Murphy's Technology Law #2:
A failure will not appear until a unit has passed final inspection
Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entymology:
There's always one more bug.
In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.
I love deadlines. I like the wooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Please hand me the hammer, dear
We spent most of the day putting together a 3 piece Ikea wardrobe. It's from this series, but ours is a weird kind of icy blue, and we have two of those compartments with drawers in the bottom flanking a compartment with a full length mirror door. It was quite a bit of work, but all things considered, it went well. We didn't make any mistakes nor did we break anything (visible...).
Ikea has these almost purely iconic assembly manuals devoid of any frills. Funny how those manuals that leave out all unnecessary features still show a female figure assisting a male figure, who wields all the tools and hammers down the nails of back of the wardrobe. "Please hand me the hammer, dear. Oh, and please hold that while I show off my manly powers." Makes you wonder if Ikea thinks that gender is a necessary feature when assembling their products...
James Hague's wonderful Halcyon Days: Interviews with Classic Computer and Video Game Programmers.
It's way to techy and I am truly puzzled by what this paper should have to do with a study on gender, but somehow I feel, by lack of a better explanation, it does. I wonder what this paper will eventually say to me.
Reiser, Hans T. (1984) Future Vision Whitepaper. Revised 1993 version. Available: [html]
Hans Reiser, in case you were wondering, is of the ReiserFS journaling file-system fame, but if you know a bit about Linux you of course already knew that.
This article on News.com discusses the fact that many websites are developed only with Microsoft's Internet Explorer in mind. Although most websites initially show up okay in other browsers than IE, complex features, such as e-commerce, often are coded incorporating non-standard IE-only features and hence don't work in other browsers.
My bank, ABN-Amro, is a point in case (and no, they don't deserve a direct link!). They want me to use their web-interface for online banking instead of an ancient DOS application, which still happily does everything I want it to. I can view most of the bank's website and they assure me that their secure webservice has been tested across platforms and browsers, but I just cannot order the service online, because their online order-forms work only in IE. Duh.
Anyway, the News.com article mentions, about halfway through, about a website: "...the site [now] supports newer versions of Netscape--although it still does not support Opera and other less popular browsers."
Hello? The problem with that website has nothing to do with supporting esoteric browsers with totally alien quirks!!! (err, other than IE...) The problem is that the website DOESN'T support STANDARDS! It's a common mistake to think that you have to support a load of non-IE browsers, while in fact by supporting the W3.org webstandards, you support all major browsers. The recent version 6 browsers from Netscape, Mozilla, Opera 6 and even IE 6 support all major World Wide Web Consortium webstandards (of course some minor quirks and bugs remain, but nothing as bad as the version 4 and IE5 browsers!).
Webdesigners should realize that now all these new browsers are taking hold on people's computers, they have an alternative to coding various versions of their websites or simply shutting out a certain percentage of the people: webstandards!
Hey, if I can make a website that validates and looks pretty decent across browsers without any formal training, then professional webdesigners should be able to that too. (And to preempt some complaints, yes, a fully compliant version of the frontpage is in the works as well.)
[update:] For a slightly different take on the matter, check this article.
Qualitative data analysis
There's a good resources listing (mostly books) about qualitative data analysis over here.
Proper hyperlink appearance
There's some discussion over at Kottke.org about the recent wave of CSS styled hyperlinks. Instead of going with the bare-bones approach of standard-blue and underlined hyperlinks, you can do some CSS based fine-tuning.
The [update 25-7-2002: previous version of the] frontpage of this site for instance used two such link definitions: the regular links are blue and turn orangy when hovered over, while the big Blog and Research links are grey and only turn orangy when hovered over. So actually, you're not even stuck to using the same old boring link definition throughout the document! Each paragraph or division can have it's own link definition, just have a peek at the CSS2 definition regarding selectors and inheritance.
The interesting part of the discussion of course is how we look at it from a design point of view. What are properly styled links? Are good links very obvious, or should they blend in, or should they only become obvious when you hover over them... To a certain degree I guess that depends on your sense of aesthetics, but it usually is a good idea to make informed choices when it comes to design, so let's see how this functionality develops. Isn't it an exciting world?!
"What does the collective voice of the internet sound like?"
This is a stunningly beautiful object/project. (Prepare for a 6MB Quicktime download though; by way of Inflight Correction.) I might actually drive out to Austria this september to see it. Feel like joining? Drop me a mail.
Media coverage of blogs
Talking about recursivity. This blog keeps a list of media coverage on blogs.
"Everything is so subjective. The observer is the feeler of the pain." (Scripting News)
A research indicates that 39% of Britons experience PIN and password burnout. It says that the questioned people have up to 13 PINs and passwords to remember and they tend to forget them. Without looking at it, I estimate that my online password set has 50+ different usernames and passwords in it. Guess I must be an outlier, but probably nothing exceptional among other savvy internet users.
Nerd Cult mini sourcebook
This site collects and briefly introduces some of the hypes (or memes if you wish) of online popular culture. From Mahir (I kiss you!) to the Tourist Guy, from a Bad Day at the Office to Pam's Steamy MPEGs. All Your Base Belong To Nerd Cult! Note: the site is in Dutch.
Blogging software roundup
John Hiler's long long The Microcontent News Blogging Software Roundup that also has some blog history in it. Hiler even mentions some software that I hadn't heard about before. Dave Winer has some critical remarks about it here.
Is that your tag?
I arrived this morning at the subway station (which isn't even underground where I live) to find that a couple of people had spend the night spraying their tags on just about every imaginable flat surface. Not even proper graffiti (heh, like I even know what that might be...), just a lot of tags. If they'd been defacing a website, they would have positively 0wned the place. This sometimes happens and usually it gets cleaned after a while.
This however was the first time I saw a couple of official municipality guys examining the tags. They were taking pictures of the tags with a digital camera, making notes, measuring the tags with a tape measure, in short, doing a proper inventary of everything that had been spraypainted on last night. I think that's really interesting and I wonder what these guys learn or know about the spraypainter's subculture. Are these guys almost ethnologists, mapping individuals within that culture, learning their ways and habits (almost like a police profiler I imagine), or are they simply cataloguing, hoping to someday catch someone redhanded while putting their tag on a wall.
"I'm sorry, is that your tag? Yes? Ah, well we have a nice catalogue of your work here that's going to fetch a nice price. The smallest example, this 10 by 10 piece, is going for a removal fee of 400 euro, while this big 80 by 80 one is a cool 3200 euro."
A bunch of links from the past week or two:
The mod squad, Popular Science article on modding.
Avatars Anonymous and Avatar Resources: chatroom avatars; Google directory listing on The Palace.
Martin Rimm/CMU/Time & Related Anti-Porn Hysteria: EFFnet archive and Wired Special Report.
Gender and Computer Game Design
Turbulent Velvet on Pseudonimity.
Documentary about Amish kids.
From Text Effects to Canned Goods:Identity Construction and Visual Codes in the Flash Development Community by Megan Sapnar.
Take your pick... it's an eclectic collection this week.
Game engine cinema
Wired reports on a new (?) phenomenon: Machinima. With the power of modern game engines and freely available character-, animation- and level-editors at their fingers, people start to put together movies with them. Some pretty cool movies there, but if you don't have a broadband connection, you're going to have to be rather patient.
Blogstickers.com. Yeah, a bit cheesy, but they deserve a link :-)
Salon weblogs integration
Yesterday Dave Winer announced a deal between Salon.com and Radio Userland, providers of fine weblog software. Radio Userland is providing Salon.com with software and services so that Salon can offer their customers Salon Blogs. I must say I have some mixed feelings about this. On the one hand it's nice to see a fairly high profile operation such as Salon offer a place and in a sense some credibility to weblogging. On the other hand, there's one main problem IMHO with the current Salon Blogs system: they're not integrated with the rest of the Salon site.
Take a stroll around Salon's website. On the frontpage you'll currently find a couple of links about the launch of the Salon Blogs and in the sidebar there are some links to the Blogs section. On other pages however (such as the News index) you'll find no links or hints towards the blog section of the site. The Blogs are not in the site header either. The search page doesn't seem to search or index the blogs. I don't know what further plans Salon has, but for the moment they are simply another company offering a blog hosting service. And not very interesting one either...
Okay, there is a recently changed weblogs page and a most-read rankings page, but if you decide to read one of those blogs the URI looks something like: blogs.salon.com/00001084/. Hardly enticing in a game that's partly (or wholly?) about the ego. You want a personal, telling URI for your blog, right? Something like blogs.salon.com/BlogsOfSteel maybe.
Next, since you're paying for this service, you probably want more control over your page. Maybe you want to lose the Salon.com header bar that runs over your blog. What?! Yeah, the blogs are almost nowhere on the Salon.com website, but Salon is pretty much all over the blogs, inescapably so. Are they just interested in driving more traffic to Salon over the backs of their bloggers? That would, I think, be a very Bad Idea. Why? Well, it looks like a rather shallow and greedy business model to me, but more importantly, Salon seems to be missing the opportunities these blogs offer on a very fundamental level.
Weblogs are hailed as a radical new form of publishing that possibly threatens more traditional forms of publishing. Apart from this repeating of rhetoric, it seems to me that Salon now finds itself in the unique position to explore how weblogs and a more traditional publication can feed off eachother. And this has to do with integration.
What kind of integration? Well, as a MovableType user, the recently introduced TrackBack functionality comes to mind first and foremost. TrackBack allows for two-way (peer-to-peer) communication between weblogs, or more specifically, between individual entries in those weblogs (see it in action here). This system would allow the Salon bloggers to link to Salon.com content and reversely, would allow Salon.com to show which blogs (which entries more specifically) are currently linking to their articles. Information would be immediately and visibly contextualized, amplified and extended. Seeing a link to your own blog show up with Salon content would be a big motivation for the bloggers, while in reverse, Salon could set up a system where they prioritize certain high quality entries or bloggers, drawing on the potential of the bloggers and offering more diverse and indepth context for their content. Such a system would create a symbiotic relationship between Salon and their bloggers. Primary (prime?) content would still be Salon's, but the context would be the bloggers'.
TrackBack is a versatile and open-standards (XML) system and it could be developed in many interesting ways, but any (intelligent) system that would integrate the work of the bloggers with Salon's content would do the trick I think. I simply use TrackBack to make my point that Salon could stand to benefit from drawing on the immense capital of their community (to be) of bloggers (and possibly spark another small revolution in publishing). It would be a shame to see this opportunity for both the bloggers and Salon go to waste.
Right. Yesterday I harped about the virtues of TrackBack, but upon receiving the first TrackBack ping to my blog for some reason it failed to automagically rebuild the individual entry and thus failed to display the received TrackBack data automagically. I will have to look into this.
[update 17:29: problem solved, TrackBack data is now automagically updated; it was a little logistical snag: you can't seem to call a CGI program from inside a PHP include using a relative or absolute path, you must use the URL.]
Dave Winer called my little post "evangelical". Personally I thought it was more on the critical side albeit with a optimistic slant towards what could be. On the other hand, people have politely characterized my arguments as "passionate" before.
I love having written
Turbulent Velvet says: "I hate writing. I love having written."
I couldn't agree more.
Client side blog software
The other day I mentioned John Hiler's Blogging Software Roundup. He makes a little typology of blogging software and one of the types he defines is "client apps": software that runs on the clients computer. He mentions there are two packages out there (CityDesk and Tinderbox) both of which cost quite a bit and he laments:
I'm surprised that no one has built a free blog-centric Client App. By that, I mean a standalone client app... not one that piggybacks off of a weblog API. Perhaps in the next 6-9 months we'll see something along those lines.
I actually started out blogging with Blog and just after I had installed version 2 on my computer to test out the program, Fahim came out with version 3. The very first post of this blog (now converted to MovableType by way of Greymatter) and the posts of the next 3 or 4 months were made using Blog, which rapidly went from version 3 to version 5, gaining more and more functionality and a more dependable database structure. Eventually I wanted a server-side blog solution, so I left Blog, but I have fond memories :-)
Update 7 jan 2003: fixed URLs as mentioned in the comments below. Also note that Farook is working on a client for server-based blogs, called BlogMan, which supports the MetaBlog API. Sort of like w.bloggar then.
Gibson, Affordances and more
There are some interesting posts on brightlycoloredfood. Chad Thornton's interaction design perspective on online social interaction in many ways complements the social-science perspective and interestingly enough he draws on some of the same sources, such as JJ Gibson. Links:
Affordances and Visual Perception
Gibson Affordances and Norman Affordances (which links to an interesting article: McGrenere, Joanna & Wayne Ho (2000) "Affordances: Clarifying and Evolving a Concept." In: Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2000, Montreal, May 2000. Available: [pdf])
Participatory Game Design
Then I also ran across the 1997 Coverweb: Gender and Electronic Discourse issue.
I didn't know Jon Courtenay Grimwood had his own website, that looks like it's been around for a while. I bought two of his novels which I meant to read while on holiday in Australia, but I never got around to them; I moved them to the top of my 'to read' stack. I actually stumbled into Grimwood's site through a page on virtual girlfriends and virtual idols. The old index to the site is here.
Furthermore: Winslade, J. Lawton (n.d.) "Teen Witches, Wiccans, and "Wanna-Blessed-Be's": Pop-Culture Magic in Buffy the Vampire Slayer." In: Slayage, The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies. Available: [html]
Horvath, John (2000) The Importance of History in a Digital World. Available: [html]
Thompson, Ken (1995) Reflections on Trusting Trust. Available: [html]
Milo's ceiling contains a perfect HR. Amazing.
The origins of computer gaming:
Brand, Stewart (1972) "Spacewar. Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums." In: Rolling Stone, December 7, 1972. Available: [html]
Reliably, at any nighttime moment (i.e. non-business hours) in North America hundreds of computer technicians are effectively out of their bodies, locked in life-or-Death space combat computer-projected onto cathode ray tube display screens, for hours at a time, ruining their eyes, numbing their fingers in frenzied mashing of control buttons, joyously slaying their friend and wasting their employers' valuable computer time. Something basic is going on. Rudimentary Spacewar consists of two humans, two sets of control buttons or joysticks, one TV-like display and one computer. Two spaceships are displayed in motion on the screen, controllable for thrust, yaw, pitch and the firing of torpedoes. Whenever a spaceship and torpedo meet, they disappear in an attractive explosion.
I'm happy to report that my machine at home is happily puttering along at Cruft Force 2. It actually recovered from Cruft Force 3 after I installed IE6 manually because the auto-update function had been broken by some other program and now even the auto-update function works again. Which makes you wonder if the computer isn't temporarily feigning Cruft Force 2 while actually degrading insidiously behind my back into Cruft Force 4.
My machine at work seems perenially stuck in Cruft Force 4. I got it that way, they called it a fresh install, but it never got any worse either. Of course, this is a NT4 machine while at home I run Win2000.
Salon Blogs update
A subjective listing of excellent free and membership porn sites, as chosen by a pornographer, together with occasional musings on sex, the smut industry, or whatever else I feel like rambling about. Some of these links may make me money when you click on them, but the links will always be what they claim to be, and the best of what's out there. Oh yeah! Clicking on any links provided will likely result in explicit sexual content, so consider yourself warned.
Well, it shouldn't be all that surprising when you think about it, but lil' innocent me never expected this kind of blog: most of the heady stuff that I've seen out there on blogs was of the rather personal kind. I can see two sides to this blog for Salon. Salon's own Sex section operates on the premise of literary, intellectual, arty nudes and titillation. That doesn't necessarily mean that their content is literary, classy and arty, but with it being published by Salon it can at least claim to be so. The Pornographer's Picks blog in many ways nicely complements that content with links that don't require Salon's kind of intellectual effort on the reader's part.
On the other hand, Salon could feel not entirely at ease with this kind of content being published under their umbrella, although right now it seems innocent enough. The easy way out here of course is for Salon to disclaim any responsibility for the bloggers' content, but that would make the integration of the blogs with the Salon site (that I argued for before) all the more difficult. The Pornographer's Picks blog poses an interesting question to Salon that I believe it wouldn't pose to say, Blogger or Userland, if it were hosted there.
By the way... I don't know if you have to click through a Salon Terms of Service Agreement when you install the software, but a brief search of the site, especially the Salon Blogs section didn't turn up anything. Oh, and the link for the Online Help System for the blog section tries to connect to localhost. Most of the sections' sidebars now have a link to Salon Blogs in them, so that's at least progress.
Right... if you happen to know some powerful spells to ward off evil and bad luck, feel free to cast some in my direction :-)
Today my publisher informed me that the shipment containing 115 copies of my book, destined for the US market, has been destroyed by fire. The sea freight container holding the shipment of books, among other things I presume, was still in Liverpool, UK, where it was broken into and set on fire around 4AM on July 20th. Insurance is taking care of things I understand, but it means yet another delay to my book becoming available overseas.
More wrongs don't eventually make a right! First my book somehow got listed with a wrong subtitle. Then Amazon and Barnes & Noble decided to list my book as "Not yet published" with the WRONG subtitle. When the book was released the international distributor for some reason had trouble getting it listed in their online database; they've got it listed now, but you can't find it when searching on my name, just by searching on the title?! After the book was released Amazon and Barnes & Noble remained rather unaware of its existence, keeping it listed as "Not yet published".
The book is available through Barnes & Noble now, but it's still listed with the wrong subtitle. Amazon.com still doesn't seem to know the book is already released and available and they also still got the wrong subtitle. If you're in Europe you can try Bol.com, they just have the wrong subtitle listed and for some reason put this English title in their Dutch books category. Then if you're in Holland or Belgium, you could try Proxis: they got the wrong subtitle and a ridiculous price because instead of getting the book through the Dutch distributor, they get it from the UK distributor.
See how I could use some potent magic here?