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Showing posts from 2005

Platform standards and loose coupling

Recently people have been talking about organizational standards for web application platforms (like Linux/Apache/Tomcat for example, or for another).  Personally, I'm a big fan of the "small pieces loosely joined" concept.  Smallpieces are exponentially easier to build, test, deploy, and upgrade. Loose coupling gives flexibility and risk mitigation -- components canfail or be replaced without major impacts to the entire structure.  Allof these things help us cope with schedule and product risks.  Thetechnical tradeoff is a performance (latency) hit; for webapplications, I think the industry has proven that this is usually agood tradeoff.

I guess I should be clear here that I'm interested optimizing for effectiveness, notefficiency.  By effectiveness I mean that speed of development, qualityof service, time to market, flexibility in the face of changingbusiness conditions, and ability to adapt in general are much moreimportant than overall number of lines of c…

Syndicate Day 2

Just a quick blog entry to bring a sense of closure... Day 2 was betterthan Day 1, or maybe I just went to the better panels.  CompoundFeeds with Marc Canter, Anil Dash, Salim Ismail, Tantek Celik; TheAttention Economy with Steve Gillmor as the Big Giant Head; and Stalking the Wild Tag with Mary Hodder, Caterina Fake, and Mark Pincus were all valuable.

I'm sitting right now listening to Doc Searls give the closingcomments, which is a good way to close out the day.  He's justfinished making fun of hotels and is talking about the Live Web so I'dbetter pay some Attention. 


At Syndicate

I'm at the Syndicate conference in SF today and tomorrow -- meaning my already sporadic blogging is going to be even more variable for a couple of days.  On the other hand, the conference is pretty interesting and I'm picking up a lot of information and talking with many smart people.

Great.  Larry Weber just related an anecdote about an IM based test preparation service which made $30M last year... which is nearly the same as a startup idea I was tossing around with some people three years ago.  Well, I guess I need to average that out with all the truly stupid startup ideas I've had in the last three years before kicking myself. :)

Beta features

We have some new features at some of which are going to be turned on for the main site this week.  You can take look at any blog at to play with them.  Some of the new features:

panzerjohn at 6:24:16 PM PST Link to this entry | Blog about this entry | Incoming Links | Notify AOL

Beta only features (not going to this week):
o An AIM presence icon showing status for screen names listed on entries or comments;
o Incoming links searches for other sites linking to that entry

Features going to this week:
o Blog about this entry to make it easy to link to other people's posts
o Notify AOL about specific posts that violate terms of service
o For Private Journals, the ability to simply make your Buddy List your reader list (adding buddies adds them as readers). 

RFC4287: The Atom Syndication Format

RFC 4287, the AtomSyndication Format, is now available in old-school IETF plain textformat.  So, no excuses for not supporting Atom 1.0 -- thestandard is not only done, it's got an IETF number and everything.

Some fun RFC numerology:  4287 is a single-transpositionpermutation of my office phone extension.  It's also the starcatalog number for Alkes Crateris, the primary star in theconstellation Crater (The Cup).  Clearly Atom is the Grail. Or maybe my phone is.

Tag Tuesday

Last night, we hosted Tag Tuesday at the AOL offices in Mountain View.  It was a good get-together; Edwin Aoki talked about tag spam, and Kevin Burton talked about TailRank. Naturally, my laptop battery ran out, and when I got home, I discoveredthat my DSL had crapped out so I couldn't blog.  Oh, thehorror.  So, just some quick drive-by notes.

Do meta-tags (tags applied to tags or tag-url tuple instances) make anysense?  It's tags all the way down...  Kevin Marks commentedthat co-occurrences of tags are good enough for most purposes. Need to think about that one.

Kevin's TailRank beta is a "memefinder" as opposed to an aggregator.  It uses OPML subscriptionlists to help filter information based on what you and your friends areinterested in -- and he's working on getting some kind of automaticsync-up going.  Seems like this would benefit from Ray Ozzie's Really Simple Sharinginitiative.  There's a problem here, though -- the whole point ofthis is that yo…

Neat site statistics service

Clearly, John ate a bit too much turkey over the holiday and let his LinkRank slip a bit.  PubSub's Site Statsis a neat service that includes data from AOL Journals and many otherplaces, and presents the information in summary form so you can see howmany people link to your blog.  Just put your URL in the box andbookmark the page for later:

Stamping out brush fires, one by one

An update to Joe's update of  todayThe Patch:Problem identified; it was of course a typo; re-release should go outsoon.  Again, what you'll get is exactly what's name)/(journal name) right now, so thereshould be no more surprises.  Knock on wood.  Character Set: Problem identified (see below) and we think we have a full fix, whichwill need a bit of testing, so that should go out a bit after thepatch.  Archive Counts: Still working on it.  Ad Banners:We're listening to suggestions and doing some brainstorming; note thatwhatever we come up with has to pass muster with executives. I'm  hopeful, though.  Jason Calacanis has a great post about the situation on his blog.  I couldn't agree more, and I know that people at AOL are listening.

OK, so now for the geek update.  The character set encodingissue?  Well, basically, the major technical update  in thisrelease involved moving to a new web server and servlet engine(Tomcat).  Unfort…

What's happening, and a preview of the new patch

Joe's done a good job of explaining whathappened this morning; in technical terms, we pushed out a change, itgave us a surprise, and we hit the metaphorical Undo button. We're trying to figure out what went wrong now.

The interesting thing (from our perspective) is that the change waspushed out first to, and it works fine there. Which means that if you want to see a preview of the change, you canview your blog on beta (use "" instead of"" in the URL) and take a look.  My personalopinion?  Might help a little, but we need to do more.  (Therelease also includes a fix that will, hopefully, resolve the entrysaving problem for anyone who still has it.)

In other news, the Washington Post story "You've Got Ads" came out this morning.  Some reactions from the blogosphere are here. The press release from AOL got some facts wrong about ads on bloggingservices; I can't comment beyond that since…

Those Banner Ads

It's been a long two days stomping out the brush fires ignited by ourlast install.  And on top of that... the banner ads.  Oh, the ads.
Quote:I was never happier to be a part of this than I was last Friday, when Igot the chance to be guest editor.  In the span of a weekend, Iheard from a lot of people that I didn't know before, and discovered aton of creative journals that I did not know existed.  And then,just two days later, it all disappears, thanks to the inconceivable waythat the higher ups of this company thought they could just walk allover us.  Unbelievable.  I have never encountered such aswing, from high to low, in such a short time.  It's incrediblysad for EVERYONE.  And for the life of me, I cannot fathom how NOONE at AOL has the decency to at least address the situation. What are they waiting for?  The damage has already beendone-there are folks that won't be coming back even if the adsdisappear now. -- Jim
Personal opinion, as a blogger?  The ads suck.  Th…


Just up the road from me, there's a little camp-out planned:  TagCamp. I'd really love to go myself and roast some hot dogs, but with the Kidit's a bit difficult.  We'll see.  Hopefully we can at leastsend someone with some hot chocolate and pancakes.

Update: We're sending a posse to TagCamp:

EdwinAoki, SaileshDavuluri, SeanSu - Brainstorming ideas around tag spam, or SPAG.

And, we're helping outwith dinner too.  Wish I could be there... I might manage a dropin at some point.  I hope Edwin or Sailesh or Sean will be eventblogging.

Tags: , .

AOL buys Weblogs Inc.

(Disclaimer:  I know nothing about this deal aside from what's in the news.)

Good coverage here.  The lines between traditional media and blogging are going to continueto blur.   And AOL is getting in on the ground floor.

Google Blog Search

More competition = healthier ecosystem. The question really is, will Google entering this arena increasecompetition or decrease it (by cutting off the air supply of smallercompetitors)?  On the third hand, the Google Blog Searchis pretty basic so far and the real question is whether they'llcontinue to innovate and improve it (Google Maps) or let it mostly sitthere (Google Groups, though that might be changing).

Some of the more relevant / useful links:
Dave Sifry's reaction: Google's entry validates the space.
Bob Wyman welcomes Google Blog Searchbecause it complements PubSub. Though I think I'm a bit fuzzy on exactly what the distinction is.

Threadwatch has some technical details.
Commentary on Technorati vs. Google from WebProNews (Charlene Li's take).

The new Atom is here! The new Atom is here!

The Atom syndication format is pretty much baked; see the version 1.0 spec.  It'll take a while to get an RFC numberand the vanity license plate, but barring typos it's final.

(Next step: Defining the general Atom protocol standard, which willenable interoperable use of Atom for things like blog editors.)

Blog This

With our latest rev of Journals, we've enabled a new Blog Thisfeature.  You need a special "bookmarklet" to take advantage ofit.  Since Journals prevents pages hosted on from hostingJavascript, I have to give the ugly Javascript code for the link inplain text:javascript:q=""+(window.getSelection?window.getSelection():document.getSelection?
je='+(q?escape('"'+q+'"'):escape(location.href)),'_top'))Create a bookmark and copy and paste the Javascript URL above intothe URL box. Then, select it when you're looking at a page youwant to comment on.  It will bring you directly to an Add Entrypage with a default title and text.  (If you select text on theoriginal page first, it will copy that over automatically.)

Microsoft Embraces RSS

Quick post:  That Microsoft was going to be doing something seriousabout syndication was a foregone conclusion.  That they'reextending RSS 2.0 to support ordered lists (?) isn't the big news,IMHO.  That they're integrating per-user subscription support intotheir forthcoming platform is more significant.  They Get It;syndication is a platform, they have a team dedicated to RSS, and thething that's really important to control is personal subscription data.

(The big question is, how long will we be waiting for Longhorn?)

Supernova: Guten Tag

Kevin Marks gave an introduction to tagging and even better, put it up online.  So now I can point people there instead of stumbling through explanations myself.  Cool.

On a side note, I've been behind on blogging and missed congratulatingTechnorati on their cool new look & features.  I managed toshow their new consolidated tag searchto an executive yesterday -- searching for tags popped up not onlyposts, but photos from buzznet and flickr.  It was a great way topoint out the utility of interoperability.

Kevin made a good point about cognitive load.  The cost ofapplying a tag needs to be near-zero.  The iPhoto keywords featureis a great anti-example.

The ecosystem is jumping all over tags.  LiveJournal added supportfor tags last week.  The Mac "ecto" tool now has tag support aswell.  Oh yes -- does hCalendar; evdb does hCalendarand hCard. Note to self: Check all these out soon.

I do think people are waving their hands a bit around authorization andauthentic…

Supernova: Microformats

An excellent workshop primarily because it was a demonstration ofpragmatic solutions.  I've been just slightly involved with someof the microformat work and I've been looking for resources to helpbuild mindshare at AOL.  The web site announced here is exactly what I need.  And now I see that Tantek has put his excellent introduction up there.  Go look!

What I like about microformats:  Start simple and focused. Evolve rapidly.  Borrow like crazy. Keep things humanreadable.  Decentralize completely.  Get real worldexperience.  Microformats like tags, hCalendar, and hReview are simple enough (and built oninfrastructure that's solid enough) to let the community buildinteroperable services.

Best part for users:  Microformats are based on XHTML.  Whichmeans they're human readable HTML as far as users are concerned. No weird XML gobbledygook, no strange attachments, no extra files tocart around.

Specifics:  hCalendar is great because it's just vCalendar mapp…

Going Supernova

I took the train up to San Francisco to the Supernova conference, whichlet me experiment with using my cell phone as a Bluetooth modem. Given that I was sitting on a rapidly moving train, I expected this tobe a dancing bear, but it actually worked pretty well for around 40minutes -- until the train went into a set of tunnels near the end ofthe trip.  Speed wasn't great but was adequate for email. Major problem was actually vibration.

I went to Monday's Connected Work workshop mainly in hopes of gettingsome insights into collaboration trends.  Not too many surprises-- blogs and wikis  everywhere, of course.  Some good pointsabout the need to not lock down things too tightly (heresy totraditional IT departments) because your breakthrough ideas usuallycome from cross-fertilization.  Quote: "98% of everything shouldbe visible to everyone in the company."  Hear, hear.

How Not to Get Hired

Just a tip from a hiring manager here.  If your resume starts out with the heading "SUMMMARY", I'm highly likely to toss it in the trash.  Not because I want to hire people who can use spell checkers, but because to me it indicates that you either can't or won't be bothered with details.  Or that you consider how you present information unimportant.

If you're in the top 1% of coders, maybe you can get away with this.  Otherwise, please run a spell checker on your resume before sending it in.

(I'm a really nice guy so I finished reading the resume; the rest was just as bad, though.)

Proud member of the X-List

Some kind of threshold has been reached when something like Blogebrity can be launched and just might not be a joke.  I don't know whether it's a threshold of critical mass or the critical step down a slippery slope.  Maybe both.

I figure I'm somewhere in the middle of the X-List.

And yes, I think the Blogebrity Swimsuit Edition would be a really bad idea.

Nofollow for Journals

One of the hidden features of our latest update is support for the rel="nofollow"convention for links in comments.  Since Journals automagicallymakes anything in a comment that looks like a link clickable, this willhopefully help discourage link spamfrom getting started.  (Nofollow tells engines such as Google andTechnorati that the link itself wasn't created or endorsed by theauthor of the page and so the link doesn't mean any additional weightshould be given to the link's target.  It's not the best name forthe concept, but why quibble?)

AIM Blogs

I'm ecstatic about our latest release of AOL Journals (just announced)  -- AIM Blogs! This essentially opens up the AOL Journals blogging service to thepublic.  Anyone with a free AIM screen name can now create blogs at  Cool!

Stumbled across: Feed Fest

Just stumbled across FeedFest at

"Feedfestis a six-month online multimedia series focused on the increasinglydynamic and powerful content syndication applications that are allowingpeople to consume what they want, when they want, where they want andhow they want. Launched last year as “RSS Winterfest”, the re-namedevent will feature interviews with the thought leaders who are shapingnew ways for content to be published and consumed. This year’s programhas expanded to include other syndication formats besides RSS, and willalso explore the growing syndication of audio and video as well."

Looksinteresting, though I am wondering: Why six months?  Do RobertScoble, Steve Gillmor, Bob Wyman, & co. hibernate for the other six?

Atom Authentication

I've written up a replacement for the authentication section of the Atom protocol: It's simple but unusable by servers in restricted hosting situationstypical of Movable Type and Blosxom blogs; I hope this serves asprovocation for someone on that side to nail down an alternativeauthentication scheme.  But even if not, at least everyone elsewill have a minimal fallback for authentication.

Note that the proposal also allows servers to require authenticationfor comments -- something that would be a helpful building block infighting comment spam.

SD West: SOA: The Next Big Thing (Keynote)

Dave Chappell delivered an entertaining keynote. Again, this was targeted squarely at enterprise applicationdevelopers.  I felt a bit like a tourist in a foreign country -- happyto be there, interested, but a bit puzzled and probably missing some ofthe shared cultural nuances.  (Despite having createdsome enterprise development tools, I've never actually worked as an enterprise developer.)

Dave cut the Gordian knot involved in defining service orientedarchitecture ("the debate is both endless and pointless") by statingthat it's defined by the dominant technologies:  A service is what thedominant products say it is -- and WebSphere and .NET are the dominantproducts, so services means SOAP and WS-*.  And I'm not sure, but Ithink he defines 'dominant products' as 'whichever platforms have themost market share among vendors selling tools to enterprisedevelopers'.  Which of course rules out anything that doesn't help sellplatform tools :^).  I glanc…

SD West: Software Requirements: 10 Traps

Next up: Karl Wiegers talks about the 10 Traps of Software Requirements.  I plan to check out  for sample documents and spreadsheets (the requirements prioritization example spreadsheet sounds especially useful). 

Lots of good advice and pointers to resources in the talk.  He had somevaluable points regarding the different views of what a 'requirement'is to different stakeholders.  He presented a frameworkfor separation into business (why), user (what), and functional(high-level how) requirements, and how to categorize requirements intothis framework to help avoid confusion.  This becomes particularlyimportant when doing incremental development (which is what almosteverybody does):  It's OK to be fuzzy on some of the functionalrequirements before starting a project, but the business requirementshad better be very clear and solid.

Regarding change control boards, I asked how one can scale a CCB so itdoesn't become a bottleneck in a large program.  He sa…

SD West: Understanding SOA

First up: Mike Rosen presented Understanding SOA. This talk was oriented very much towards enterprise developers who areconcerned with automation of business processes -- in some ways, adifferent world from where I operate most of the time.  Mike'sdefinition of SOA is pretty much what either Microsoft or IBM areoffering as platforms (.NET or J2EE plus SOAP).  Their main sellingpoint seems to be that once everything is exposed as web services,business analysts will be able to create and manage business processesby configuring services via graphical tools rather than by writing codeor even scripts.  (This syncs up with the presentation later on by DaveChappell.)  I am skeptical, but then again the problems thesedevelopers have are not my problems.

Quick takes: Mike stated that UDDI is not used much outside thecorporate firewall (my personal prediction: It never will be in itscurrent form.)  IBM and MSoft are repurposing existing applications,such as Tivoli, to help manage corporate w…

Inductive Blacklisting?

It looks like someone is trying out some type of comment spamon AOL Journals.  Or was; it sounds like a straightforward Termsof Service violation and I'd expect it to get yanked quickly. 

Fortunately, Journals provides a way to both delete a comment and blockthe commenter's user id (screen name) from future comments to thatJournal, which is handy in these situations.  But perhaps itdoesn't go far enough.  Perhaps there should be anauto-blacklisting feature:  If enough different peoplecomment-block a user id, perhaps it should be blocked from any furthercomments anywhere for a significant period of time.  It would atleast slow down the spammers.

Comment spam and nofollow

AOL Journals hasn't been hit by comment spam yet as far as I know, butI'm sure it's just a matter of time.  We're somewhat protectedbecause we don't allow anonymous comments, but commentspammers can get around that once they put some effort into it.
So AOL Journals plans to support the initiative to make at least one form ofcomment spam ineffective -- the rel="nofollow" attribute. The idea is that this would be honored by search engines such asGoogle, and would mean that these links wouldn't count towardsincreasing the page rank of the target.  So, this form of spamwould be rendered useless immediately.  Of course, other formswould still persist, but I say it's better to light a candle than cursethe darkness.   Or at least do both in parallel.

Virtuous cycle of creativity

The combination of blogs and aggregation is so powerful not justbecause these are complementary technologies in the obvious sense, butbecause they promote a 'virtuous cycle' that promotes the creationa andtransformation of information.   Of course this cycle isnothing new -- it's been around since forever, through the media ofbooks, libraries, universities, newspapers, et cetera -- but theblog/aggregation combination vastly speeds up the process and reducesthe transaction cost to effectively nothing.  Which makes the Long Tail of the information economy accessible.

That's why the announcement of My MSN RSS aggregation with feed search is interesting; a My MSN aggregator, plus MSN Spacesmeans Microsoft can leverage both sides.  So they could make itvery easy, for example, to subscribe to the RSS feeds for Spaces ownedby people who comment on your blog.  Or do any number of otherthings which increase the value of being an MSN member.  And,obviously, these tools still inte…