and that even trackback requires considerable architectural revision to work properly. Mark's suggestion of making trackback default to being private (i.e. you get a file of trackbacks and you decide what, if anything, to do with them) seems to be a good one. I think this can be assisted by some sort of intelligent filtering of trackback contents & authorship to help you decide about those you do & don't want to handle. I think emulating the LinkedIn FOAFOAFOAFOAF network model could be useful in this regard.

Also, based on comments by Stephanie and Mark, I have finally concluded that I must do something in K-Collector for the Lilia's and Jim McGee's of this world who used (and maybe still cling to) liveTopics. I think that part of my problem has been misunderstanding where they are coming from. liveTopics, for me, was a stepping stone towards a larger vision which, at that time, I couldn't achieve. But for them it was actually what they were looking for. No wonder then that I've had a hard time convincing them that K-Collector is better.

I haven't quite worked out the answer yet but I think it may be as simple as offering some kind of discriminator where you can choose whether K-Collector should default to showing you only your own work, or the work of the community as a whole. We may even have enough smarts in the database to do this without requiring additional work but I'll have to get some clear space (i.e. after STES) to think this through properly.

9:19:22 AM     : BlogTalk 2.0 begins with Social Physics

Thomas is making some opening remarks and wishing us a fruitful conference.  Available bandwidth seems very low so i'll be using bits sparingly.  Mark Bernstein has just started on the social physics of blogging -- interesting stuff.

 04 July 2004

5:54:39 PM     : By the power of modern medicine

So, finally, we made it to Wien.

I flew to Italy on Thursday ready for us to make the journey on Saturday and have dinner.  Friday evening over barbequed fish & chips Italian style I felt a little unwell.  By 4am the next morning I felt very unwell.  One trip to the ospedale later, it turns out I got tonsilitis (for the first time in about 15 years).  The doc took one look down my throat, recoiled in horror, and hastily wrote me a prescription for some antibiotics.  I have to say, as unwell as I felt, my experience of Italian hospitals has been quite positive.

The drugs worked wonders and today, whilst not 100%, I felt able to travel.  We had an easy journey and my navigation skills were up to the task of locating Lerchenfelder Straße.  Paolo and I checked in and then went for a wander around town.  We didn't get to see much of the city centre last time around so we thought we'd make the most of a beautifully sunny Sunday afternoon.  Vienna is a nice city to wander about in.

Now i'm back in the hotel soaking up the broadband and wondering who else might be here.