April 24, 2011
The book in the bubble
Fascinating analysis of how automated pricing and a positive feedback loop led a pair of Amazon vendors to price an out-of-print book about flies at two million dollars – rising over just ten days to more than twenty three million dollars.
Plus, as the author notes, $3.99 shipping.
April 17, 2011
So, turning your Twitter avatar black inexplicably failed to have any effect.
December 17, 2010
Decommoditise me, baby
Bruce Schneier: “This is important because it destroys what’s left of the normal business relationship between IT companies and their users. We’re not Google’s customers; we’re Google’s product that they sell to their customers.” Though this isn’t new: free-to-air television (with few notable exceptions such as the BBC) has always worked this way.
July 19, 2010
John Gravois: “Google maintains thirty-two different region-specific versions of its Maps tool for different countries around the world that each abide by the respective local laws. Thus on India’s version of Google Maps, for example, all of Kashmir appears as an integral and undisputed part of the country—because Indian law sees it that way. Similarly, ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ is nowhere to be found on ditu.google.cn. What you find instead are all the same Chinese place-names that caused the uproar of Google Maps in August.”
October 31, 2007
Quite a lot of decades actually
I know we've been repeatedly burned by predictions that x many telephone numbers, IP addresses, kilobytes of memory, etc. will be enough to last for y zillion years, and then they suddenly run out after three weeks. But the BBC's willingness to concede only that "IPv6 will create 340 trillion trillion trillion separate addresses, enough to satisfy demand for decades (sic) to come," seems to take conservatism too far.
May 26, 2007
The heart of a geek
(With apologies to P G Wodehouse.)
Susan Harper is writing a wonderful funny-sweet-honest-painful series on geek dating.
August 23, 2006
Trying out Windows Live Writer
First impressions are that the current Windows Live Writer beta is rough. Very rough.
Second impressions are that it's not so rough after all, but man, those first impressions were grim (see below).
- Autodetection. During setup, I had to enter the URL of my site, and my username and password. Live Writer figured out everything else from that. No need to dig out the XML-RPC endpoint from the Typepad docs, or anything like that: just "here's my weblog, get on with it." I assume it has equally seamless support for services like Wordpress, Blogger and LiveJournal.
- Web Preview. Shows you what the post will look like on the site: that is, with all the chrome (titles, navigation, etc.), and alongside the other posts on the home page. It even includes the article under construction in the navigation bar. That's pretty clever.
- The "save local draft" feature. No annoying file dialogs, it just appears in the "drafts" folder. Clean and simple. And it has an "autosave every x minutes" option. Sweet.
- The text editor. It gets basic things like cursor movement and selection wrong, particularly around the post title. So my first experience of Live Writer was entering a post title and first paragraph, and then struggling to get the cursor into the right place to edit them. It seems to settle down when you get into normal text flow, but this was a disastrous first impression. (Update: Nope. It still sucks. Looks like keyboard selection breaks if anchored at the end of the post.)
- The WYSIWYG edit mode. Live Writer is obviously using the site CSS to show me the post using the right fonts, colours, etc. This is actually quite nice. Unfortunately, because the white space and navigation bar are specified in the CSS , Live Writer faithfully replicates the layout, and I end up with an editing area maybe three or four words wide:
I can get around this using "normal" view but then I don't get the WYSIWYG look.
- "Blog this" (what Typepad calls QuickPost) requires you to install the Windows Live Toolbar and use Internet Explorer. For me, this means Live Writer is suitable only for writing articles, which I hardly ever do nowadays, not for commenting on things I read (not that I do much of that either of course). (Update: Looking at the SDK, they do deliberately providing ways for applications to invoke Live Writer for 'blog this' functionality, so hopefully a Firefox plugin is not far away.)
- The generated HTML is quite hard to read (no whitespace), and random spaces get turned into nonbreaking spaces for no readily apparent reason.
- The local save format is some weird binary thing and is therefore not usable with other tools. Possibly this is some packaging thing but in that case why not use a zip file like the new Office formats?
- "Insert picture" mangles PNGs. The screenshot above used to be reasonably sharp, and where the huge bloated blurred linked version came from I have no idea. I certainly didn't ask for it.
- Questionable EULA: "In using the service, you may not... use the service in a way that harms us or our affiliates, resellers, distributors, and/or vendors (collectively, the 'Microsoft parties'), or any customer of a Microsoft party." This seems to imply that I'm not allowed to write, "You guys should all buy Macintoshes," or "Such-and-such a Wintel OEM sucks," lest anyone listen to me and take their custom away from Microsoft or their resellers. That's surely not the intention, but the phrasing of the EULA is a bit too broad.
August 04, 2006
Parodies I wish I'd thought of, number 704
molesworth i dreme of hoggwarts: "Befor skool dinner of super sossages, pies mash potatos dougnuts pork chops trifle jely roast sucking pig ect ect, all new bugs must attend Sorting ceremony where there FATE is decided. Tremble tremble chiz the battered and frankly unsavory hem-hem sorting hat is lowered upon my beetling brow and after a pregnant pause (coo-er posh prose molesworth) it SPEKE: 'Huflepuf. Also you hav a face like a squished tomato.'"
July 15, 2006
Brilliant error message
Error message from a Web site outage at fish4: "Unfortunately the fish4 Web site is unavailable due to the failure of a very expensive piece of Sun hardware. A Sun engineer is at the data centre but didn't think to bring the replacement part with him."
An honest, meaningful, comprehensible error message. Truly, the End Times are upon us.
March 14, 2006
A changed landscape
Dave Winer: "The goals have been accomplished. Billions of Websites now no longer seems an outrageously ambitious goal. We're pretty close to a billion, I suspect. The goal was also to create tools that would make it easy for everyone to have a site... That's done." I don't use Dave's tools (tried them, they didn't work for me), but I don't doubt that without his contributions I still wouldn't have a Web site and nor would I find the Web half as useful as I do. "Content management for the rest of us", together with the ecosystem-enabling protocols and formats that underlie it, has opened up the Web as decisively as Visual Basic opened up the Windows desktop. There's a long way to go -- too many of the tools and platforms are tied into the today's straitjacketing chronological structure -- but the underlying concepts and protocols are now there, it's just a matter of finding the right content structures and realising them in code. That's what the so-called Web 2.0 apps seem to be pioneering -- content structures aligned around photography, calendaring, etc. instead of diarising.