Monthly Archives: March 2007

Maybe the blogosphere really is a cesspool … Death threats against Kathy Sierra?!

For several years, I’ve been a fan of Kathy Sierra’s writing and presentations. We’ve met a few times in person, and I consider her a friend. So I was stunned to see in Twitter that she’s receiving death threats. My surprised turned into disgust when I read her account of what is going on.

There is a lot of unkind and hateful speech out there on blogs, and in comment streams. It’s the dark underside of the blogosphere, and nobody wants to address it because bloggers are very protective of their right to say whatever they want. I hope that everyone who leaves a nasty comment on a blog or whose blog “theme” is verbally abusing other people will stop and do a gut check after reading Kathy’s post. You might think that you are just venting. But you might also be throwing fuel on the fire for the kind of people that are now abusing Kathy and her family.

More thoughts on Ambient Intimacy and Twitter

After several months of Twitter usage, Leisa Reichelt’s characterization of Twitter as Ambient Intimacy still resonates with me. I have some more thoughts on ambient intimacy in the context of Twitter, and I’m going to take them in the reverse order of the catchphrase.


2. a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.
3. a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history, etc.

For me, the intimacy comes from the fact that I choose whose Twitter streams to subscribe to, and the fact that the content that people are putting in their Twitter streams tends toward the more personal. So there’s a technology part (subscribe to people) and a social part, the content of the streams.


1. of the surrounding area or environment:
2. completely surrounding;

It seems to me that the ambience is largely a function of which modality you use to access your Twitter stream.
I run an odd Twittering confguration (at last I think so). My Twitter following is multi-applcation and multi-modal. I have the Jabber Twitterbot in my Adium contact list, I’m running Twitterific, and I use the Twitter web page. My Twitter posting is similarly multimodal, with me using the closest Twitter input box, and also a QuickSilver action. If I use the web page, the degree of ambience is low. I don’t sit there with a Firefox tab focused on the page. Usually I go to the page when I am trying to catch up after being away from the computer for a while. I also used it from my cell phone, since a days worth of tweets would blow my text messaging plan. If the IM bot didn’t die so much, or if Twitterific saved an arbitrary amount of history, I probably wouldn’t use the web page at all. When the IM bot was working, I liked it because it showed the full text of all the tweets. Usually I didn’t care that I got the the tweets in real time, and most of the time it was annoying to have Adium making the event message received sound all the time. The only time where I really cared about getting Tweets in real time was when I was using Twitter as a real time back channel. At the moment I’m relying on Twitterific, but I don’t like the fact that I can only see one tweet or the limited tweet history. It appears that the next version will allow you to see the text of multiple tweets, which would be a big improvement.
Twitter interfaces
In an ideal world, I’d like to have a single app (on my computer, anyway – mobile devices are something else), which would allow me to deal with tweets at a degree of ambience that corresponds to my mental state. I’m not sure that this is possible, although it might be fun to play with some heuristics related to how many messages were received recently, perhaps with some measure of burstiness. That might be interesting or it might turn out to be worthless. I’d like a “shut up for the next 3 hours while I work” type of button — and of course, I want to be able to see what I missed without switching to a different app.

There’s also a set of features unrelated to ambience:

  • Another feature that I’d like is a personal Twitterbuzz, so that I could see what my friends think is important. The problem that I have with a lot of social aggregation sevices (, digg, and so forth) is that someone else controls the group making the recommendations. I’d like a way to specify that group myself.
  • Something else that would be useful is streamlining the situation where I am conversing with someone — it’s a pain typing @name all the time during those moments when you are using Twitter in an IM like fashion. Maybe I’d even want to be able to start an IM or Skype session with that person.
  • Quite often I wish that I could search my Twitter stream. A good client would have a way to do that without forcing me to the web page

A major way that I’ve noticed my computing environment changing over the years is the introduction of more and more ambient data of various kinds. Perhaps there’s more understanding to be had by looking at various technological changes through the lens of ambience…

Google Summer of Code is now open for students

If you are a student, the 2007 edition of Google’s Summer of Code is now open. Summer of Code is like an internship, but instead of working for a company, you work on an open source project. Google supplies a stipend for you, and you’ll learn technical stuff and also learn how open source projects work. If you’re ambitious, this could be your chance to get your code into an open source project and have it used by people around the world.

If you know a student who might be interested, please point them at the Google site. If you know female students, who might be interested, *really* encourage them to apply. Here’s a concrete way to help women get involved in open source projects.

OSAF is going to be participating again this year — the relevant information is here.

Outsourced Photo Retouching

I guess you can outsource just about everything. My buddy Kris Krug posted a request for comments on a retouched version of one of his pictures. The interesting thing is that the retouching was done by a gentleman in India who tracked Kris down using Flickr. The world just got a little flatter. For the record, I like the original better. Kris’ work has a particular look, and I think that the retouching fundamentally changed that.

The folks that did the retouching are at PixArt.

Update: Now the locals are into the game

Why WPF/E didn’t make my cut

Dare Obasanjo thinks that WPF/E ought be included in the list of contenders for RIA foundation. He makes his argument on the basis of some technical criteria (which I agree with). He also says that being open has nothing to do with it, and cites Java and Visual Basic as existence proofs that a single vendor technology can rise to the top. I never disputed the fact that a single vendor solution could rise to the top. That was the point of my original post. However, and unsurprisingly, I disagree that openness is irrelevant to the popularity of RIA platform technology, especially since part of the point is to deliver solutions that run on all the platforms that today’s web applications run on. And ultimately that’s why I left WPF/E off my list, even though I’m sure it’s on other people’s.

Miguel de Icaza followed up Dare’s posting with more analysis on WPF/E, Flash and the openness of Java. He does have some slightly out of date information, since the recent versions of OpenLaszlo no longer require a server, even when Flash is the runtime. You should read Miguel’s post for his analysis of the openness of Java. He’s right that the JCP process did help get other parties involved with the future of Java, which did ultimately help it. He’s also right that the JCP brought us nightmares like J2EE (I’m not as sure that you can blame the generics mess on the JCP). I would point out some JSR’s also came from the open source community, not just from companies. Not only that, EJB3, which puts to right a number of the worst problems with EJB2, borrowed heavily from ideas that first appeared in Hibernate and Spring, both open source projects. In any case, as I pointed out in my followup posting, I’d hope that we could do better than both the W3C or the JCP for Flex/Flash or OpenLaszlo.

Canon 1D MKIII

The PMA show is coming soon, and the camera companies are starting to make their product announcements in anticipation of the show. I’ve been hoping, like many others, that there would be some nice relevant camera introductions, by which I mean a replacement for the Canon 30D / response to the excellent Nikon D200, and/or a second generation Canon 5D. There’s nothing wrong with my Rebel XT, and it’s been a fine compliment to hear photographers that I respect exclaim when they find out I am shooting with the lowly Rebel. There’s lots more room for me to grow with what I have, but there are a number of limitations that I’ve run up against. If a new body came out that addressed them all, then I might be interested.

Instead of a “relevant” camera, Canon announced the EOS 1D-MK III, which takes the spot in the Canon lineup typically reserved for sports, photojournalists and so forth. These are the “real” professional cameras, and they cost major money. So much money, in fact, that I’ve never really bothered to learn much about them. This time, I thought it was worth taking a look, because it’s likely that some of the features of the MK III will make their way into a camera that would be relevant to me. Canon has published a big white (marketing) paper about the camera. I think that I probably shouldn’t have looked at that, because there are lots of refinements and features that look really appealing. Imaging Resource has a preview of the new Canon 1D-MK III, including pictures shot at ISO 6400. Since I do a lot of low-light shooting, I was pretty interested in this. The picture quality at 6400 looks much better than my XT at 1600. I can only hope that some lower end camera will also do ISO 6400.

I wish someone had told me how much photography was going to cost before I started….

Update: Of course, that’s the EOS 1D MK III, not the 1Ds. I told you I never paid much attention to the pro cameras.

Classic interactions

Brent Simmons documented an exchange that happened on the NetNewsWire beta list:

The small exchange below happened on the NetNewsWire private mailing list after the release of a recent build:

>>Helvetica in the unread count bubbles again. Awesome.
>/me cries

The above is a perfect capsule description of what it’s like to develop Mac software. 😉

This happens all the time on that list. It also happens all the time in any software that has a high degree of visual finish.

MAKE inspired homeschool science lessons

I didn’t make it to last month’s Ignite in Seattle. I wanted to, but ultimately didn’t. Julie, meanwhile, took an active interest in Bre Pettis’ pre event “Egg Drop” and decided to turn it into a science lesson for the girls. As with many of their homeschool endeavors nowadays, they turned this into a video exploration. We were all thrilled when Bre picked up some of that video for the What Do You Make? Podcast.

P.S. The latest episodes of Guinea Pig TV are up.

It’s white for now…

Since I switched the blog to WordPress, I’ve been getting a slow but steady stream of complaints about the white on black theme. I’m going to be experimenting with the colors of the theme, but for now, I’ve switched it to black on white. I like that less, but I understand the readability argument that some commenters have made. The black was particularly nice for photo posts, and I’m sorry to be losing that. If there are any Hemingway theme experts out there I’d be happy for some advice.

Comments and suggestions of all kinds welcome.