Quotes about XML in 2009

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Someone convinced the record and movie and TV industries that there is way of letting someone listen to audio or watch video over the internet without making a copy. They call this "streaming" audio, and compare it to radio, and contrast it with "downloading", which they compare to buying a CD.

The idea that you can show someone a movie over the internet without making a copy has got lots of people in policy circles excited, since it seems to "solve the copyright problem". If services such as Hulu, Last.fm and YouTube can "play you a file" instead of "sending you a file", then we're safely back in the pre-Napster era. You can sell subscriptions to on-demand streaming, and be sure that your subscribers will never stop paying, since they don't own their favourite entertainment and will have to stump up in order to play it again.

There's only one problem: Streaming doesn't exist.

--Cory Doctorow
Read the rest in Streaming will never stop downloading

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Facebook's privacy pullback isn't just outrageous; it's a landmark turning point for the social network. Facebook has blundered before, but the latest changes are far more calculated. The company has, in short, turned evil.

Its new privacy policy have turned the social network inside out: millions of people have signed up because Facebook offers a sense of safety. For the last five years — as long as you're relatively careful about who you accept as your friends — what you do and say on Facebook for the most part stays on Facebook. Katie Couric's daughter first posted pictures of her famous mom dancing silly in 2006, but it took three years for them to leak to us. (Thank you tipsters!) But virtually overnight and without a clear warning, Facebook has completely reversed those user expectations. Their new privacy settings amount to making anything you post on Facebook to be public, unless you go to great lengths to keep your info private.

--Ryan Tate
Read the rest in Facebook's Great Betrayal - Facebook

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No, the real elephant in the room—the thing few web developers and no “web font” enthusiasts are talking about—has to do with legibility (or lack thereof) and aesthetics (or lack thereof) across browsers and platforms. Put simply, even fonts optimized for web use (which is a whole thing: ask a type designer) will not look good in every browser and OS. That’s because every browser treats hinting differently, as does every OS, and every OS version.

Firefox does its own thing in both Windows and Mac OS, and Microsoft is all over the place because of its need to support multiple generations of Windows and Cleartype and all kinds of hardware simultaneously. Thus “real type” on a single web page can look markedly different, and sometimes very bad, on different computers at the same company. If that web page is your company’s, your opinion of “web fonts” may suffer, and rightfully. (The advantage of Apple’s closed model, which not everyone likes, is that it allows the company to guarantee the quality and consistency of user experience.)

--Jeffrey Zeldman
Read the rest in 24 ways: Real Fonts and Rendering: The New Elephant in the Room

Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The cable companies suck. All of them. Some suck less than others. But they all suck. We need someone to whip them into shape. And that someone may be Apple.

-- MG Siegler
Read the rest in Apple May Be On The Verge Of Kneecapping The Cable Industry. Finally.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Any sufficiently large institution has something to lose. Credibility, money, power, you name it. Ergo, any request for something new and risky is met with caution. Be it a new proposal or a new project, it is safer to say ‘No’. Corporate systems are optimized for saying no. Maintain the status quo. No risk of failure and a spectacular blowout.

This is exactly why you are better off going ahead and doing something without asking first. If you don’t ask, no one can tell you to not do it. Have an interesting idea for a side project? Go code it up. If you ask someone first, you’ll probably get told “Go consult with team X,Y and VP Z” and face an endless spiral. Want to write a blog post on something you care about? Go do it.

--Sriram Krishnan
Read the rest in Stuff I've learned at Microsoft

Thursday, December 17, 2009
So, too, with the death of Walter Cronkite. Tellingly, his most celebrated and significant moment -- Greg Mitchell says "this broadcast would help save many thousands of lives, U.S. and Vietnamese, perhaps even a million" -- was when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn't trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false. In other words, Cronkite's best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do -- directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed. These days, our leading media outlets won't even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.

--Glenn Greenwald
Read the rest in Celebrating Cronkite while ignoring what he did - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Last week, when White House Communications Director Anita Dunn charged the Fox News Channel with right-wing bias, Fox responded the way it always does. It denied the accusation with a straight face while proceeding to confirm it with its coverage.

Consider Fox's Web story on the episode. It quotes five people. Two of them work for Fox. All of them assert that administration officials are either wrong in substance or politically foolish to criticize the network. No one is cited supporting Dunn's criticisms or saying that it could make sense for Obama to challenge the network's power. It's a textbook example of a biased journalism.

--Jacob Weisberg
Read the rest in

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
There is no music business as far as I can tell anymore, and they deserve whatever they got in a negative sense. Those people who ran the music business, good riddance to them. There is a great quote by Hunter S. Thompson: "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." That's what I think, except that I don't think there is a good part. The guys who ran it got greedy, and it wasn't as if they weren't greedy to start with -- they got even greedier. Every four years, they come up with some new technology and everybody has to replace all their records. If it wasn't for the Beatles and the Beach Boys catalogs, EMI/Capitol wouldn't exist.

--Doug Fleger, The Knack
Read the rest in 'My Sharona' co-writer shares on his rock star riches

Monday, December 14, 2009

we want the government to STOP publishing bills, and data in PDFs and Flash and start publish them in open, machine readable formats like XML and XSLT. What's most frustrating is, Government seems to transform documents that are in XML into PDF to release them to the public, thinking that that's a good thing for citizens. Government: We can turn XML into PDFs. We can't turn PDFs into XML.

Flash isn't off the hook either. Government has spent lots of time and money developing flash tools to allow citizens to view charts and graphs online, and while we're happy the government is interested in allowing citizens to do this, Government's primary method of disclosure should not be these visualizations, but rather publishing the APIs and datasets that allow citizens to make their own. Only after those things are completed to the fullest extent possible should government be working on its own visualizations. While Adobe may say in their open government whitepaper:

"Since the advent of the web, an entire infrastructure has evolved to enable public access to information. Such technologies include HTML, Adobe PDF, and Adobe® Flash® technology."

This is nonsense. The fact is, sticking to open, standards based technologies like HTML, XML, JSON and others are far more important and useful in getting your information out to the public than the proprietary formats of Adobe. Here's a hint-- if the data format has an ® by its name, it probably isn't great for transparency or open data.

--Clay Johnson
Read the rest in Sunlight Labs: Blog - Adobe is Bad for Open Government

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Op-ed pieces that run under the bylines of famous politicians, celebrities and business people are almost never written by those people, just as they rarely write their autobiographies, even first drafts, by themselves. They don’t have time. Their staffers and PR people research and write the pieces.

Society has a serious blind spot about this kind of thing — and applies a pernicious double standard. If we catch a student paying someone to write his or her paper for a class, we give the student an F. Or, in some cases (like a journalism school), we might even ask the student to leave.

So why do newspaper editors think it’s fine to wink at obvious deception?

--Dan Gillmor
Read the rest in Mediactive » When the “Writer” Isn’t: Ghost Writing for Editorial Pages

Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Marvel's become very repetitive, redundant and kinda cookie-cutter. Just like gimmicky writing. They did terrible things with Spider-Man. The character was going in such a great direction when J. Michael Straczynski was writing him. Aunt May knew he was Spider-Man and he was growing exponentially and going to a different place. He wasn't just this teenager anymore. He's out of college now and 26 or 27 and some writers still treat him like a teen. They sacrifice quality over quantity and put out too many books.

--Raymond Salvador
Read the rest in Secret Lives of Comic Store Employees

Monday, December 7, 2009
The approach taken with HTML 5 is in a way a step back in that it assumes that the primary rule of the browser is to render HTML - and that each of the tags have implicit renderings (albeit ones that can be overridden). This represents a profound dichotomy in thinking, one that I think influences the debate to a very great degree. The HTML position is that the HTML language is somehow privileged in the browser, and that ultimately everything ends up being mapped into some combination of HTML+CSS+JavaScript. It's a majority view because it was originally true - until the emergence of XML, the role of the browser was to render HTML, and even prior to CSS, the elements even had a very definite (and minimally configurable) presentation that varied from browser to browser.

--Kurt Cagle
Read the rest in Dancing Naked in the Streets: A Madman Takes on HTML 5 | XML Today

Thursday, December 3, 2009
XSD is a failure by any sane technical measure. There's no reason not to acknowledge this and hopefully learn from it in future standardization efforts. If we don't learn from our failures we're condemned to repeat them.

--Tim Bray on Saturday, 14 Nov 2009 12:45:43 on the xml-dev mailing list

Friday, November 27, 2009
I know Windows is awful. Everyone knows Windows is awful. Windows is like the faint smell of piss in a subway: it's there, and there's nothing you can do about it. OK, OK: I know other operating systems are available. But their advocates seem even creepier, snootier and more insistent than Mac owners. The harder they try to convince me, the more I'm repelled. To them, I'm a sheep. And they're right. I'm a helpless, stupid, lazy sheep. I'm also a masochist. And that's why I continue to use Windows – horrible Windows – even though I hate every second of it. It's grim, it's slow, everything's badly designed and nothing really works properly: using Windows is like living in a communist bloc nation circa 1981. And I wouldn't change it for the world, because I'm an abject bloody idiot and I hate myself, and this is what I deserve: to be sentenced to Windows for life.

--Charlie Brooker
Read the rest in Microsoft's grinning robots or the Brotherhood of the Mac. Which is worse?

Monday, November 16, 2009

one of the original goals of XML was "The number of optional features in XML is to be kept to the absolute minimum, ideally zero." This was because the highly parameterized approach that SGML took was not appropriate, for various reasons: one of which was that if there were optional features, you could not be guaranteed that the recipient could handle your document.

And so what happened after that? A stream of piddly little standards for optional things: XBase, XInclude, xml:id. And what is the result? It is impractical to rely on them: or, at least, they don't relieve the developer of any decision making or programming, since the developer has to enable them or program for them on a case-by-case basis.

--Rick Jelliffe on Monday, 16 Nov 2009 16:48:32
on the xml-dev mailing list

Friday, November 13, 2009

So I don't think the sadly missed genius features of the Classic Mac OS (such as the configurable Apple menu) will ever return. What's not widely known, it seems, is that the OS X crew is all-new: many came along with Steve from NeXT, many have come on later, but no one who worked on the Classic Mac OS is working on OS X. Unlike the 20 million or so Mac users that Apple already had ca. 2000, none of the OS X developers has ever worked on / lived with the Classic Mac OS, so they really have no idea what we're missing. They don't have the "muscle memory" we do; to them the Classic Mac OS is as foreign as, say, Amiga -- except that they keep having to "emulate" it (when they probably think they could do better on their own) for all these cranky old fogies. I expect they're bewildered as to what all us old Mac users are complaining about. They give us this great OS with all these great features, and all we do is carp!

Remember, Steve Himself never worked on a Mac after 1986 -- that's even before the famous, fondly-remembered System 6! And I've read that when he returned to Apple, he pointedly installed a NeXTStation in his office, and used it until OS X became functional.

--Andrew Main
Read the rest in MacInTouch Recent News

Thursday, November 12, 2009
I am always amazed by the critics championing bands that never had a hit record. That's the whole ridiculousness of it. If five music critics like it, and that's all, it's like, "Oh, we're cool. We know something you don't know. We're the Cool Five." That's so sad. There was a point in time in the late '60s and early '70s with Rolling Stone and Creem and Lester Bangs, where it became politicized. It was almost like, if it was popular -- and makes a lot of money for these people -- then that makes it less valid: "Up the proletariat" and all that. Now, they're the establishment we have to march against.

--Doug Fleger, The Knack
Read the rest in 'My Sharona' co-writer shares on his rock star riches

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Right now the typical cable operator uses one analog channel (6 MHz – usually channel 80) for Internet service. That’s ONE PERCENT of the total bandwidth on an analog cable network.  Give up a shopping channel and Internet bandwidth could be instantly doubled.

There is no Internet bandwidth shortage.

DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem technology, which is rolling-out now, can bond together up to four analog channels (I can think of a few I’d gladly give up) and in turn offer up to 100 megabit-per-second Internet service.

--Mark Stephens
Read the rest in All Circuits Aren’t Busy

Wednesday, November 4, 2009
As soon as you receive a password, hash it using scrypt or PBKDF2 and erase the plaintext password from memory. Do NOT store users' passwords. Do NOT hash them with MD5. Use a real key derivation algorithm. PBKDF2 is the most official standard; but scrypt is stronger. Please keep in mind that even if YOUR application isn't particularly sensitive, your users are probably re-using passwords which they have used on other, more sensitive, websites -- so if you screw up how you store your users' passwords, you might end up doing them a lot of harm.

--Colin Percival
Read the rest in Cryptographic Right Answers

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Now, I'm all for the idea of revisiting HTML. It's been more than a decade since the last time this particular pandora's box was opened, and the state of the art has changed pretty dramatically, with the emergence of AJAX, a rather dramatic shift towards RESTful architectures and the quiet rise of XML as an intrinsic part of the server side environment, if not necessarily the client side one. Moving HTML so that it is at least well formed XML would be a huge step forward, one that more and more vendors are now doing anyway because of their recognition that the various XML tools provide a remarkably powerful piece of any workflow solution.  So opening up the HTML box makes sense.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, bad things happened. One of the first was that the HTML 5 process ended up becoming driven largely by a small cabal of developers who all seem to have been struck from the same anti-XML mold. Far from requiring that HTML 5 be at least well formed with appropriate closures, they have done their damnedest to throw out all vestiges of XML and come up with HTML content that teeters precariously even on the edge of compliance with SGML. For those of you who were entranced by the potential power of RDFa to marry the semantic web with the "regular web", HTML 5 thumbs their nose at you - the technology is considered too advanced for all of those granny coders out there, and CURIEs, which use a namespace like prefix notation for building a better microformats format, are tainted by the presence of the too obscene to be mentioned colon character ":".

--Kurt Cagle
Read the rest in Dancing Naked in the Streets: A Madman Takes on HTML 5 | XML Today

Monday, November 2, 2009
The most successful by far is Firefox. Chrome is a rounding error to date. Safari is a rounding error to date. But Firefox is not. The fact that there’s a lot of competitors probably is to our advantage. Yeah, we’re right now about 74 percent overall with the browser market, roughly speaking. But we’re having to compete like heck with IE 8, with great new features. The other guys are getting more and more unanticipated competitive attack factors, the thing that Google announced yesterday where they replaced IE but they don’t tell you. I mean that’s how I would say it. For all intents and purposes of what they’re doing IE is not there. It’s their operating system. Instead of now masked as browser, it’s masked as a plug in basically to IE. So, you know, we’re going to have to compete like heck and you know, see where things go.

--Steve Ballmer, Microsoft
Read the rest in TechCrunch

Thursday, October 29, 2009

file formats (and this includes marshalled data structures), are wire protocols, and need to be designed to be as abstract as possible- to reveal as little about the internal structure of the program as possible (preferrably none at all).

This is an idea that gets reinvented time after time, and it always ends in tears and recriminations: have some magic protocol that allows programs to communication directly- just have program X call a function or pass an object to program Y directly, and have the protocol handle all the mucking about with serializing/deserializing data, converting function calls into request/response messages, etc. Sun RPC, COM, CORBA, OLE, XML-RPC, and SOAP are the implementations that spring to mind. Object serialization hits the exact same problem: it doesn't matter whether program X and Y are communicating via TCP/IP sockets, files, or quantum-tachyon entanglement.

Sooner or later (and generally sooner), it'll happen: program X will ask to some function, or pass some type of data, that program Y doesn't have any knowledge of. It may be because version X is a newer version of the program/protocol, and the function/data type has been added. It may be because X is an older version, and the function/data type has since been removed. In any case, the first time this happens is when the tears and recriminations start.

Versioning simply makes it more painfully obvious that you're shackled to the past. You want to get rid of that pesky function? You can't, because older versions of the protocol require it to be there. Don't need a peice of data anymore? Tough, older versions of the protocol still require it. The best thing versioning gives you is the ability to error out early, and make a more sensible error message ("Sorry, but protocol support >= 2.14 is required!"), but it doesn't solve the problem.

The best solution I've found is to be aware that, when you're communicating with the outside world, you're implementing a *protocol*. And that protocol should be, as I said, as abstract as possible and reveal as little about the structure of the program as possible. So I can change the program enormously, even reimplement it from scratch in a different language, without great difficulty. Consider SMTP, HTTP, and YAML as examples of protocols or generic file formats done right.

--Brian Hurt
Read the rest in Caml Mailing List

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Network neutrality in the voice era took from the telephone companies the opportunity to sell priority access to trunk lines, but it didn’t remove the need for big businesses to have such priority access. So AT&T invented a leased-line business where companies could buy whole circuits that operated 24/7 and were guaranteed access to the long distance network. By being a separate product with a separate tariff and sold in a completely different way, this leased line business, which had long been used by broadcasters but was now expanded to other business customers, was WAY bigger in revenue for AT&T (more than 10X) than simple priority access ever would have been, which is why AT&T suddenly stopped complaining.  Network neutrality made more money for the old AT&T than had it not existed. People forget that part.

--Mark Stephens
Read the rest in elharo's qqq Bookmarks on Delicious

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
This is the problem with King and too many in the Pontius Pilate traditional media: They are so caught up in the obsolete notion that the truth always lies in the middle, they have to pretend that there are two sides to every issue -- and even two sides to straightforward data.

--Arianna Huffington
Read the rest in Arianna Huffington: What If Jon Stewart, Instead of John King, Interviewed Dick Cheney

Monday, October 19, 2009

Some might say it is time to rethink our national communications policy. But even that's obsolete. I'd start with a simple idea. There is no such thing as voice or text or music or TV shows or video. They are all just data. We need a national data policy, and here are four suggestions:

  • End phone exclusivity. Any device should work on any network. Data flows freely.

  • Transition away from "owning" airwaves. As we've seen with license-free bandwidth via Wi-Fi networking, we can share the airwaves without interfering with each other. Let new carriers emerge based on quality of service rather than spectrum owned. Cellphone coverage from huge cell towers will naturally migrate seamlessly into offices and even homes via Wi-Fi networking. No more dropped calls in the bathroom.

  • End municipal exclusivity deals for cable companies. TV channels are like voice pipes, part of an era that is about to pass. A little competition for cable will help the transition to paying for shows instead of overpaying for little-watched networks. Competition brings de facto network neutrality and open access (if you don't like one service blocking apps, use another), thus one less set of artificial rules to be gamed.

  • Encourage faster and faster data connections to our homes and phones. It should more than double every two years. To homes, five megabits today should be 10 megabits in 2011, 25 megabits in 2013 and 100 megabits in 2017. These data-connection speeds are technically doable today, with obsolete voice and video policy holding it back.

Technology doesn't wait around, so it's all going to happen anyway, but it will take longer under today's rules. A weak economy is not the time to stifle change.

Data is toxic to old communications and media pipes. Instead, data gains value as it hops around in the packets that make up the Internet structure. New services like Twitter don't need to file with the FCC.

And new features for apps like Google Voice are only limited by the imagination. Mother-in-law location alerts? Video messaging? Whatever. The FCC better not treat AT&T and Verizon like Citigroup, GM and the Post Office. Cellphone operators aren't too big to fail. Rather, the telecom sector is too important to be allowed to hold back the rest of us.

--Andy Kessler
Read the rest in Why AT&T Killed Google Voice

Friday, October 16, 2009
We're looking at a train wreck about to happen. Vendors will implement those parts of the HTML 5 spec that happen to best fulfill their own particular objectives, and will be sloppy about implementing anything else - sloppy specs produce sloppy conformance. We'll be back to the days of the late HTML 3 spec, where web designers despaired of having their web pages act even remotely consistently between browsers, where coders will continue to learn bad habits that not only create more headaches for other coders but also contribute to the overall cost of products, will have web browsers on the desktop that are increasingly out of step with their XML-compliant counterparts in mobile devides. Already, I'm hearing from people who should know better that HTML 5 shouldn't be seen as a complete spec, but as a grab bag of features that can be implemented or not as budget and desire allow.

--Kurt Cagle
Read the rest in The Coming HTML 5 Train Wreck | XML Today

Wednesday, October 14, 2009
In XML development discussions, we had the Desperate Perl Hacker (DPH.) He/She needs be brought back. The Desperate Fortune 500 Development Strategist is no substitute. A vendor may indeed speak for their clients, but they cannot speak for all the people who have rejected becoming their clients: hence the need for paternalistic fictions such as the DPH.

--Rick Jelliffe
Read the rest in Re: XML Schema usage statistics (WAS: Draft minutes of 2009-05-12 TAG weekly) from rjelliffe@allette.com.au on 2009-05-22 (www

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Know what? AP’s not the originating source of that article. Nope. See, I emailed the story’s author, asking how he came across this upset in Japan. He’d seen some stuff in the blogs in Japan about how these old maps might impact minorities and so dug around and got into the story about Google Earth.

None of these blogs are mentioned in the story. No links lead to them or any other source that was involved in this story making it into the AP wire. Why aren’t some of these originating sources in there?

Because that’s not typically the way the mainstream media tends to roll. They pick up tips from plenty of online sources, but those source often aren’t cited. Hell, they pick up tips from each other but will pretend they didn’t get the news from competitors, unless it’s so blatantly obvious they were scooped that it would be embarrassing not to mention it.

So spare me the idea that the AP or any newspaper isn’t somehow getting the “right” credit. I’d damn well like to see Google and other search engine do a better job in ensuring that a real “originating” story does get a top rank. But those stories aren’t always from the mainstream press, and that type of rhetoric isn’t winning hearts-and-minds with hardworking bloggers who are an irreversible and integral part today’s news ecosystem.

--Danny Sullivan
Read the rest in Do Newspapers Owe Google “Fair Share” Fees For Researching Stories?

Monday, October 12, 2009
this philosophy of "every identifier must be a URI", coupled with "URIs should begin with 'http://', is one of the worst things to come out of W3C

--Michael Kay
on the xml-dev mailing list, Thursday, 9 July 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

I believe in the link economy. Please feel free to link to our stories — it adds value to all producers of content. I believe you should play fair and encourage your readers to read-around to what others are producing if you use it and find it interesting.

I don’t believe you could or should charge others for simply linking to your content. Appropriate excerpting and referencing are not only acceptable, but encouraged. If someone wants to create a business on the back of others’ original content, the parties should have a business relationship that benefits both.

Let’s stop whining and start having real conversations across party lines. Let’s get online publishers, search engines, aggregators, ad networks, and self-publishers (bloggers) in a virtual room and determine how we can all get along. I don’t believe any one of us should be the self-appointed Internet police; agreeing on a code of conduct and ethics is in everyone’s best interests.

Our news ecosystem is evolving and learning how it can be open, diverse, inclusive and effective. With all the new tools and capabilities we should be entering a new golden age of journalism – call it journalism 3.0. Let’s identify how we can birth it and agree what is “fair use” or “fair compensation” and have a conversation about how we can work together to fuel a vibrant, productive and trusted digital news industry. Let’s identify business models that are inclusive and that create a win-win relationship for all parties.

This is not code for some hidden agenda – it is an open call for collective problem solving. Let’s do it wiki-style and edit it in the public domain. Let’s define the code of conduct and ethics we would all like to operate under.

My suggestion is we start with “do unto others” as our guiding spirit – I bet it would make all of our mothers proud.

--Chris Ahearn, President, Media at Thomson Reuters.
Read the rest in Why I believe in the link economy

Thursday, October 8, 2009
To be a real establishment journalist (objective), you're not allowed to say when one side is lying -- even when they are.  All you're allowed to do is repeat what both sides say and leave it at that (Colbert:  "The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home").  Froomkin -- unlike David Gregory -- believes that reporters should actually point out when the Government is lying.  That's what he did.  That's why, to The Post, he wasn't a real reporter but, rather, an "ideologue."  That's the sickness of American journalism in a nutshell.

--Glenn Greenwald
Read the rest in The Washington Post, Dan Froomkin and the establishment media - Glenn Greenwald

Wednesday, September 30, 2009
With today's technologies, government transparency means much more than the chance to read one document at a time. Citizens today expect to be able to download comprehensive government datasets that are machine-processable, open and free.

--Harlan Yu
Read the rest in Azul Systems - Cliff Click Jr.’s Blog

Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Obama’s FCC is trying to fulfill what I’m sure was a campaign promise and codify network neutrality so future more conservative Administrations will have a harder time messing with it.  Republican interests, fulfilling promises of their own, are opposing the expansion of network neutrality saying it is an imposition of government on a free market that works just fine, thanks.  Oh, except for Wall Street, and the insurance companies, and the banks, and maybe six homeowners on your street and about four million others, but otherwise the free market is perfect.

--Mark Stephens
Read the rest in I, Cringely » Blog Archive » All Circuits Aren’t Busy - Cringely on technology

Friday, September 25, 2009

there seems to be the assumption that loose syntax is easier for beginners. This baffles me. In my experience simple, strict rules are *much* easier to learn and code to than loose rules with multiple shortcuts.

I like XHTML because attributes must always be quoted. Tags must always be closed. These are simple rules that require no thought, and result in uniform, predictable markup.

As soon as something is optional (be that the need to quote an attribute or close a tag or whatever) the author has to learn a set of conditions and evaluate when a shortcut may or may not be used. Similarly, reading markup back becomes more difficult, as those conditions have to be taken into account again.

Strict syntax is simpler and easier.

--Drew McLellan
Read the rest in In defense of web developers – Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report

Thursday, September 24, 2009

This creeping unease a lot of fans are feeling isn't so much about people wanting to get paid for their labour but about a kind of devaluing of comics as a form, which has been going on. As the rush to convert comic books into handy illustrated movie pitches becomes less chaotic and more transparent, I think we've all become aware of a kind of betrayal, a public strangling of the exotic strangeness and uniqueness of American comics, as publishers, creators and readers confuse their media and expect comic book stories to conform to Hollywood storytelling conventions.

Wise up: the more comics imitate movies, the less need movies will have for comics as a source of imaginative material; let's remember that the movie industry is ONLY NOW learning to simulate the technology and imagination Jack Kirby packed in his pencil 40 years ago. As I've been saying to the point of boredom for the last couple of years, our creative community owes it to the future to produce today the insane, logic-shattering, side-splitting day-glo stories which will be turned into all-immersive holographic magic theatre experiences in 40 years time. The comics medium is a very specialized area of the Arts, home to many rare and talented blooms and flowering imaginations and it breaks my heart to see so many of our best and brightest bowing down to the same market pressures which drive lowest-common-denominator blockbuster movies and television cop shows. Let's see if we can call time on this trend by demanding and creating big, wild comics which stretch our imaginations. Let's make living breathing, sprawling adventures filled with mind-blowing images of things unseen on Earth. Let's make artefacts that are not faux-games or movies but something other, something so rare and strange it might as well be a window into another universe because that's what it is. Let's see images which come directly from the minds of inspired artists, not from publicity stills. Superhero comics are way too expensive for the mass market and the brand of garish, violent pulp they were once the only source for is available these days in more attractive media. We should get real about this and stop dumbing down, stop stunting our artists' creativity and stop trying to attract a completely imaginary 'mainstream audience'. The best way to consolidate comics as a viable medium is to make them LESS like other media, not more. Let our artists go wild on imaginative page layouts. Let our writers find stories in their dreams and not in the newspaper pages, at least for a little while again. Aim for the cool, literate 'college' audience, as Stan Lee did to great success in the 60s.

--Grant Morrison
Read the rest in elharo's qqq Bookmarks on Delicious

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
you want to choose identifiers that are meaningful to the largest possible number of people within the community that will encounter them. The more international your operation, the more likely it is that this purpose will best be served by using the Latin alphabet. Certainly before you use characters from a wider repertoire, you need to think hard about the possibilities this will open for increased confusion.

--Michael Kay on the xml-dev mailing list, Sunday, 24 Feb 2008 19:10:25

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

If you entrust your data to others, they can let you down or outright betray you. For example, if your favorite music is rented or authorized from an online subscription service rather than freely in your custody as a compact disc or an MP3 file on your hard drive, you can lose your music if you fall behind on your payments — or if the vendor goes bankrupt or loses interest in the service. Last week Amazon apparently conveyed a publisher’s change-of-heart to owners of its Kindle e-book reader: some purchasers of Orwell’s “1984” found it removed from their devices, with nothing to show for their purchase other than a refund. (Orwell would be amused.)

Worse, data stored online has less privacy protection both in practice and under the law. A hacker recently guessed the password to the personal e-mail account of a Twitter employee, and was thus able to extract the employee’s Google password. That in turn compromised a trove of Twitter’s corporate documents stored too conveniently in the cloud. Before, the bad guys usually needed to get their hands on people’s computers to see their secrets; in today’s cloud all you need is a password.

Thanks in part to the Patriot Act, the federal government has been able to demand some details of your online activities from service providers — and not to tell you about it. There have been thousands of such requests lodged since the law was passed, and the F.B.I.’s own audits have shown that there can be plenty of overreach — perhaps wholly inadvertent — in requests like these.

The cloud can be even more dangerous abroad, as it makes it much easier for authoritarian regimes to spy on their citizens. The Chinese government has used the Chinese version of Skype instant messaging software to monitor text conversations and block undesirable words and phrases. It and other authoritarian regimes routinely monitor all Internet traffic — which, except for e-commerce and banking transactions, is rarely encrypted against prying eyes.

With a little effort and political will, we could solve these problems. Companies could be required under fair practices law to allow your data to be released back to you with just a click so that you can erase your digital footprints or simply take your business (and data) elsewhere. They could also be held to the promises they make about content sold through the cloud: If they sell you an e-book, they can’t take it back or make it less functional later. To increase security, companies that keep their data in the cloud could adopt safer Internet communications and password practices, including the use of biometrics like fingerprints to validate identity.

And some governments can be persuaded — or perhaps required by their independent judiciaries — to treat data entrusted to the cloud with the same level of privacy protection as data held personally. The Supreme Court declared in 1961 that a police search of a rented house for a whiskey still was a violation of the Fourth Amendment privacy rights of the tenant, even though the landlord had given permission for the search. Information stored in the cloud deserves similar safeguards.

--Jonathan Zittrain
Read the rest in Op-Ed Contributor - Lost in the Cloud - NYTimes.com

Thursday, September 10, 2009
write your markup in XHTML 5, or, if you use HTML 5, do the markup as if it were XHTML. You will be better off staying with the XML standard that requires a closing tag for each opening tag rather than spending your time optimizing markup for tags that have optional closing and/or opening tags. Similarly, quote all your attribute values rather than trying to decide when you can leave the quotes off. In addition to not having to waste neurons on those decisions, your markup will be more consistent.

--J. David Eisenberg
Read the rest in A List Apart: Articles: Get Ready for HTML 5

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The story of AppleWorks is another, even clearer example: AW was a marvelously multi-capable program, finely polished after years of development. But the OS X team never saw it as anything but an annoyance; they'd never used it, had no conception of its genius. Rather than remaking it into a great OS X application, they started again from scratch to create iWork, which is actually designed on the model of MS Office -- several separate apps tossed into a bucket together with a few links, unlike AW's seamlessly integrated multi-capabilities. Despite what Apple says, iWork is <em>not</em> a replacement for AppleWorks; there is none. Instead, we have this great big sloppy new "software suite" -- excellent in many ways, yes, but still raw and unfinished in many others, a huge memory hog, and it still won't do a lot of what ClarisWorks did 15 years ago. This is the Brave New World of OS X.

--Andrew Main
Read the rest in MacInTouch Recent News

Monday, September 7, 2009

Today, kids are still way ahead of the grownups who supposedly control their school and home networks. In my informal interviews, I've discovered again and again that kids are a bottomless well of tricks for evading network filters and controls, and that they propagate their tricks like crazy, trading them like bubble-gum cards and amassing social capital by helping their peers gain access to the whole wide Web, rather than the narrow slice that's visible through the crack in the firewall.

I have to admit, this warms my heart. After all, do we want to raise a generation of kids who have the tech savvy of an Iranian dissident, or the ham-fisted incompetence of the government those dissidents are running circles around?

--Cory Doctorow
Read the rest in Beyond Censorware: Teaching Web Literacy

Thursday, August 27, 2009

So if it is not congenial for validation, and it is not a success for reliable databinding, is it at least good for documentation? In fact, the verbosity of XML Schemas makes it utterly unusable for presenting to humans to understand a document's structure. In this regard, I note that the recent HTML 5 drafts have reverted to something akin to RELAX NG Compact Syntax (which looks like DTD content models and has a standard mapping to the XML form.)

Further if XML Schemas is not useable for documentation, is it useful for generating useful validation messages for humans? The answer is clearly that the messages produced by implementations of XML Schemas are not much use, particular the obscure structural messages. As someone who has both implemented most of XML Schemas (a converter to Schematron) and who has customized the messages from various schema processors, I don't see how some of the messages can be made human-friendly, since they relate to obscure rules in XML Schemas.

And if XML Schemas is not good for validation, does it redeem itself by winning over implementers with a good standard? It is no secret that the XML Schemas Structures standard is the very model of an impenetrable, guru-inducing standard. But, having work in the W3C XML Schema WG at the time of the first release, and deeply respecting the editors and working group members, I believe this is not a fixable fault with the documentation, but a reflection of the brain-numbing technology.

--Rick Jelliffe
Read the rest in Comment on XSD 1.1 from Rick Jelliffe on 2009-05-13 (www

Thursday, August 20, 2009
READ CAREFULLY. By [accepting this material|accepting this payment|accepting this business-card|viewing this t-shirt|reading this sticker] you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies (”BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.

--Reasonable Agreement
Read the rest in The Smallprint Project

Monday, August 17, 2009
There was a time in America when the press and the government were on opposite sides of the field. The press was supposed to speak on behalf of the people. The new tradition is that the press speaks on behalf of the government.

--Lewis Lapham
Read the rest in elharo's qqq Bookmarks on Delicious

Friday, August 14, 2009
I believe in the link economy. Please feel free to link to our stories — it adds value to all producers of content. I believe you should play fair and encourage your readers to read-around to what others are producing if you use it and find it interesting.

--Chris Ahearn, President Reuters Media
Read the rest in elharo's qqq Bookmarks on Delicious

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Today, more than 25,000 news organizations across the globe make their content available in Google News and other web search engines. They do so because they want their work to be found and read -- Google delivers more than a billion consumer visits to newspaper web sites each month. These visits offer the publishers a business opportunity, the chance to hook a reader with compelling content, to make money with advertisements or to offer online subscriptions. If at any point a web publisher feels as though we're not delivering value to them and wants us to stop indexing their content, they're able to do so quickly and effectively.

Some proposals we've seen from news publishers are well-intentioned, but would fundamentally change -- for the worse -- the way the web works. Our guiding principle is that whatever technical standards we introduce must work for the whole web (big publishers and small), not just for one subset or field. There's a simple reason behind this. The Internet has opened up enormous possibilities for education, learning, and commerce so it's important that search engines makes it easy for those who want to share their content to do so -- while also providing robust controls for those who want to limit access.

--Josh Cohen, Google
Read the rest in elharo's qqq Bookmarks on Delicious

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
OpenSSL has a horrible track record for security; but it has the saving grace that because it is so widely used, vendors tend to be very good at making sure that OpenSSL vulnerabilities get fixed promptly. I wish there was a better alternative, but for now at least OpenSSL is the best option available.

--Colin Percival
Read the rest in Cryptographic Right Answers

Thursday, August 6, 2009
Choosing between robustness and saving a few bytes, one should always opt for the former.

--Keryx Web on Saturday, 25 Jul 2009 11:47:57
on the whatwg mailing list

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It’s time we came to grips with the fact that not every “document” can be a “web page.” Some forms of writing just cannot be expressed in HTML—or they need to be bent and distorted to do so. But for once, XML might actually help.

The creation myth of the web tells us that Tim Berners-Lee invented HTML as a means of publishing physics research papers. True? It doesn’t matter; it’s a founding legend of the web whose legacy continues to this day. You can gin up as many web applications as you want, but the web is mostly still a place to publish documents.

The web is replete with projects to “digitize legacy content”—patent applications, books, photographs, everything. While photographs might survive well as JPEGs or TIFFs (disregarding accessibility issues for a moment), the bulk of this legacy content requires semantic markup for computers to understand it. A sheet of paper provides complete authorial freedom, but that freedom can translate poorly to the coarse semantics of HTML. The digitization craze—that’s what it is—crashes headlong into HTML semantics.

Some documents cannot be published using HTML. In many cases, we shouldn’t even bother trying. In other cases, we have to radically change the appearance and structure of the document. Ideally, we’ll start using custom XML document types—which, finally and at long last, might actually work.

--Joe Clark
Read the rest in A List Apart: Articles: Unwebbable

Monday, August 3, 2009
I expect few scientific publishers will believe and act on predictions of disruption. One common response to such predictions is the appealing game of comparison: “but we’re better than blogs / wikis / PLoS One / …!” These statements are currently true, at least when judged according to the conventional values of scientific publishing. But they’re as irrelevant as the equally true analogous statements were for newspapers. It’s also easy to vent standard immune responses: “but what about peer review”, “what about quality control”, “how will scientists know what to read”. These questions express important values, but to get hung up on them suggests a lack of imagination much like Andrew Rosenthal’s defense of the New York Times editorial page. (I sometimes wonder how many journal editors still use Yahoo!’s human curated topic directory instead of Google?) In conversations with editors I repeatedly encounter the same pattern: “But idea X won’t work / shouldn’t be allowed / is bad because of Y.” Well, okay. So what? If you’re right, you’ll be intellectually vindicated, and can take a bow. If you’re wrong, your company may not exist in ten years. Whether you’re right or not is not the point. When new technologies are being developed, the organizations that win are those that aggressively take risks, put visionary technologists in key decision-making positions, attain a deep organizational mastery of the relevant technologies, and, in most cases, make a lot of mistakes. Being wrong is a feature, not a bug, if it helps you evolve a model that works: you start out with an idea that’s just plain wrong, but that contains the seed of a better idea. You improve it, and you’re only somewhat wrong. You improve it again, and you end up the only game in town.

--Michael Nielsen
Read the rest in Michael Nielsen » Is scientific publishing about to be disrupted?

Friday, July 31, 2009
Use AES in CTR (Counter) mode, and append an HMAC. AES is about as standard as you can get, and has done a good job of resisting cryptologic attacks over the past decade. Using CTR mode avoids the weakness of ECB mode, the complex (and bug-prone) process of padding and unpadding of partial blocks (or ciphertext stealing), and vastly reduces the risk of side channel attacks thanks to the fact that the data being input to AES is not sensitive. However, because CTR mode is malleable, you should always add an HMAC to confirm that the encrypted data has not been tampered with. In some situations it may be preferable for performance reasons to use a cipher mode such as GCM which combines encryption and authentication; but this benefit is small (HMACs are fast) and increases the risk of side channel attacks (because attacker-supplied input is processed).

--Colin Percival
Read the rest in Cryptographic Right Answers

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
In a modern tool, the font box there should not exist. All formatting should be done by assigning semantic "tags" and defining how these are expected to render. (Just like you have been doing with LaTeX for ages, and many people are doing nowadays with CSS.)

--Erich Schubert
Read the rest in Techblogging

Monday, July 27, 2009

The idea that kids can run technological circles around their elders is hardly new. In 1878, the newly launched Bell System was crashed by its operators, young messenger boys who'd been redeployed to run the nascent phone system instead treated the nation's fragile communications infrastructure as the raw material for a series of pranks and ill-conceived experiments.

Today, kids are still way ahead of the grownups who supposedly control their school and home networks. In my informal interviews, I've discovered again and again that kids are a bottomless well of tricks for evading network filters and controls, and that they propagate their tricks like crazy, trading them like bubble-gum cards and amassing social capital by helping their peers gain access to the whole wide Web, rather than the narrow slice that's visible through the crack in the firewall.

I have to admit, this warms my heart. After all, do we want to raise a generation of kids who have the tech savvy of an Iranian dissident, or the ham-fisted incompetence of the government those dissidents are running circles around?

--Cory Doctorow
Read the rest in Internet Evolution - The Big Report - Beyond Censorware: Teaching Web Literacy

Friday, July 24, 2009
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser once had an over 90% share of the market, but has been failing steadily in recent years. I’d blame that on the fact that Microsoft rested on its laurels with that huge lead for far too long (it basically stopped work on IE for several years), and now has a browser that is arguably the worst on the market.

--MG Siegler
Read the rest in The Postman Always Bings Twice

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The traditional TV industry--cable companies, networks, and broadcasters--is where the newspaper industry was about five years ago:

In denial.

--Henry Blodget
Read the rest in Sorry, There's No Way To Save The TV Business

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Outside of the realm of science, objectivity is discredited these days as anything but an aspiration, and even that aspiration is looking pretty sketchy. The problem with objectivity is that it tries to show what the world looks like from no particular point of view, which is like wondering what something looks like in the dark. Nevertheless, objectivity — even as an unattainable goal — served an important role in how we came to trust information, and in the economics of newspapers in the modern age.

You can see this in newspapers’ early push-back against blogging. We were told that bloggers have agendas, whereas journalists give us objective information. Of course, if you don’t think objectivity is possible, then you think that the claim of objectivity is actually hiding the biases that inevitably are there. That’s what I meant when, during a bloggers press conference at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I asked Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Walter Mears whom he was supporting for president. He replied (paraphrasing!), “If I tell you, how can you trust what I write?,” to which I replied that if he doesn’t tell us, how can we trust what he blogs?

So, that’s one sense in which transparency is the new objectivity. What we used to believe because we thought the author was objective we now believe because we can see through the author’s writings to the sources and values that brought her to that position. Transparency gives the reader information by which she can undo some of the unintended effects of the ever-present biases. Transparency brings us to reliability the way objectivity used to.

This change is, well, epochal.

--David Weinberger
Read the rest in Joho the Blog » Transparency is the new objectivity

Thursday, July 16, 2009
Early versions of Gnome and KDE were pretty much just clones of the Microsoft Windows UI. They’ve diverged since then, and I’d say Ubuntu’s default Gnome desktop is in most ways better from a design and usability standpoint than Windows Vista. But it’s still fundamentally a clone of Windows — menu bars within the window, minimize/maximize/close buttons at the top right of the window, the ugly single-character underlines in menu and button names. At a glance it looks like Windows with a different theme. The idea being that if you want Windows users to switch to Gnome or KDE, you’ve got to make it feel familiar. But that’s not how you get people to switch to a new product. People won’t switch to something that’s just a little bit better than what they’re used to. People switch when the see something that is way better, holy shit better, wow, this is like ten times better.

--John Gruber
Read the rest in Daring Fireball: Putting What Little We Actually Know About Chrome OS Into Context

Monday, July 13, 2009
DOM should be allowed to die an undignified, lonely and miserable death.

--Michael Kay on the xml-dev mailing list, Friday, 28 Nov 2008 12:21:49

Thursday, July 9, 2009
the PSVI (post-schema validation infoset) represents a fundamental break with the basic relevant XML Specs. Indeed, it might be said that XML Schemas are not schemas for documents, but schemas for databases that have an XML serialization. The two are not the same.

--Rick Jelliffe
Read the rest in Comment on XSD 1.1 from Rick Jelliffe on 2009-05-13

Monday, July 6, 2009

In describing books, the Scottish-American classicist Gilbert Arthur Highet once wrote, "These are not lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves." In a world in which students consult not shelves but keyboards, too many of those lively minds remain out of sight, exiled to those shelves, where, every year, there is a virtual conflagration not unlike the fire at the ancient library at Alexandria, as last copies of precious books crumble slowly to dust, or are damaged, stolen, or lost.

What once seemed at least debatable has now become irrefutable: If it's not online, it's invisible. While increasing numbers of long-out-of-date, public-domain books are now fully and freely available to anyone with a browser, the vast majority of the scholarship published in book form over the last 80 years is today largely overlooked by students, who limit their research to what can be discovered on the Internet.

--Tim Barton
Read the rest in Saving Texts From Oblivion: Oxford U. Press on the Google Book Settlement

Friday, July 3, 2009
imagine someone at the New York Times had tried to start a service like Google News, prior to Google News. Even before the product launched they would have been constantly attacked from within the organization for promoting competitors’ products. They would likely have been forced to water down and distort the service, probably to the point where it was nearly useless for potential customers. And even if they’d managed to win the internal fight and launched a product that wasn’t watered down, they would then have been attacked viciously by the New York Times’ competitors, who would suspect a ploy to steal business. Only someone outside the industry could have launched a service like Google News.

--Michael Nielsen
Read the rest in Michael Nielsen » Is scientific publishing about to be disrupted?

Thursday, July 2, 2009
Come to think of it, *nobody* who is marketing UI creation tools seems to care about usability. It's all about Animation! Fonts! Colors!

--Guido van Rossum
Read the rest in Neopythonic: IronPython in Action and the Decline of Windows

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You Can’t Be Too Skeptical of Authority

  • Don’t assume anything administration officials tell you is true. In fact, you are probably better off assuming anything they tell you is a lie.
  • Demand proof for their every assertion. Assume the proof is a lie. Demand that they prove that their proof is accurate.

--Dan Froomkin
Read the rest in Nieman Watchdog > Commentary > How the press can prevent another Iraq

Saturday, June 27, 2009
Celebrity is to mentality as smoking is to food. (I originally wrote “chewing gum” there, but I think smoking is the better analogy.) It is an unhealthy waste of time. And time is a measure of life. We are born with an unknown sum of time, and have to spend all of it. “Saving” time is a rhetorical trick. So is “losing” it. Our lives are spent, one end to the other. What matters most is how we choose to spend it.

--Doc Searls
Read the rest in Doc Searls Weblog · Beyond celebrity obsession

Friday, June 26, 2009

if Google’s a vampire, here’s some free garlic that will keep it away. Go over to your robots.txt file here and add these lines:

User-agent: Googlebot
Disallow: /

All done. Heck, there’s even a Google help page with these instructions. Weird vampire, to be pointing at garlic like that.

--Danny Sullivan
Read the rest in Garlic For The Google Vampire

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I’m not trying to sell iPhones, though I think every blind person in the world should celebrate having the choice to own one.

I just want to point out that this is the future. An everyday, super-fun product that is accessible out of the box.

Why is Apple there first?

In my opinion Apple is here, not because they are altruistic and not because they are afraid of being sued. They are here because they understand consumers. They know people want functions and fun. People don’t really care about how something works. They just want it to work and to be easy. Accessibility is easy. It is easier than being not accessible. This is something Steve Jobs has always understood and he has created a culture at Apple that lives it.

Apple could easily have dismissed the idea that blind people would be interested in using a device with a touch-screen interface which is inherently visual. The company could have continued to develop its products without a thought for accessibility and left it to AT manufacturers to make them accessible after the fact.

Instead, Apple has given consumers, blind and sighted alike, the ability to use their devices in whatever manner they choose – voice, touch, sight. Apple has embraced the idea of universal design. Apple understands that accessibility should be about far more than developing custom solutions which pay lip service to the idea of accessibility but detract from the out-of-box experience enjoyed by everyone else. For Apple, accessibility is not about catering to a particular subsection of the market. Rather, it is about ensuring that products are usable by a diverse group of people in a diverse variety of situations.

This approach to accessibility benefits everyone. It benefits the sighted person who wants to browse his Itunes library for some great content without taking his eyes off the road. It benefits the person who has his hands too full to dial, but can still make a phone call by using his voice, regardless of which language he speaks. And it benefits the blind person who wants to enjoy all of the incredible productivity and digital lifestyle features that have made the iPhone so popular to begin with. So, while I wait to get my hands on a device which is sleek, stylish, feature-packed, relatively inexpensive, and just so happens to be fully accessible right out of the box, I will continue to ask the question: where is everyone -+else?

--Mike Salvo
Read the rest in Serotek Blog: Why is it that Apple always seems to get to the future first?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
  1. I made the right decision leaving the newspaper business.
  2. That’s not to say I’m happy about breaking up with my one true career love.
  3. But the business model for newspapers is broken.
  4. No one has figured out how to fix it.
  5. That’s probably because it can’t be fixed.
  6. The smaller the newspaper, the longer its life span in print (four exceptions: the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Washington Post and USA Today).
  7. Technology has run laps around the print media — giving readers instant news, open-source journalism, no barriers to become publishers, and an infinite news hole.
  8. The idea that your daily news is collected, written, edited, paginated, printed on dead trees, put in a series of trucks and cars and delivered on your driveway — at least 12 hours stale — is anachronistic in 2008.
  9. As a friend told me last week, “Bro, face it. You guys are the 8-track cassette of news.”
  10. Other seemingly indispensable industries have been rubbed out by technology, leading to the unemployment of scribes, steamship captains, and the Pony Express riders. Why not newspaper reporters?
  11. Newspapers were unbelievably slow in embracing the Internet, even though younger reporters have been pleading with their bosses for years to embrace the Web.

--Scott Lobdell
Read the rest in Lobdell's OC: 42 things I know

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's time to show most passwords in clear text as users type them. Providing feedback and visualizing the system's status have always been among the most basic usability principles. Showing undifferentiated bullets while users enter complex codes definitely fails to comply.

Most websites (and many other applications) mask passwords as users type them, and thereby theoretically prevent miscreants from looking over users' shoulders. Of course, a truly skilled criminal can simply look at the keyboard and note which keys are being pressed. So, password masking doesn't even protect fully against snoopers.

More importantly, there's usually nobody looking over your shoulder when you log in to a website. It's just you, sitting all alone in your office, suffering reduced usability to protect against a non-issue.

--Jakob Nielsen
Read the rest in Stop Password Masking (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Copyright and technology are inextricably bound together. The story of copyright is the story of new technologies and the rules that were created to deal with them.

And here’s a corollary: So long as innovation is taking place, piracy is the norm.

By definition, pirates are people who are disrupting the existing market. When the market is consolidated into a few gatekeepers, they're unlikely to license their copyrights to upstarts that are entering the market without having to invest in last year's inefficient technology.

The first techno-pirates were the record companies that ripped off composers to put their music onto discs. Then the radio pirates ripped off the record pirates. Then the cable pirates ripped off the broadcast pirates. Then the VCR pirates ripped off the cable pirates.

Today, companies that have paid for broadcast equipment understand that netcasters can distribute their programs for a tiny fraction of their costs, and so they fear them and lock them out of the market by refusing to license them. Instead, they hand-pick a few easily controlled successors (sometimes these successors are subsidiaries, like Hulu LLC ) and threaten to sue anyone who competes with them.

At which point, netcasters do to the broadcasters exactly what the broadcasters did to the record companies: They take their stuff without asking, declare themselves to be legit operators stymied by anticompetitive dinosaurs, and wait for the courts or Congress to legalize them on the ground that they're too beloved by the voters to destroy.

--Cory Doctorow
Read the rest in Internet Evolution - The Big Report

Friday, June 19, 2009
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser once had an over 90% share of the market, but has been failing steadily in recent years. I’d blame that on the fact that Microsoft rested on its laurels with that huge lead for far too long (it basically stopped work on IE for several years), and now has a browser that is arguably the worst on the market.

--MG Siegler
Read the rest in The Postman Always Bings Twice

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Most - not all, but most - developers who focus on the Web seem to regard XSLT as a pathological case of weird technology, something better left ignored unless there's good reason to break the glass and get into it.

Yes, of course you can use XSLT on the Web, but there's very little evidence that its creators paid attention to how web sites and applications are normally built, to the existence of a prior stylesheet language that's vastly easier to get started with, or to the general level of programming expertise historically required to build these applications. It never really fit.

--Simon St. Laurent
Read the rest in Ibiblio.org Mail - [xml-dev] XML support in browsers?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Specifically, TV business models for the past half-century, from broadcast to cable to satellite, have been built on the following foundation:

  • Not much else to do at home that's as simple and fun as TV
  • No way to get video content other than via TV
  • No options other than TV for advertisers who want to tell video stories
  • No options other than cable--and, more recently, satellite--to get TV
  • Tight choke-points in each market through which all video content has to flow (cable company, airwaves), which creates enormous value for the owners of those gates.

And now, slowly but surely, look what's happening:

  • Other simple and fun options emerging at home: Internet, video games, Facebook, IM, DVDs
  • New ways to get TV content other than traditional TV companies: Hulu, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix
  • Video-story options for advertisers beginning to emerge: Hulu shows, for example (But NBC, et al, making a lot less per viewer now than they do on TV)
  • More options for getting video content: telcos, cable cos, wireless cos (soon)
  • Fewer choke points in each market: With an Internet connection anywhere in the world, you will soon be able to get to almost anything.  And not just to your computer--to your television.

Read the rest in Sorry, There's No Way To Save The TV Business

Monday, June 15, 2009

The big thing that must improve though is handling character encodings in emails. After spending a week or more trying to come up with an automated conversion scheme that would honor all the encodings on the planet, I had a realization.

Why Isn’t All Mail UTF-8?

Remembering the purpose of Lamson as a modern mail server and framework, it finally struck me as dumb that I’m trying to keep around encodings that were invented in the pre-Unicode days. Every modern system understands and displays UTF-8, and apart from some pissy attitudes from the Japanese about the Han unification, there’s really no reason that every email Lamson handles can’t be “upgraded” to UTF-8.

--Zed Shaw
Read the rest in LamsonProject: The Mailocalypse Is Upon Us!

Friday, June 12, 2009
Building DOM-heavy javascript applications on top of a broken DOM is like building a 50-story condo on top of an old landfill with milk crates for the foundation. How can you develop and test javascript if the DOM is a heap of garbage? You can't, and if you try, you're going to run into some really quirky bugs. When a javascript-heavy web page validates successfully against W3C standards, it's one less thing that could go wrong.

--Brad Gessler
Read the rest in Pragmatic W3C Standards

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Do what some UK government applications do: tell the user you can't use "&" or "<" in text fields, and reject the data if you find them being used. This means that a very small minority of users will know you are technically incompetent (or at any rate, that you employ "programmers who have no skill in XML"), and the vast majority will think you are just being bureaucratic, which is what they expect of you anyway. But since they don't have the option of taking their business elsewhere, why should you care?

--Michael Kay on the xml-dev mailing list, Tuesday, 30 Sep 2008 10:13:31

Tuesday, June 9, 2009
the number of machines in the world that run BSD is much more than the number than run Linux. BSD is sold commercially under the trade name ‘Macintosh.’”

--Andrew Tannenbaum
Read the rest in Andrew Tanenbaum: Geek of the Week

Monday, June 8, 2009
XML Schemas is like using a Swiss Army knife to cook with. Most Asian kitchens get by with a handful of simple tools: chopsticks, hatchet, a good knife, perhaps even a spoon. But the logic of the XSD WG is "Oh, the French need to make quenelles, we must have a quenelling spoon as a grave matter of Internationalization because it is not our business to judge what people need... as long it is more stuff." So XSD 1.1 welds another Swiss Army knife onto the existing one, so that no kitchen should suffer without a quenelling spoon. .

--Rick Jelliffe
Read the rest in Re: XML Schema usage statistics (WAS: Draft minutes of 2009-05-12 TAG weekly) from Rick Jelliffe on 2009-05-21 (www

Friday, June 5, 2009
The mission here is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and relevant. So the accessible part: think of a world in which you are somehow prevented from accessing the information you want. When I go to a hotel room and pay the $19.95 to get on the Internet and they have some firewall that doesn't let me get to my Exchange server, it makes me berserk.

--Andy Rubin, Google
Read the rest in Google's Rubin: Android 'a revolution' | Digital Media

Friday, May 29, 2009
Montreal? It was the awkward poor sibling of big Canadian cities for a couple decades after the whole separatism thing started (and people and head offices fled to Ottawa and Toronto), but it’s been coming back recently — the streets aren’t as dirty, the heroin addicts are panhandling more politely, and after all, it’s still Montreal. Just like Manhattan in the 1970s at its dirtiest and most dysfunctional was still more fun than any other U.S. city, Montreal will always be the coolest Canadian city to visit

--David Megginson
Read the rest in Megginson Technologies: Quoderat » Blog Archive » Canadian house prices

Friday, May 22, 2009

Telcoms companies argue that their responsibility is to their shareholders, not the public interest, and that they are only taking the course of maximum profitability. It's not their business to ensure that the Googles of tomorrow attain liftoff from the garages in which they are born.

But telcoms firms are all recipients of invaluable public subsidy in the form of rights of way and other grants that allow them to string their wires over and under our streets and through our homes. You and I can't go spelunking in the sewers with a spool of cable to wire up our own alternative network. And if the phone companies had to negotiate for every pole, every sewer, every punch-down, every junction box, every road they get to tear up, they'd go broke. All the money in the world couldn't pay for the access they get for free every day.

If they don't like it, they don't have to do it. But we don't have to give them our sewers and streets and walls, either. Governments and regulators are in a position to demand that these recipients of public subsidy adhere to a minimum standard of public interest. If they don't like it, let them get into another line of work – give them 60 days to get their wires out of our dirt and then sell the franchise to provide network services to a competitor who will promise to give us a solid digital future in exchange for our generosity.

--Cory Doctorow
Read the rest in We must ensure ISPs don't stop the next Google getting out of the garage | Technology | guardian.co.uk

Thursday, May 21, 2009

People who download illegally aren't people who hate the product. They're fans. Of course there are some people who would never pay a penny for it, no matter how cheaply or easily available it was. But there are many who, like me, just want to enjoy a TV show they've seen advertised.

It's time for staggered releases to end. Every day they continue, more people, tired of seeing adverts and reviews of shows and movies they won't be able to buy legitimately for months or years, call up a techie friend and say "that torrenting thing, how do you do that?"

Every day these shows and movies aren't available to buy, worldwide, on the same day, for a reasonably equivalent price, more people are finding out how to get them for nothing. And once they're used to doing it that way, it's going to be harder than ever to get them back.

--Naomi Alderman
Read the rest in If you can't buy it legally, of course you'll download it | Technology | guardian.co.uk

Monday, May 18, 2009
Generic schemas are always more complicated than you expect. That's because your requirements are a subset of the requirements of the community as a whole, often quite a small subset. A published generic schema will tend to be the union of everyone's requirements.

--Michael Kay on the xml-dev mailing list, Tuesday, 13 Mar 2007 15:00:34

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Accessibility is not something to be left to specialists hired to clean up our mess at the end. It should be a priority of the entire development team from the beginning. Yes, companies should definitely have accessibility people on-board, but they should act as much as educators and coaches as designers. Everyone on the development team must be aware of and responsive to the full spectrum of identified users if your product is to sell to the widest possible audience. That’s the only way to achieve inclusive design.

One way to ensure everyone understands is to hire people with disabilities. Not only will they take an active part in inclusive design, but, as team members get to know them, the team members will find that they naturally begin to address their new brethrens’ needs: It’s natural for people to take care of their own.

--Bruce Tognazzini
Read the rest in Inclusive Design Part 2

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I’m pretty good at stating the bleeding obvious, but this has to be repeated. We are currently undergoing a shift in media consumption of cataclysmic proportions, the lines are being drawn between what Lessig calls the Read-Only and Read/Write cultures (RO and RW respectively). As the advertising well dries up, the old RO media is left hurt and bewildered, wondering where have all the punters gone. Then they see clips of Susan Boyle on YouTube accumulating 100 million views, and it dawns on them. YouTube and Google have stolen all of the viewers! The parasites do not create anything, yet profit handsomely from stolen content. They try to negotiate, but Google is not budging as it has the upper hand. Then they talk about lost profit, and expect some form of compensation. Soon there will be talk of yet more legal action.

The problem for the RO crowd is that they have it completely backwards. In the age before YouTube, Susan Boyle would have been viewed only by those who actually watched the show (just over 8 million UK viewers). It would have been a water-cooler moment, with people commenting on it. But the fact that it was posted on YouTube and went viral made it a global story, it enhanced the ratings for the show, and in general enhanced ITV’s position with advertisers. But all that the RO crowd can think of is loss revenue from those 100 million clicks.

--Andres Guadamuz
Read the rest in TechnoLlama » Old media v new media

Thursday, May 7, 2009

People who download illegally aren't people who hate the product. They're fans. Of course there are some people who would never pay a penny for it, no matter how cheaply or easily available it was. But there are many who, like me, just want to enjoy a TV show they've seen advertised.

It's time for staggered releases to end. Every day they continue, more people, tired of seeing adverts and reviews of shows and movies they won't be able to buy legitimately for months or years, call up a techie friend and say "that torrenting thing, how do you do that?"

Every day these shows and movies aren't available to buy, worldwide, on the same day, for a reasonably equivalent price, more people are finding out how to get them for nothing. And once they're used to doing it that way, it's going to be harder than ever to get them back.

--Naomi Alderman
Read the rest in If you can't buy it legally, of course you'll download it | Technology | guardian.co.uk

Monday, May 4, 2009

Institutional networks, even those of emergency services providers, are rarely tested for operation while disconnected from the outside world. Many such networks depend on outside services to match host names to network addresses, and thus stop operating the moment they are disconnected from the internet. Even when the internal network stays up, email is often hosted on some outside service, and thus becomes unavailable. Programs that depend on an internet connection for license verification will fail, and this feature is often found in server software. Commercial VoIP telephone systems will stay up for internal use if properly engineered to be independent of outside resources, but consumer VoIP equipment will fail.

This should lead managers of critical services to reconsider their dependence on software-as-a-service rather than local servers. Having your email live at Google means you don't have to manage it, but you can count on it being unavailable if your facility loses its internet connection. The same is true for any web service. And that's not acceptable if you work at a hospital or other emergency services provider, and really shouldn't be accepted at any company that expects to provide services during an infrastructure failure. Email from others in your office should continue to operate.

What to do? Local infrastructure is the key. The services that you depend on, all critical web applications and email, should be based at your site. They need to be able to operate without access to databases elsewhere, and to resynchronize with the rest of your operation when the network comes back up. This takes professional IT engineering to implement, and will cost more to manage, but won't leave you sitting on your hands in an emergency.

Communications will be a problem during any emergency. Two-way radios have, to a great extent, been replaced by cellular "walkie-talkie" services that can not be relied upon to work during an infrastructure failure. Real two-way radios, stand-alone pager systems, and radio repeaters that enable regional communications are still available to the governments and businesses that endure the expense of planning, acquiring, maintaining, and testing them. Corporate disaster planners should look into such facilities. Municipalities, regardless of their size, should not consider abandoning such resources in favor of the less-robust cellular services.

Satellite telephones can be expected to keep operating, although they too depend on a land infrastructure. They are expensive, and they frequently fail in emergency situations simply because their users, administrative officials rather than technical staff, fail to keep them charged and have no back-up power resource once they are discharged.

--Bruce Perens
Read the rest in Bruce Perens - A Cyber

Friday, May 1, 2009
Ah, the Zen Garden. One thing about the type in the Zen Garden—it’s not treated beyond a fourth-grader’s crayoning abilities; no shadows, in-lines, outlines, fill variety, twisting, perspective, set on a bouncing line, or opaque over another object, much less in motion. If the web’s imaging language is going to call the mighty capabilities of digital outlines for display type all the way to the user’s PC, when will it be a worthwhile shift of rendering power? Can we aim a little higher, like for the initial capabilities of Adobe Illustrator 1.0?

--David Berlow
Read the rest in A List Apart: Articles: Real Fonts on the Web: An Interview with The Font Bureau's David Berlow

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Imagine I’m a fan of Lost (I’m not, but lets pretend). I read online that the latest episode is airing in the US. Why can’t I buy shortly after it’s aired and see it here in Norway? Not tomorrow, but now? Yes, I know about the deals the Lost producers make with tv-companies all over the world, I’ve been working in the media for almost 20 years. But what if I pay US$ 100 for an episode? I still can’t buy an episode. They won’t let me. They don’t want my money.

It doesn’t take three weeks for news to get across the world anymore. We DO get to know the news in Europe the exact second they happen in the US. Because of Twitter and other social networks the world is now truly one. Everything is happening at the same time everywhere. Except records, movies and games.

--Øyvind Solstad
Read the rest in Congratulations

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Well ... I hate to be the rational doomsayer, but ... in the modern world it is unnecessary to cut down trees to spread ideas. We can spread ideas perfectly well without paper. We're in this difficult transitional period where it is unclear how the writers, reporters, researchers and editors are all going to be paid for their efforts in the post- newsprint world. But to me, it's just a transitional problem; in 25 years we'll be in a better place because we went through this transition.

--Bill James
Read the rest in The Future of Newspapers: Bill James on Newspapers

Monday, April 27, 2009
I don't want to wind up in hell. But if that fate befalls me, I anticipate finding my cable provider roasting alongside me.

--Steven Levy
Read the rest in Steven Levy on the Promise and Perils of Divorcing Your Cable Company

Friday, April 24, 2009

For a long time, longer than anyone in the newspaper business has been alive in fact, print journalism has been intertwined with these economics. The expense of printing created an environment where Wal-Mart was willing to subsidize the Baghdad bureau. This wasn’t because of any deep link between advertising and reporting, nor was it about any real desire on the part of Wal-Mart to have their marketing budget go to international correspondents. It was just an accident. Advertisers had little choice other than to have their money used that way, since they didn’t really have any other vehicle for display ads.

The old difficulties and costs of printing forced everyone doing it into a similar set of organizational models; it was this similarity that made us regard Daily Racing Form and Christian Science Monitor as being in the same business. That the relationship between advertisers, publishers, and journalists has been ratified by a century of cultural practice doesn’t make it any less accidental.

The competition-deflecting effects of printing cost got destroyed by the internet, where everyone pays for the infrastructure, and then everyone gets to use it. And when Wal-Mart, and the local Maytag dealer, and the law firm hiring a secretary, and that kid down the block selling his bike, were all able to use that infrastructure to get out of their old relationship with the publisher, they did. They’d never really signed up to fund the Baghdad bureau anyway.

--Clay Shirky
Read the rest in Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable « Clay Shirky

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

There are a lot of reasons for the failure of Windows Vista, but in retrospect the biggest reason was that the OS simply didn’t matter that much anymore. Most of the consumers who ended up with Vista simply got it because it came installed when they bought a new computer. The vast majority of them never chose Vista.

The group that did have a choice with Vista was businesses and they chose to avoid it, although not because of any inherent inferiority of Vista. Vista has been very usable since Service Pack 1 and since vendors finally updated their software and drivers to work with it by early-2008. The problem was that there was never a compelling reason to upgrade to Vista. It was the software equivalent of repainting a room and rearranging the furniture.

Now we have lots techies singing the praises of Vista’s successor, Windows 7, which will be released later this year. I just got finished testing Windows 7 for two months. I used it as my primary production machine at the office every day. I installed it on a high-powered 64-bit Hewlett-Packard desktop machine. I loaded all my apps on it. It worked fine. However, my conclusion on Windows 7 was, “So what?” There’s nothing in Windows 7 that matters. In fact, the computer operating system has never mattered less than it does today.

--Jason Hiner
Read the rest in Have we arrived in the post

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We are told that the active clause "I will always remember my first trip to Boston" sounds much better than the corresponding passive "My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me." It sure does. But that's because a passive is always a stylistic train wreck when the subject refers to something newer and less established in the discourse than the agent (the noun phrase that follows "by").

For me to report that I paid my bill by saying "The bill was paid by me," with no stress on "me," would sound inane. (I'm the utterer, and the utterer always counts as familiar and well established in the discourse.) But that is no argument against passives generally. "The bill was paid by an anonymous benefactor" sounds perfectly natural. Strunk and White are denigrating the passive by presenting an invented example of it deliberately designed to sound inept.

After this unpromising start, there is some fairly sensible style advice: The authors explicitly say they do not mean "that the writer should entirely discard the passive voice," which is "frequently convenient and sometimes necessary." They give good examples to show that the choice between active and passive may depend on the topic under discussion.

Sadly, writing tutors tend to ignore this moderation, and simply red-circle everything that looks like a passive, just as Microsoft Word's grammar checker underlines every passive in wavy green to signal that you should try to get rid of it. That overinterpretation is part of the damage that Strunk and White have unintentionally done. But it is not what I am most concerned about here.

--Geoffrey K. Pullum
Read the rest in 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

Monday, April 20, 2009
It's hard to tell young people that universities recognize that their idealism and energy — and lack of information — are an exploitable resource. For universities, the impact of graduate programs on the lives of those students is an acceptable externality, like dumping toxins into a river. If you cannot find a tenure-track position, your university will no longer court you; it will pretend you do not exist and will act as if your unemployability is entirely your fault. It will make you feel ashamed, and you will probably just disappear, convinced it's right rather than that the game was rigged from the beginning.

--Thomas H. Benton
Read the rest in Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go

Monday, April 13, 2009
running web pages through the W3C validator saves hours of tracking down tiny bugs that propagate from an invalid DOM.

--Brad Gessler
Read the rest in Pragmatic W3C Standards

Friday, April 10, 2009

If you look at Engelbart’s demo, then you see many more ideas about how to boost the collective IQ of groups and help them to work together than you see in the commercial systems today. I think there’s this very long lag between what you might call the best practice in computing research over the years and what is able to leak out and be adapted in the much more expedient and deadline-conscious outside world.

It’s not that people are completely stupid, but if there’s a big idea and you have deadlines and you have expedience and you have competitors, very likely what you’ll do is take a low-pass filter on that idea and implement one part of it and miss what has to be done next. This happens over and over again.

--Alan Kay
Read the rest in A Conversation with Alan Kay

Thursday, April 9, 2009
The more and more people I talk to, the more often I find myself taking a militant stance against gigantic search engine marketing (SEM) spending. My position is simple: if you create relevant, frequently generated content that’s high-quality and of a significant volume, you don’t need AdWords. That’s it.

--Andrew Davis
Read the rest in How Geico Wastes $90MM a Year on Search Engine Marketing

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
For nearly all practical purposes, the best serialization format for XML documents is... XML.

--Michael Kay on the xml-dev mailing list, Friday, 18 Feb 2005 22:53:28

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 has been available for 18 days and remains the company’s weakest web browser at launch since version 3. While the software now seems to be close to 4% market share, it appears to be unable to stop the bleeding of other IE versions. Since the beginning of the year, Mozilla’s Firefox has picked up more than half of the users IE lost; the other half went to Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome.

--Wolfgang Gruener
Read the rest in TG Daily

Friday, April 3, 2009

"wise" and "namespaces" in the same question?

"wise" is to avoid using namespaces as much as possible. Once you've decided you need them, make them as easy to rekey as possible -- e.g. avoid sequences like l1 or 0O0o0 or 5S5, and make sure characters are hex-escaped where necessary

--Liam Quin on the xml-dev mailing list, Tuesday, 24 Mar 2009 10:25:09

Thursday, April 2, 2009
There is no requirement that namespace URLs resolve to a valid resource, whether via HTTP or otherwise. Namespace URLs are not intended to be resolved, they are opaque identifiers.

--Chris Burdess on the xml-dev mailing list, Tuesday, 24 Mar 2009 14:43:56

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The internet: an advance in communications technology enabling people you don't know to send you messages you don't read.

--Jeffrey Zeldman
Read the rest in Twitter

Friday, March 20, 2009
All precedents suggest that once a technology is entrenched, it only gets displaced if (a) there are important jobs that it can't do, or (b) there is a trusted alternative that is 1000% better. With XML, there's not the slightest evidence that either of these events is imminent.

--Michael Kay on the xml-dev mailing list, Wednesday, 27 Oct 2004

Monday, March 16, 2009
The US Patent & Trademark Office processes about 15,000 XML documents a week, most of which include CALS table markup and many of which include MathML markup.

--Bruce B Cox Manager, Standards Development Division USPTO/OCIO/SDMG, on the xml-dev mailing list, Monday, 9 Mar 2009 11:19:18

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The curious thing about the various plans hatched in the ’90s is that they were, at base, all the same plan: “Here’s how we’re going to preserve the old forms of organization in a world of cheap perfect copies!” The details differed, but the core assumption behind all imagined outcomes (save the unthinkable one) was that the organizational form of the newspaper, as a general-purpose vehicle for publishing a variety of news and opinion, was basically sound, and only needed a digital facelift. As a result, the conversation has degenerated into the enthusiastic grasping at straws, pursued by skeptical responses.

“The Wall Street Journal has a paywall, so we can too!” (Financial information is one of the few kinds of information whose recipients don’t want to share.) “Micropayments work for iTunes, so they will work for us!” (Micropayments only work where the provider can avoid competitive business models.) “The New York Times should charge for content!” (They’ve tried, with QPass and later TimesSelect.) “Cook’s Illustrated and Consumer Reports are doing fine on subscriptions!” (Those publications forgo ad revenues; users are paying not just for content but for unimpeachability.) “We’ll form a cartel!” (…and hand a competitive advantage to every ad-supported media firm in the world.)

Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke.

With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.

--Clay Shirky
Read the rest in Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable « Clay Shirky

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I’ve been debugging the new site. The first problem: hopelessly messed up rendering on IE6. The best way to fix CSS problems with IE6 is to generate random mutations on the style sheet until it looks fixed. That’s really the only way to approach these kinds of things; CSS is nondeterministic, and many better minds than mine have gone completely stark raving mad trying to understand the rhyme and reason of IE6 rendering bugs.

--Joel Spolsky
Read the rest in Snowy day in New York

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
a system that emits XML must use the right tools. "Parsing" user input with regular expressions etc and then embedding the result verbatim into the output is going to break. Don't do it. Use the libraries that have been designed for this.

--Julian Reschke on the www-tag mailing list, Wednesday, 11 Feb 2009 08:42:05

Friday, March 6, 2009
You have many automated tools -- wikis, content management systems -- that produce millions of pages every day. We need to make sure all of those tools provide valid markup

--Philippe Le Hegaret
Read the rest in When good browsers go bad -

Wednesday, March 4, 2009
people who willingly use Opera hate a) themselves and b) the web, or perhaps it's just c) have lost their damn minds

--Jeff Atwood
Read the rest in Twitter / Jeff Atwood: I am convinced that people ...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Offering developers good tools that produce clean, standards-compliant code is critical to having an interoperable, standards-compliant Web.

--Robert L. Mitchell
Read the rest in When good browsers go bad -

Friday, February 27, 2009
I also note with regret that Amazon has done away with the K1’s “standard as hell” mini-USB connector, which is used for charging and desktop docking. In its place is a new connector, of the all-too-familiar “Oh, crap! My battery is low and I forgot to pack that extra-special cable I need to charge this thing!” variety.

--Andy Ihnatko
Read the rest in Kindle 2 cleans up an already great device :: CHICAGO SUN

Thursday, February 26, 2009
the difference for us at O'Reilly is in the fact that the Kindle does not support many of the formatting features that we need for our books. We use a lot of tables. We use monospace fonts for code. And none of those things are available on Kindle. They are available in the open format ePub, which is basically a variant of HTML, and that's why all of our books are available for the iPhone. We're putting almost everything out in ePub and that's a real challenge because it's easier for us to do the right thing on the open platform. It's hard for us to do the right thing on the closed platform and Amazon is telling us "Well, you guys are a specialty publisher and there's not enough demand for those features for us to put them in." It's the old open source vs. proprietary model again, where open source just outperforms.

--Tim O'Reilly
Read the rest in Tim O'Reilly Unplugged: The Kindle 2 And Transforming Industries - David Berlind's Tech Radar

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

JavaScript's functions are first class objects with (mostly) lexical scoping. JavaScript is the first lambda language to go mainstream. Deep down, JavaScript has more in common with Lisp and Scheme than with Java. It is Lisp in C's clothing. This makes JavaScript a remarkably powerful language

--Douglas Crockford
Read the rest in JavaScript: The Good Parts

Sunday, February 22, 2009
The proprietary file formats that have protected Microsoft apps have been offset by Office Open XML, the default format for Office 2007 and now an international standard. So for the first time there are no real technical barriers preventing other vendors from playing in the end-user applications market, and competitors are nipping away. Office alternatives include IBM Lotus Symphony, Sun Microsystems Star Office and the related Open Office open source code project, Google Docs, Yahoo's Zimbra open source apps, and Zoho.

--Charles Babcock
Read the rest in Why Windows Must Go Open Source -- Microsoft -

Thursday, February 19, 2009
it costs the Times about twice as much money to print and deliver the newspaper over a year as it would cost to send each of its subscribers a brand new Amazon Kindle instead.

--Nicholas Carlson
Read the rest in Printing The NYT Costs Twice As Much As Sending Every Subscriber A Free Kindle

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Even if you’re designing for professional programmers, in the end your programming language is basically a user-interface design. You will get much better results regardless of what you’re trying to do if you think of it as a user-interface design.

--Alan Kay
Read the rest in A Conversation with Alan Kay

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
That the world has been doing evil while processing XML as a browser format (MSIE and Mozilla being potentially the biggest actors) is not debatable anymore and justifies fully the lack of widespreadness. Please don't use that argument without blaming the implementors.

--Paul Libbrecht on the www-tag mailing list, Wednesday, 11 Feb 2009 14:35:49

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Long-term data preservation is like long-term backup: a series of short-term formats, punctuated by a series of migrations. But migrating between data formats is not like copying raw data from one medium to another. If I can plug both types of media into the same computer (or even the same network), I can migrate raw data from one generation to the next (I just did it with my ReadyNAS). Then there are various things you can do (checksums and so forth) to verify that the data was copied 100% correctly. But converting data into a different format is much trickier, and there’s the potential of data loss or data degradation at every turn.

Fidelity is not a binary thing. Data can gradually degrade with each conversion until you’re left with crap. People think this only affects the analog world, like copying cassette tapes for several generations. But I think digital preservation is actually much harder, in part because people don’t even realize that it has the same issues.

(Of course, sometimes fidelity is a binary thing. Why do I avoid DRM? Because the entire point of DRM is to make migration impossible, to reduce the fidelity of your conversion to 0. Apple’s iTunes DRM is actually the oddball here, since it is technically possible to migrate the songs you buy from the iTunes Music Store. Of course, you have to burn the songs onto a CD (assuming iTunes will let you) and then you can re-rip them in the format of your choice. This involves some loss of fidelity, but at least it’s technically possible. Other DRM schemes are even worse. But note that Apple’s DRM scheme has gotten worse since they first introduced it. That alone should be enough of a deterrent for people, but apparently it isn’t.)

So if you care about long-term data preservation, your #1 goal should be to reduce the number of times you convert your data from one format to another. You should also strive to increase the fidelity of each conversion, but you may not have any control over that when the time comes. Plus, you may not know in advance how faithful the conversion will be, so planning ahead to reduce the number of conversions is a better bet.

--Mark Pilgrim
Read the rest in Juggling oranges [dive into mark]

Friday, February 6, 2009
Having data be able to exist in code, in long term persistence and over the wire in the same format has some pretty compelling effects, though admittedly to the detriment of the format being specifically good at any one thing

--James Fuller on the xml-dev mailing list, Friday, 5 Dec 2008 09:47:57

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Even with your own schemas, you might have some applications that want to impose tighter constraints than others, for example some applications might be prepared to deal with incomplete documents in which some information is not yet available, while others require the information to be complete.

The schema specs seem to have a split personality on this. On the one hand, they allow mechanisms such as xs:redefine which are based on the premise that different versions of a schema can coexist. On the other hand, the fact that processors are expected to be able to find schema definitions given only the target namespaces carries a strong presumption that a given namespace can only have one schema.

--Michael Kay on the xml-dev mailing list, Monday, 4 Apr 2005 09:28:03

Monday, February 2, 2009
I love complaining about Chrome probs because nobody can immediately squeal "it's your add-ons causing the problem!".

--Jeff Atwood
Read the rest in Twitter / Jeff Atwood: I love complaining about C ...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Language pedants hew to an oral tradition of shibboleths that have no basis in logic or style, that have been defied by great writers for centuries, and that have been disavowed by every thoughtful usage manual. Nonetheless, they refuse to go away, perpetuated by the Gotcha! Gang and meekly obeyed by insecure writers.

Among these fetishes is the prohibition against “split verbs,” in which an adverb comes between an infinitive marker like “to,” or an auxiliary like “will,” and the main verb of the sentence. According to this superstition, Captain Kirk made a grammatical error when he declared that the five-year mission of the starship Enterprise was “to boldly go where no man has gone before”; it should have been “to go boldly.” Likewise, Dolly Parton should not have declared that “I will always love you” but “I always will love you” or “I will love you always.”

Any speaker who has not been brainwashed by the split-verb myth can sense that these corrections go against the rhythm and logic of English phrasing. The myth originated centuries ago in a thick-witted analogy to Latin, in which it is impossible to split an infinitive because it consists of a single word, like dicere, “to say.” But in English, infinitives like “to go” and future-tense forms like “will go” are two words, not one, and there is not the slightest reason to interdict adverbs from the position between them.

--Steven Pinker
Read the rest in Op-Ed Contributor - Oaf of Office

Saturday, January 31, 2009
it costs the Times about twice as much money to print and deliver the newspaper over a year as it would cost to send each of its subscribers a brand new Amazon Kindle instead.

--Nicholas Carlson
Read the rest in Printing The NYT Costs Twice As Much As Sending Every Subscriber A Free Kindle

Friday, January 30, 2009

Once I realized this, I started thinking about the risk factors that would increase the number of conversions. Data readable by only one application is a big risk factor, because the application won’t be around forever. If that application only runs on one operating system, that’s even worse, because the operating system won’t be around forever either. If that operating system only runs on one hardware platform, that’s even worse still. No hardware lasts forever, and you may eventually need to resort to emulating the hardware in software. Emulation is the ultimate fallback. But if any or all of those layers are closed, emulation may be costly or even impossible. And if any of the layers are DRM-encumbered, emulating them may be illegal. Data preservation is an ogre, and ogres have layers.

In the extreme case, you can try to pick a format up front and never change it. Project Gutenberg insists on publishing their e-books as plain ASCII text, even their most recent ones. The conversion from paper introduces a number of errors, which they clean up by hand, but that’s it. They’re not ever planning to convert them to another digital format, so the data fidelity will never go down during a less-than-perfect conversion. And ASCII is old and stable and safe and upward compatible with newer encodings like UTF-8 and can be read by any program on any platform, so it’s a safe choice.

--Mark Pilgrim
Read the rest in Juggling oranges [dive into mark]

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
It's intuitively obvious open source is more cost effective and productive than proprietary software. Open source does not require you to pay a penny to Microsoft or IBM or Oracle or any proprietary vendor any money.

--Scott McNealy
Read the rest in BBC NEWS | Technology | Calls for open source government

Monday, January 26, 2009

A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government. At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike.

The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.

The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.

--President Barack Obama
Read the rest in Freedom of Information Act

Saturday, January 24, 2009
Client who saves $5,000 buying cut-rate non-semantic HTML will later spend $25,000 on SEO consultant to compensate.

--Jeffrey Zeldman
Read the rest in Twitter / Jeffrey Zeldman

Thursday, January 22, 2009
One big problem with the AJAX craze that has hit the Web is how much slower websites have become now that using Flash and DHTML to add "richness" to Web applications is becoming more commonplace. My mind now boggles at the fact that I now see loading pages that last several seconds when visiting Web sites more and more these days.

--Dare Obasanjo
Read the rest in Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
What's more important? Getting flash after 5 seconds, or functional no-frills layouts in less than a second? Let's get our priorities straight. Speed still matters. And remember, the perception of speed is just as important as actual speed. If you can't be fast, be clever. Exploit progressive rendering and HTTP compression.

--Jeff Atwood
Read the rest in Coding Horror: Speed Still Matters

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
If you have a corporate blog that is only marginally more interesting than a press release wire, you're wasting your time.

--Ted Dziuba
Read the rest in Corporate Blogs: It's The PageRank, Stupid

Monday, January 19, 2009

Now we can see why blogging and the Net matter so greatly in political journalism. In the age of mass media, the press was able to define the sphere of legitimate debate with relative ease because the people on the receiving end were atomized— meaning they were connected “up” to Big Media but not across to each other. But today one of the biggest factors changing our world is the falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other, share information, trade impressions and realize their number. Among the first things they may do is establish that the “sphere of legitimate debate” as defined by journalists doesn’t match up with their own definition.

In the past there was nowhere for this kind of sentiment to go. Now it collects, solidifies and expresses itself online. Bloggers tap into it to gain a following and serve demand. Journalists call this the “echo chamber,” which is their way of downgrading it as a reliable source. But what’s really happening is that the authority of the press to assume consensus, define deviance and set the terms for legitimate debate is weaker when people can connect horizontally around and about the news.

--Jay Rosen
Read the rest in PressThink: Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

DRM is a disaster for everyone involved with it, because it cannot do what it claims but imposes large costs in the process of failing. The people who have sold DRM technologies to Big Media are frauds playing on the ignorance of media executives, and both the media companies and the consumer have suffered greatly and unnecessarily as a result.

DRM cannot do what it claims for at least three reasons. First, pirates readily bypass it by duplicating physical media. Second, DRM algorithms cannot “see” any data that the host device does not present to them; thus, they can always be spoofed by a computer emulating an environment in which the DRM algorithm thinks release is authorized. Third, for humans to view or hear the content it must at some point exit the digital realm of DRM to a screen and speakers; re-capturing the data stream at that point bypasses any possible protections.

DRM can make casual copying difficult, but cannot thwart any determined attack. Piracy operations operating on a scale sufficient to affect the revenue streams of media companies laugh at DRM. They know it is sucker bait, injuring ordinary consumers but impeding piracy not one bit.

In the process of failing, the DRM fraud imposes large costs. DRM makes consumer electronics substantially more expensive, failure-prone, and subject to interoperability failures than it would otherwise be. It makes media content less valuable to honest consumers by making that content difficult to back up, time-shift, or play on “unauthorized” devices. All too commonly, technical failures somewhere in a chain of DRM-equipped hardware lock consumers out of access to content they have paid for even in the manner the vendor originally intended to support.

--Eric S. Raymond
Read the rest in Armed and Dangerous » Blog Archive » My comment to the FCC on DRM

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Most adware targets Internet Explorer (IE) users because obviously they’re the biggest share of the market. In addition, they tend to be the less-savvy chunk of the market. If you’re using IE, then either you don’t care or you don’t know about all the vulnerabilities that IE has.

--Matt Knox
Read the rest in philosecurity » Blog Archive » Interview with an Adware Author

Thursday, January 8, 2009
the early criticism of Wikipedia: “I went to this article and it was wrong.” By the time you read the criticism, the article has been fixed. There was that year, not last year, but the year before, when every traditional journalist wrote a funny thought piece in their newspaper about something they looked up in Wikipedia and just how wrong it was. By the time their column appeared in print, the Wikipedia article was corrected, making a liar out of the journalist. Eventually they learned to stop writing that story.

--Joel Spolsky
Read the rest in Stack Overflow is a Wiki

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

We’ll start by posing the question: “why are we inventing these new elements?” A reasonable answer would be: “because HTML lacks semantic richness, and by adding these elements, we increase the semantic richness of HTML—that can’t be bad, can it?”

By adding these elements, we are addressing the need for greater semantic capability in HTML, but only within a narrow scope. No matter how many elements we bolt on, we will always think of more semantic goodness to add to HTML. And so, having added as many new elements as we like, we still won’t have solved the problem. We don’t need to add specific terms to the vocabulary of HTML, we need to add a mechanism that allows semantic richness to be added to a document as required. In technical terms, we need to make HTML extensible. HTML 5 proposes no mechanism for extensibility.

HTML 5, therefore, implements a feature that breaks a sizable percentage of current browsers, and doesn’t really allow us to add richer semantics to the language at all.

--John Allsop
Read the rest in A List Apart: Articles: Semantics in HTML 5

Monday, January 5, 2009

on both ease-of-use and performance I would go for XSLT or XQuery in preference to lower-level languages every time.

If you're receiving lexical XML from a web service, the time taken to process it in XSLT or XQuery is usually less than the time taken to parse and validate it. I would take a lot of convincing that a data binding approach is likely to be faster, given the cost of marshalling and unmarshalling the data.

And on ease of use, I've seen programmers struggling with regenerating all their Java classes when the schema changes and it's horrendous. (Worse, I've seen people refuse to change the schema because it has become too expensive to contemplate!) Having two different models of the same data, understanding how they relate, and organizing yourself to keep them in sync is simply complexity that you don't need.

--Michael Kay on the xml-dev mailing list, Friday, 28 Nov 2008 11:02:11

Saturday, January 3, 2009
Conservatism has much bigger problems right now than a paucity of Twitter skills. (I say this, for what it's worth, as someone who's often classified as part of the broad "right," my frequent criticisms of this administration notwithstanding.) Front and center is that the end of the Cold War and a governing party that made "small government" a punchline has left it very much unclear what, precisely, "conservatism" means. The movement was always a somewhat uneasy coalition of market enthusiasts and social traditionalists, defined at least as much by what (and who) they opposed as by any core common principles. The Palin strategy—recapturing that oppositional unity by rebranding the GOP as the party of cultural ressentiment—is just a recipe for a death spiral. Conservatives don't need to figure out how to promote conservatism on Facebook; they need to figure out what it is they're promoting. To the extent that a new media strategy is part of opening up that conversation, great, but it had better not become a substitute for engaging in some of that painful introspection.

--Julian Sanchez
Read the rest in Reinventing conservatism, one tweet at a time

Friday, January 2, 2009
In practice, there are roughly speaking three ways to handle unexpected content -- fatal error, ignore it, or correct it. A fatal error makes it extremely hard to extend the language, because it means all extensions violate backwards compatibility. Thus, for instance, the difficulty with upgrading XML from 1.0 to 1.1. Similarly, if the error handling consists of correcting the author intent and handling it in some special way, it is hard to extend the language because extensions have to be designed around the legacy behavior. The better solution, and the one picked by CSS, is to use a "must-ignore" model for all unknown syntax.

--Ian Hickson on the whatwg mailing list, Tuesday, 30 Dec 2008 10:12:19 +0000

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