Life imitates fiction

A story from the weekend I haven’t told yet: I had to stop by the U-Haul on Saturday to take care of my grill’s propane tank. When I stepped into the store, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was playing. And all the clerks—the long-haired one who appeared to be in charge, the tall thin taciturn black-haired one messing with the reservation computer, the heavyset guy running back and forth to the lot getting rental trucks ready—were singing along. I found myself unconsciously singing too: Magnifico-o-o-o… And the guy who walked in a second later behind me started doing it too.

And here I thought that only happened in the movies. Apparently it happens in slacker Seattle, too.

Apple WWDC 2004: RSS is everywhere

Courtesy MacRumors’ coverage of the WWDC Keynote, it looks like Apple will be adding an integrated RSS aggregator and search capability to Safari in Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4). My first thought was, “Somebody buy Brent Simmons a drink.” Brent is at WWDC, and his company, Ranchero, has one big product, NetNewsWire, which is the current leading aggregator on Mac OS X.

But on second thought I’m not sure how much this will hurt Brent. It may even help him. I think the interesting scenario for Safari is less around aggregating feeds and more around ensuring that the feed doesn’t look like gobbledygook when you click the link. If Safari’s changes mean that the user experience for finding and subscribing to feeds improves for Joe User, then the whole RSS-sphere wins because it makes more people understand what RSS is about and adopt the technology. There will still be a market for power apps like NetNewsWire when people tire of reading feeds in their browser and want a more refined experience—and at that point they’ll understand the value and be able to make an informed decision about purchasing the product.

Put another way, this move by Apple broadens the potential base of RSS adopters to people like my kid sister and my mother-in-law, neither of whom would be likely to download a specialized RSS reader application voluntarily.

Sonic Youth Lollapalooza’d but not out

I think that the unexpected cancellation of the Lollapalooza tour could be the best thing to happen to music this summer. Proof? I get to see Sonic Youth at a small club in Seattle instead of at a big festival. And while their show at Bumbershoot 2002 was fantastic, the small club show should be a lot less…safe, certainly if their show on the Thousand Leaves tour that I saw at the 9:30 with Craig is any indication.

Those ungrateful journalists…

…don’t they understand that talking to the President is a privilege? What do they think they’re doing, providing a public service or something? Certainly the journalists in Ireland appear to feel entitled to ignore the White House’s pre-interview briefs and treat the president with something less than kid glove deference:

The Irish Independent learned last night that the White House told Ms Coleman that she interrupted the president unnecessarily and was disrespectful.

She also received a call from the White House in which she was admonished for her tone.

And it emerged last night that presidential staff suggested to Ms Coleman as she went into the interview that she ask him a question on the outfit that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern wore to the G8 summit.

Anyone who still believes that the White House doesn’t seek to control its presentation in the media, please raise your hand.

Oh, and “admonished for her tone”? After last week, there’s only one thing—following the administration’s own example—that one can say to that accusation… (Thanks to the Rittenhouse Review for the tip (scroll down); you can also access the audio of the aborted interview.)

Lizard brain? or buried memories?

Boston Globe: Unearthed skeleton linked to 1812 war. One of the things that I miss about Boston here in Seattle is the sense that Boston and the rest of the northeast have about 384 years of American history lurking, literally, just under the surface. The following note in the article brought that home: “Two hundred soldiers died in a pneumonia epidemic in the winter of 1812-13, [Dr. John Crock, director of the University of Vermont Consulting Archaeology program] said, and were buried in the cemetery north of the hospital in use then — near where North Street and North Avenue now meet. That cemetery, with the graves marked by wooden crosses, gradually disappeared from the town’s memory….”

(Of course, that’s nothing compared to the 397 years of history in Virginia, just a few miles from where I was born. But I digress.)

My point was, this is why I love Boston. It feels more lovable because it feels more human. Humans—we all—have memories buried just below the surface. They make us who or what we are. There are things buried deeply in my psyche that make me who I am. The same is true of Boston. Seattle, on the other hand, sometimes feels somehow shallower. Because America’s roots are younger there?

(Apologies to all my Seattle friends who I just offended in this post, as well as those (like myself) who would point out that Native American civilizations in this area go back quite a bit further than the settling of this city.)

New virus: Download.Ject

Major new virus sweeping through last night and this morning, designated Download.Ject. It appears to spread via unpatched IIS 5.0 servers (the specific vulnerability may be MS04-011) and could cause problems for clients who don’t have the most recent Internet Explorer patches. Make sure you visit Windows Update and install all available critical patches. More news as it comes…


Seattle Times: Bill Gates could join the ranks of bloggers. Interesting, though the article actually says that Mary Jo Foley of MicrosoftWatch says that Bill will start his own blog “real soon now” and Microsoft spokespeople say he would “love to do his own blog at some point in the future, time permitting.” I was going to make an Eric Rudder joke here (Eric is notorious for only updating his blog every couple of months), but the article actually beat me to it. Another tongue in cheek prediction: being linked by Bill will become the holy grail of blogging at Microsoft and will somewhat diminish the thrill of getting linked by Scoble.

Via Scripting News and other places.

Belated Blogaversary

I can tell I’m really busy. On June 11 I missed observing the occurrence of my third blogaversary. (I was a little prompter about it on Blogaversary 1 and 2.)

It’s been an interesting year. I started to get serious about photography, discovered Kinja, started blogging about work, and bored all of you stiff with dog and house stuff. Oh yeah, and the redesign. And BloggerCon. —Heh. I was just getting ready to lament that I hadn’t done so much technology blogging this year, but I really don’t know that I missed it too much.

Flameage and portable PageRank

I had an interesting conversation with Dave in the comments of last night’s post. His perspective is that, while notifying customers is a good thing, there are always some people who are going to flame no matter how much notification you give—because they’re just angry. He’s probably right.

In related news, it’s fascinating watching the level of detail in which Dave and Rogers are taking care of the relocated sites. Today’s example? PageRank. Yep, turns out if you serve up the right kind of redirect (HTTP 301), not only does Google switch and start spidering the new location, but it apparently also transfers the PageRank of the old site to the new one. Wish I had been able to do something about that when I moved to this location, though it only took about a month to build back my PageRank after the move.

A return to normalcy…kind of

Busy day today, so not much blogging. Interesting stuff on Scripting News about media coverage of the outage.

One thought: I think this incident might show the need for managed communications plans. I’m as ready to decry traditional marketing as the next guy, but there is something to be said for setting expectations and not giving customers nasty surprises where possible. That said, I think that contrary to all the flames Dave and Rogers ultimately ended up doing a Really Good Thing for the orphaned blogs.

Doc Weinberger Part IV: Metadata and the Web

“So now let’s talk about metadata. Here’s an example. Put a label on a gas pump to draw attention to the right button, and users push on the label instead. We go wrong with metadata when we try to make it explicit. We rob it of context. It’s like pulling up a tangled mess of roots. It’s a violent act.

“Look at social networking. The idea here is you recreate your friendships on the web. You can’t do that. [Long Friendster example here: when you just have friend and not friend, how does that capture old friends vs. acquaintances vs. not wanting to add someone as a friend but not wanting to offend them?] You need a slider, or categorization, or something. But even that fails. Because this is not solveable. No amount of metadata can solve it. Ambiguity is the core of relationships. The extent to which you know more about a group than you can state explicitly is the extent to which the group is real.

“This is what art is: speaking the unspoken and letting it sink back into unspoken again.

“So now let’s talk about the miracle we need on the Web. We need it from Microsoft corporately, and you individually. We are at a point where the web is so big that we are being tempted to a Faustian bargain, one where we give up our individuality, our voice, our soul, in exchange for the illusion of power. We are so big as amarket that it will take a miracle for corporations not to try to take control and turn it into a broadcast medium. That will kill the Internet.

“We have publishing—sending messages, advertising—and publishing—making public. Or making the public. There is a possibility that we can advance as humanity not by seeking perfection, seeking control, but by embracing imperfection. We need one more miracle to ensure that that happens.”

Afterwards, during the Q&A, a few interesting points came up. Dr. Weinberger expanded on his point about not taking control by talking about DRM. His conclusion is substantially the same as Cory Doctorow’s, but he appeals to our shared cultural heritage by saying that the act of experiencing a work of art—a song, a book—is the act of appropriating it, of making it part of our lives. Of reacting to it, sharing it, drawing the wrong conclusions from it. He argues that by tightening down on these secondary uses, we kill the mechanism by which culture is created.

He also made an interesting point about personalization, in the context of corporate web sites, e.g. Amazon. He said: the best thing that Microsoft could do for personalization is to help me find other customers. Get out of the center, and let me talk to the other people who use your products.