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 onbeta.journals.aol.com/(screen 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).  Unfortunately, we discovered too late that Tomcat bydefault decides that HTML form data is encoded in ISO-8859-1. Also unfortunately, Journals uses UTF-8 throughout. For most commonEnglish characters, the two encodings give the same bytes; it's whenyou start speaking French (or talking about your re'sume') that you runinto differences.  So the problem here is we didn't test thisenough after the switchover and got caught by surprise.  Thesolution involves setting the encoding to UTF-8, but doing it in theright place is a bit of a problem -- if you set it AFTER the servletengine starts reading stuff, it ignores you.  Personally I thinkit should throw an exception if this happens since encodings are, well,kind of important, as we've demonstrated over the past couple ofweeks.  In any case, the solution we're looking involves a servlet filter similar to this one.More generally, we need to figure out how to add this as a general,automatic test so that it's just not possible to skip it -- and so thatwe'll be alerted within hours if some other configuration change breaksthings, hopefully weeks before we make that change to the liveproduction site.


  1. Has anyone suggested making the ad banners optional?  

    I'm not sure of the feasibility, but maybe a box to check in the layout when creating a journal if one does not want ads on his journal?

    Or something like 'Ad-sense', so we get some kickbacks from having them, though I prefer the first idea, personally.

    Just some thoughts.....


  2. When I was in graduate school, working on my thesis, I spent two days trying to figure out why my computer analysis was all messed up.  (Back in the day when the only windows were in buildings, not computers and a mouse was not appreciated anywhere.)  Two days of pulled hair and a few tears, only to find that in one spot I had typed the capital letter O instead of the required 0.  

    It's always the tiny things that make the biggest mess.

    I'm glad you're hopeful.  It would be nice to know that somewhere people/customers actually count for something besides what's in their wallet.

    ~~ jennifer

  3. Nice to hear that AOL people are listening to Jason.  We very much respected his post.  You give me almost a glimmer of hope I will be able to go back to my AOL journal someday . . . .


  4. yes.... I don't want a kick-back........ I want my journal back to what it was.  Thanks for the update here. judi

  5. It would be nice if the executives were in touch with the actual members of AOL.  In your situation, Joe's and John Scalzi's, you folks actually are touching base with us.  No matter the disclaimer, it's really not enough.  Free AIM Blogs had the ads upon inception; AOL Member Journals didn't.  And, that is how things should be.  
    We are NOT happy AOL Members.

  6. ya know, you have a very nice straightforward attitude about the whole thing.  i just want to say thanks.  so tired of being stone walled, etc.  

  7. I could tolerate the ads if they were much smaller and on the BOTTOM of the page instead of the top. Otherwise I will not blog at AOL Journals, the ads are too UGLY.


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