Ubiquity memory issues on Firefox

I may have to stop using Ubiquity for a while. I’ve used it exclusively because it, plus the share-on-delicious script, provides a great keyboard-only way to tag web pages for Delicious, simply by ctrl-space and typing share Delicious bookmark description tagged delicious tags entitled title“.

Alas, there are definite memory issues with Ubiquity or with the script. I currently have three tabs open in Firefox and the memory is more or less stable at 112,988K. If I invoke Ubiquity and start typing:

share This is a sample Delicious post that's not too different from one I would normally do, except a bit shorter and more fictional. tagged ubiquity entitled foo ubiquity test.

then suddenly memory usage spikes up to 571,028K !!! The memory use gradually falls back down, but it climbs steadily and precipitously while I’m typing, and there’s a point beyond which Firefox becomes unusable. Maybe I’m a canary user because I’m a touch typist, and I’m typing faster than Firefox can garbage collect memory? I still can’t believe that Ubiquity could be consuming so much, though.

(Update: apparently I’m not alone.)

Grab bag: Monday New Yorker edition

Entering the Wii generation

We bought a Wii this morning on Amazon. And it was my wife’s idea.

I’ve never owned a console. I bought a vintage game-in-a-joystick set a few years ago and was a dedicated MAME gamer for a while, but never made the leap to modern systems. My college suitemates who brought an NES to school and kept us up all hours of the night saw to that.

I did a paper in grad school (with George and Bransby) on the video game industry, in which we concluded that the gamer market had enough room for all three players, largely because Nintendo was going after an audience that Sony and Microsoft weren’t. At the time, what we saw was the 10-12 year old audience that they had locked up. What we didn’t see was their “blue ocean”–that Nintendo would find another untapped audience that ranged from retirees to non-gaming women.

The other thing we didn’t see was that the real story in the Nintendo vs. Sony and Microsoft battle wasn’t technology strategy per se. You could look at all the s-curves in the world, but polygon count was ultimately a poor predictor for the market. Fun–now there’s a much better predictor.

So I’m looking forward to playing around with the console when it gets here. A little tennis, a little family time–and maybe, if I play my cards rights, some Lego Star Wars too.


As one might gather from the week of linkblog posts, it’s been a little hard making the transition away from all-election, all the time blogging, though for different reasons than back in 2004. While then I couldn’t believe that half the country enjoyed George W. Bush’s regime enough to bring it back for four more years, now I don’t want to blink for fear it will go away.

And there have been some other things that have happened too–like getting rushed out of our office by a gas main that was broken open by construction staff last week. Or briefly thinking I had to do a four week travel stint to support a client, before cooler heads prevailed.

Plus, I’ve been fighting a cold. So it’s kind of been the perfect storm of blogkill.

Grab bag: Real Internet expertise at the FCC

Grab bag: Flash-free fonts in JavaScript

Grab bag: SMB fix at last

Grab bag: Tips for Firefox and Google Scholar

Grab bag: Post election and other good stuff

Screenshots in software user documentation

I’ve been up to my eyeballs in user doc recently, our software-as-a-service product offering having matured to the point that novice users need some guidance to get started with the software. This being a startup, we don’t have a tech writer, and I’ve added the relevant hat to my normal product management job–and rediscovering my deep respect for the profession.

A tech writer has to know the software better than anyone else from the user’s perspective, and has to understand the compromises, incomplete implementations, and other hazards of software well enough to explain to the user how it’s supposed to work in a clear, intuitive way. Tech writing reminds me of Henry Miller’s description of proof-readers in Tropic of Capricorn, which I took many years ago as a motto while working on the production of the second or third issue of Rag & Bone:

The world can blow up — I’ll be here just the same to put in a comma or a semi-colon. I may even touch a little overtime, for with an event like that there’s bound to be a final extra. When the world blows up and the final edition has gone to press the proof-readers will quietly gather up all commas, semi-colons, hyphens, asterisks, brackets, parentheses, periods, exclamation marks, etc., and put them in a little box over the editorial chair. Comme ça tout est réglé…

…A good proof-reader has no ambitions, no pride, no spleen. A good proof-reader is a little like God Almighty, he’s in the world but not of it.

So tech writers are a little like proof-readers–the release may blow up, but the tech writer will still be there updating the user documentation and taking the latest screenshots.

Which brings me around to the question at hand: the tension between the need for screenshots in documentation and the definitive non-agileness of it all. A thread on the Joel on Software Discussion Group questions the need for screenshots entirely but comes around to the concept that, yes, you have to retake the screenshots every time you update the GUI, and yes, it’s a pain in the butt, but it’s part of the cost of doing business. I was hoping for some more practical guidance: is there a rule of thumb on what to illustrate with a screenshot and what to leave out?

Grab bag: Transition time

Grab bag: Change and chickens

What blogging is (revisited)

I checked out a new people search engine (123people.com) on a link from Lifehacker and, of course, searched for myself. I was surprised to see a lot of discussion about an old piece I had written after the first Bloggercon, a two post thought stream called “What is a blog” and “Blogging and empowerment” that gave a technical definition of what a blog was, and then a sociological definition.

The responses, apparently for a high school class at City Arts and Tech in Digital Design (!–to Ted Curran, if you’re out there, drop a comment–would love to know how you incorporate blogging in your teaching), were interesting and made me go back and look at what I wrote again. Here are a few excerpts:

  • Peter Luc: “A blog can just be about anything you want it to be, from your daily lives to what you feel about something. Anyone can create a blog and start blogging right away… A lot of people use blogs to tell others what is going on in the world like what they see with their own experiences. This can replace the sites that people usually go to to check the daily news….Blogging has to do with relationships when you make it a personal blog. A personal blog to me can be like 2 people blogging about what they do in a day and the 2 people can share their day with each other. It’s kind of like when you pass notes during class to different people, but instead this is web based so you won’t get caught. :)”
  • Rukiyah Sanders: “Due to the increase in technology over the coarse of these past few years we are able to do so much we weren’t able to do back then.”
  • Brandon House: “There are no rules in blogging, one can make up things with their own mind. people have the freedom to express what they must. I believe that freedom of speech is one of the most powerful weapons and tools you can give to an individual with a mind.”
  • Holden Way-Williams: “i guess it shined some light on the mysteries of blogging, but for the most part it was not too helpful. blogging is very simple. you go online, and you write on this thing and everyone around the world can read it… the article was not interesting. the information was not very useful, and the guy who wrote it was pretty boring.”

Well, Holden, you got me. It was pretty boring. I was trying to make a real point, but got tangled up in the mechanics of blogging rather than focusing on the real thing.

Here’s what blogging is: It’s a person writing his thoughts down and sharing them with people online. For person, you could substitute a middle schooler or your grandma, or the CEO of a hospital. For sharing them with people, it could be the writer’s friends, or it could be somebody who’s Googling for something unrelated and comes across it months or years later.

What’s changed, in the five years since I wrote the original piece, is you don’t have to have a dedicated website of your own to blog. You can do it on Facebook or Myspace, or in short thoughts on Twitter, or in one of a million other places. The thing about Facebook that some folks don’t like is that the wider Internet can’t get the benefit of your thoughts, which is probably OK if you’re blogging to your girlfriend or boyfriend but might not be OK if you want people other than your friends to get into a discussion with you about something or learn what you thought about something.

For me, now, blogging is an investment in the future. When I write something in my blog, I make a bet that I’ll be interested in going back and using it again later, or that someone else will find it useful. It’s a bet that usually doesn’t pay off; I would guess that no-one has read three quarters of the stuff on this site. But sometimes it pays off big–like when a class of high school students thinks seriously about what I wrote about blogging, and you get to learn from what they thought about what you said.

And you get to learn that they take blogging for granted. Which is, in and of itself, pretty cool. When I was in high school, I didn’t have a public forum like blogging. (And I had to walk uphill, both ways.)

Not to slight anyone: here are other responses from Max Bizzarro, Roselle, Sschafra, Nataly, J. Pascual, Mara, Jessica Tang, Tatyana K, Hawkman, SJ, Noel, and Maureen. Hawkman’s response is maybe my favorite: “The fact that someone could have so much faith in a new idea as a means of solving age old problems is kinda funny, because there have been dozens of technologies that would supposedly solve such problems, but the results were never definitive.” Yes, you’re right, but on the other hand blogs were one of the things that helped get Barack Obama elected.

Grab bag: Post election hangover edition