August 30, 2004

Fired for Blogging

No, not me. (But would it surprise you?)

It seems that Friendster, who had no policy at all on employee blogging, has fired Joyce Park. You may remember her from such debates as Java vs. PHP. Or maybe her book. Or maybe mod_pubsub (blog).

Take a minute. Go read her blog. See what you can find that's so offensive to the company that they had to fire her.

I'm really resisting the urge to say what I really think about Friendster's current and past management. I think it speaks for itself.

Do you think they'll add a "bloggers need not apply" banner on their jobs page? I'm guessing not. Why? Because "you can work on social networking, but you cannot blog" just doesn't sound right, does it?

Now, pardon me while I got figure out how to cancel my Friendster account. I suggest you do the same.

Wow, that was easy! The image at the right (larger version) is what it looks like to cancel your friendster account because they fired an employee for blogging.

Just in case you wondered.

Related Coverage:

Posted by jzawodn at 06:17 PM

PG&E Strikes Again

Well, they're back. I shot the picture at the right a few minutes ago. With no warning, PG&E shut off power to do some repair work from last night's outage.

Here's the thing. They know that I was one of the affected folks yesterday because I called twice requesting information. Why the hell didn't they call me this morning to warn me? I'd have moved my car out of my garage (the one with the electrically operated door) and onto the street before taking a shower.

Instead, all the lights died as I was getting out of the shower. The good news is that I should be able to work for a while on battery power (again). This outage is supposedly going to be 2 hours at the most. I know this not because they bothered to tell anyone, but because a neighbor shouted out the window and one of the guys yelled back "two hours at the most."

Earth to utility companies. Talk to your customers. If you know an outage is coming, tell us.

Update: The power gods are unhappy with me. It's been 2.5 hours now. The truck is still there. My little 400VA APC UPS is running out of juice and beeping at me. So I plugged it into my 500VA APC, except that it had been unplugged from the wall for a few months now. Doh!

It's a race against the clock. Luckily I'm powering small devices. But still, I think I may invest in a larger UPS soon.

Update #2: Murphy sucks. The power came back on-line just 20 minutes after the UPSes gave out. But it was just in time for lunch, so it's not all bad...

Posted by jzawodn at 09:15 AM

August 29, 2004

Yahoo News Tracking Political Blogs

Tip of the hat to The Unofficial Yahoo Weblog for pointing out the Election Blog Roundup on Yahoo News.

While the page says one thing:

Our goal is to aggregate a diverse selection of political blogs and let you sample a variety of opinions as election season heats up.

It seems to do another. While it does provide a blogroll of sorts on the right side of the page, the main section is basically an aggregator devoted to showing the five most recent headlines from each of several mainstream weblogs. Very mainstream. I don't see much that I'd call "diverse" there. Sure there's a better selection in the blogroll, but it doesn't seem to reflect what's aggregated.

But, hey... it's a start. I'm glad to see the Yahoo News folks helping to spread the word about political blogs (not that I read political news or blogs) but there are a lot of folks who may not otherwise run across them.

A few other thoughts on the site:

  • Where are the "Add to My Yahoo" buttons (or at least orange buttons)? I might find a few blogs that I want to subscribe to but have to do it the hard way.
  • It's amusing that I heard about this from a third party site.
  • How about some issue-specific pages that respond to Trackback pings? That'd allow folks who didn't make the cut for the blogroll to get their opinions noticed.
  • How about letting folks find related/cited posts using the link tracking features of Technorati, Bloglines, and Feedster (much like I've added to all my blog posts)? There's a world of content out there, let's expose it!

All in all, this is a good first step. I just want to push the envelope a bit.

In related news, I'm quite impressed with Technorati's Election Watch 2004. Good stuff, guys.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:24 PM

Power Outage

Well, the power is out. It has been for about an hour now. One of my neighbors stopped over to introduce himself (he works at IBM) and to see if I was also without power. Apparently this happens fairly often in this neighborhood. I guess the previous home owners didn't want to mention that little tidbit.

The good news is that this is not like last time I lost power. My power bill is paid automatically now.

Oh, well, I called the power company minutes after it happened to report the problem. Then, about an hour later, I realized that if I moved one UPS, I could probably power my DSL modem, hub, and Wifi access point for a while. So I'm able to get on-line via my Powerbook and that UPS.

Kick ass!

I wonder how long it'll last. Will PG&E fix the power before my UPS runs out? Will I have to pull the second UPS too?

Oh, the suspense...

Update: Well, the little UPS has lasted 2.5 hours now, powering the DSL modem and stuff. There's a PG&E truck in the street, so presumably they've found the bug.

Man, I should have eaten earlier. I'm hungry but have resisted opening the refrigerator for fear of letting any of the cold out.

The Powerbook is down to 52 minutes of battery left. Let's see if they get the juice back on before it dies.

Update #2: The power came back on at roughly 10pm and the truck drove away. About 15 seconds after the power was back, my cell phone rang. It was the callback from PG&E letting me know that I should have power. Damn, that's quick.

Update #3 It looks like they're gonna pay me. Nice!

Posted by jzawodn at 06:51 PM

The Nostalgia Box

In the continuing quest to get rid of all the useless crap I've accumulated over the years, I was going thru the last few junk boxes that have been lingering in the computer room closet when I cam across something I had forgotten existed: a bunch of academic stuff from grade school and high school.

In this box were diplomas, newspaper clippings, science fair awards, academic awards, and so on. Talk about a quick trip down memory lane. I also came across some of my old high school writings. In particular, I still have most of the papers I wrote for my Christian Morality class (yeah, I went to one of those schools) as well as the writing notebook from my Expository Writing class.

Just for reference, these are roughly 1990 or 1991 vintage documents, so they're about 13 years old now. I'm really tempted to re-type some of them and post 'em here for the enjoyment (or horror) of the world. Well, sort of. What I'm really interested in seeing is how much my opinions have or have not changed in the years since I left high school.

Posted by jzawodn at 06:41 PM

August 28, 2004

The Future is Now (or should be)

I have a weird philosophy on the future: Don't wait for the inevitable if it's something you want.

Every time I hear someone say, "someday we'll be able to..." or "in a few years, it won't be unusual to..." I consider what they're suggesting will be commonplace. If it's something I also believe is is inevitable and worthwhile, I try to start doing it now rather than later.

What's the point of waiting, really?

I'm reminded of this all the time. The recent undoing of California's acceptance of gay marriage was one popular example. The general consensus among reporters and much (but certainly not all) of the population is that it's just a matter of time. Gay marriage will be legalized.

Well, shit. If enough of us can agree that something is going to happen and that it's a Good Thing, what are we waiting for?

This seems to happen all the time and I'm not sure why.

Update: There's a good response (The Future) over on Obfuscated Networking which talks about the "Wired Syndrome" a bit, gay marriage, and finally concludes with: "See the future? Do what you can to implement it."

Amen to that!

And, hey, there's even a joke about a mathematician, physicist, and fire. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 07:35 PM

Internet Hard Disk with GmailFS

That's right, the pieces for the previously mentioned webmail basead Internet hard disk are coming together. The release of GmailFS provides a relatively seamless filesystem on top of your Gmail account.

However, given that Google is being evil with Gmail now, there's no telling how long this will last. (According to Phil (in the comments), this is just a standard defense against password brute force attacks, much like Yahoo and other services use.)

See Also:

Posted by jzawodn at 04:56 PM

Well, the air conditioner works...

During my home inspection they tested the air conditioner by turning it on for about 10 seconds and then shutting it off. The inspectors explained that they can't do much more than that in "cold" weather. So I've always been wondering if it actually worked.

Today I found out. It was 90 degrees upstairs when I decided to shut the windows and kick on the air conditioner, set at 72 degrees. I'm happy to report that the place is cooling down nicely.

Yeay for the little things in life. I was honestly worried that I'd have to add this to the list of random things that don't quite work right around here.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:23 PM

August 27, 2004

Feed Search vs. Web Search

The current state of "feed search" is messy at best. Joseph Scott does a good job of presenting his impressions on the major feed search engines (where "feed" means RSS/Atom):

Say I wanted to track what people are saying about PostgreSQL. This can’t really be done with the traditional search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc) because they base their results on popularity (in one form or another). This doesn’t help me because I’m interested in what people are saying right now, not who has said the most popular thing. So I started using the feed search sites to see how they stacked up. The results were extremely disappointing.

His frustration is quite clear and I also feel the pain. It's hard right now. And he's certainly right to say that "this really can't be done with traditional search engines" but his reasoning is a bit off. So rather than talk about how to fix the problem, I think it's worth looking at a few of the differences between these new "search engines" and the previous generation. In doing so, pieces of the solution may become obvious.

The problem isn't PageRank, WebRank, or whatever you want to call a relevancy function that looks at a bunch of edges and weights on an imaginary graph to determine "popularity". The problem is that today's leading search engines weren't designed to work in a world with millions of feeds.

Let's think about the differences between the web of the mid to late 90s (what Google and Inktomi Yahoo were built to crawl, index, and search) and the web of 2004 which seems to be overflowing with sites (not just blogs) pumping out RSS and Atom feeds on a regular basis.

Structured vs. Unstructured Data

The old school search engine crawlers are surely complicated conglomerations of code. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that they're handling HTML. HTML provides little real structure to documents and is often written quite sloppily by folks who don't know any better. This makes it harder to figure out what's important and what's not in the document. What's the title? What's a reasonable summary? When was it posted? There's no universal way to distinguish navigation from content on a page, for example.

RSS and Atom provide a relatively fixed and predictable set of metadata in XML. This removes the need to handle a lot of the crappy HTML out there because the feed clearly says "this is the title... this is the author... this is the desription..." and so on. Sure, a lot of folks get XML wrong too, but that's not as hard to work around and the metadata generally comes out intact and meaningful.

Frequent Updates

In the old web, most content never changes. The only exceptions seem to be traditional news outlets (CNN, New York Times, and so on). That means search engines can crawl most sites infrequently and nobody really notices. Missing the last few days worth of stuff isn't that big a deal as long as you crawl those "news" sites regularly. Also, there's no way to find out which pages have changed without crawling the whole site, and that's quite expensive.

In the new world, feeds update frequently. Blogs start to look a like like "news" sites to search engine crawlers. But the updates are contained within the feed, so there's no need to crawl every link on the site looking for the new stuff. In other words, the cost of staying current on site changes is much lower when feeds are available.

Real-Time Pings

Many of these new-fangled content publishing systems (MovableType, WordPress, you name it) have the built-in ability to "ping" services like, Technorati, Feedster, My Yahoo, and so on. They do this to let those services know that something is new. The services typically react by fetching an updated copy of the feed within seconds and extracting the relevant info.

These real-time pings mean that we don't have to wait for a full polling or crawling cycle before getting the latest content. But the old school "web" search engines don't listen for these pings. Instead of seeing this post moments have I click the 'post' button, they're generally 6-36 hours behind.

But what if they did listen for pings? Or maybe offered a compatible ping API?

The Real Kicker

Of course, this is all very temporary. Once this feed stuff hits the tipping point (I think we're close), things will get really, really interesting. Suddenly these feed sources will be the thing people care about. The model of "search and find" or "browse and read" will turn into "search, find, and subscribe" for a growing segment of Internet users and it will really change how they deal with information on the web.

What's that gonna be like? Will the "web search" folks be ready? What about the browser folks?

I don't know for sure, but I get the feeling that we're a lot closer than you might think.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:44 AM

August 21, 2004

The television is more evil than the computer

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I haven't watched TV for over six months now, but I've become convinced that the television is a far more anti-social, intrusive, and evil device than a computer (networked or stand-alone).

In fact, I'd go as far as to say that one of the rudest things you can do when entering a room where others are present is to turn on the TV--unless of course they were there to watch TV. It's like inviting an outsider into the room to talk without regard to anything or anyone else. The ultimate distraction.

My sister just flicked on the TV in our room outside of Sequoia and I did same thing as last night: put on my headphones and iTunes. It's just like when my dad did the same thing earlier this summer near Mt. Shasta. Luckily I brought headphones with me then too.

I find it exceedingly difficult to concentrate or focus on anything other than the TV when it's on. Perhaps I'm no longer "conditioned" to block it out. Or maybe I never was.


See Also:

Posted by jzawodn at 08:08 PM

August 19, 2004

Heading to Yosemite and Sequoia

We (me, sister, brother in law) are headed to Yosemite and Sequoia for a few days. Enjoy the weekend and be nice to the new blog. The response so far has been quick, widespread, and quite positive. What really amuses me are the folks manually spamming the blog comments. As if we're somehow not going to notice that.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:01 AM

August 18, 2004

Yahoo! Search blog Launched

Over the last couple of months, I've been helping some of the folks in Yahoo! Search figure out how to start opening up, reaching out, listening, and generally get more in touch with those outside of 701 First Ave in Sunnyvale, California.

The first visible result of that is the Yahoo! Search blog that we launched today. While it lives at, you can also reach it via if you're so inclined.

As you might expect, the first post is by Jeff Weiner, the SVP of Yahoo's Search and Marketplace business unit. In other words, the search buck stops at his desk. Over the coming weeks and months, other folks from the Search team will make appearances to talk about who they are, what they do, and so on. Who knows, maybe I'll even show up there too.


I'm sure there are a few questions floating around out there, so let me try to guess some of them in advance and provide answers:

Q: What software are you using?

A: MovableType, just like the site says, lightly patched to work with Yahoo! Web Hosting. And, yes, we paid for it. :-)

Q: What about comments?

A: Comments are enabled and we really, really want to keep it that way. If folks abuse the comments, however, we might have to moderate, shut 'em off, or something else. That would suck, so stay on topic and don't spam. We don't require an e-mail address, name, or URL. They're all optional. But it'd be nice to know your name if you leave a comment.

Q: Trackbacks?

A: Of course.

Q: RSS feed?

A: Of course: Or you can Add it to My Yahoo.

Q: Is this just going to turn into a lame PR blog?

A: I don't expect that to happen. PR does not own the blog. And it'd be a wasted opportunity if it was just another PR outlet.

Q: Will you link to competitor's sites or those you don't agree with?

A: I hope so. I've tried to impress upon the folks involved that running a weblog is about openness and that it's a two-way street. Bloggers can often smell PR influence a mile away.

Q: So PR's not involved?

A: Of course they are. Someone has to keep an eye on the wannabe bloggers. They're not going to be re-writing all the posts, if that's what you're worried about. They know that blogs are not press releases, and hopefully this will help them better understand this brave new world.

Q: Will individual employees get their own corporate blogs like they do at Sun, IBM, or Microsoft?

A: I don't know. Let's take this one step at a time. (I'd personally love to see that happen.)

Q: Who do you expect to read it?

A: It'll probably be a mix of journalists, bloggers, power users, and random other folks. Time will tell.

Q: You didn't answer my question.

A: That's not a question. But leave a comment if you have an unanswered question about the blog.

Go Easy

With that out of the way, let me point out that this is a new thing for Yahoo. There will likely be a few kinks and we'll likely screw up a few times. Cut us some slack.

I hope that several other initiatives follow the blog in the not too distant future.

If there are topics you'd like to see show up on the blog or folks you'd like to see writing, post a comment or Trackback to let us know.

Reaction Elsewhere

Posted by jzawodn at 04:09 PM

Why do iPod lovers hate Real?

Nelson makes a very good point:

I'm puzzled by the backlash against RealNetworks for figuring out how to get music onto the iPod. Sure, I think Real makes crummy products too. But they've opened up Apple's proprietary platform, increasing choice for consumers and lowering prices. How does the user lose?

Now I'm all for bashing Big Evil Companies that do Stupid Things, but I'm also a fan of cracking open that little white music jail too. Like Nelson, I don't get why folks are pissed at Real. I've long been pissed at Apple for designing something with such annoying limitations (but it's still good enough that I use it regularly).

Some days I really just wish that Apple would open up a bit.

Update: That'll teach me to post and walk away for a few hours. I've changed "had" to "hate" and fixed the link. Thanks for all the notes on that. Now if only this was a wiki-like system where others could fix stuff that I screw up!

Posted by jzawodn at 01:30 PM

August 17, 2004

Beta Software is Funny

I've been spending a lot of time working to get a MySQL Cluster up and running. The docuementation leaves out a lot of critical info (or presents it in a less than optimal order). But I can mostly live with that.

However, one of the programs has confusing command line arguments. ndbd the "data node" piece of the NDB storage engine (which is all the cluster brains), cracks me up:

root@mysql1:/home/mysql/var/cluster# ../../libexec/ndbd -h
Usage: ../../libexec/ndbd [--version] [-v] [--start] [-s] [--no-nostart] [-n]
   [--deamon] [-d] [--initial] [-i] [--connect-string=constr] [-c constr]
   [--usage] [-?] The MySQL Cluster kernel
-v, --version                      Print version
-s, --start                        Start ndb immediately
-n, --no-nostart                   Don't start ndb immediately
-d, --deamon                       Start ndb as deamon
-i, --initial                      Start ndb immediately
-c constr, --connect-string=constr "nodeid=;host="

-?, --usage                        Print help

Okay, let me get this stright. There are two ways to make it start up immediately (-s and -i). But if you want it not to start immediately you'd use the poorly named --no-nostart option.

Which of those, if any, is the default if I specify none?

Beats me.

I've configured something wrong. My management node comes up fine but my first data node is decidedly unhappy. And the error it logs might as well be in ROT-13 octal.

Back to head scratching.

Once I get this working, I'll post my recipie and work to include it in the second edition of High Performance MySQL.

Update: I've got all four data nodes up and talking to the management node. Excellent. Now I need a client...

Posted by jzawodn at 04:21 PM

August 16, 2004

Atlas OnePoint: Spammers

You know, going to the SES Conference, I tried to give these on-line marketing folks the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they're not all the sort of scum who'd love nothing more than another chance to shove their "message" down my throat, spam me, or re-sell my e-mail address.

Case in point: Atlas OnePoint.

I just received an unsolicited e-mail message from them which begins:

Thank you for visiting our booth at Search Engine Strategies, San Jose. We appreciate your interest in our innovative suite of online marketing tools. You may have seen our recent announcement - GO TOAST is now Atlas OnePoint (

Hang on a sec. I didn't visit any booths at SES. I arrived about 10 minutes before my session time, sat on the panel, and then left shortly after. Besides, when our panel ended, the conference was over. So I'm pretty sure I didn't swing by on my way out the door.

Dave Carlson, President of Atlas OnePoint (phone number 1-800-416-8389), screw you and your company.

I hope that someone searching for your company stumbled across this post and decides to take their business elsewhere.

The fact that the e-mail ends with:

If you no longer wish to receive Atlas OnePoint news, please contact Customer Care at Thank You.

Merely confirms my suspicion. You've added me to your "news" list under false pretenses and now expect me to do the work of fixing your mistake. How about if I repay the favor by running up the bill on that 1-800 number? Or convincing as many of my crazy blogger friends as possible to link to my story. Wouldn't it be fun to have this on the first page of search results as your own company web site?

In case the larger message is not clear, spamming people is not the way to win their business. It has the opposite effect. My e-mail box is not for your "news", marketing, press releases, and related junk.

Yes, junk.

Posted by jzawodn at 03:14 PM

Total Pain of Using

TCO or "Total Cost of Ownership" is a notion that one can calculate (with some accuracy) the complete cost of owning something, including all the weird side effects of acquiring and owning that thing.

For example, I can by a new 3.2GHz notebook for $2,000 and it comes with Windows XP. But odds are that I'll spend 20 hours in the first year dealing with device drivers, spyware, and viruses. If I value my time at $50/hour, then the total cost of owning that notebook for the first year is actually $3,000.

Then I'd take that number and compare it to the Powerbook I was thinking of getting. It'll cost me $2,600 and have a "slower" CPU, but I'll only spend 2 hours screwing around with it in the first year figuring out why my scanner doesn't work when I plug it in. That puts the total cost of the Powerbook at $2,700 in the first year.

Anyway, you get the idea. It's why we think about maintenance costs and gas mileage when looking at car's sticker price. We want to know which car is cheaper in the long run.

(Those numbers are completely made up. If they were real, the "cost" of spyware and viruses would probably be higher.)

IT organizations often use TCO numbers as way to justify inflicting poor technology choices upon those they exist to serve (or abuse, as the case may be).

"But this saves the company money."

Often times, organizations try to take TCO driven decision making to the extreme and mandate a single standard for this or that. My previous employer was, unsurprisingly, good at that too. In fact, at my old job we often referred to "The Cost of Being Different" (TCBD?). It was used to win arguments and sometimes short-circuit groups who began to stray from the heard and look at software that was not on the "approved" list, regardless of their reasons for doing so.

In theory, this all works well form a high-level organizational point of view. But if you ever venture down the ranks and ask to folks who must live with the results of TCO and/or "standardize at all costs" decision making, the tone of the discussion changes quite a bit.

We need a way to quantify the negative effect that these decisions often have on the day to day folks (who'd rather be left alone to get their jobs done). The pain they endure. The countless hours spent fighting with a technological choice that was clearly not optimal. The effort required to work around product glitches or to bring in a replacement "under the radar" and keep it there.

I think this should be the TPU or Total Pain of Using.

I have no idea how to setup the scale and ultimately convert it into a dollar figure (because that's all the CTO and board of directors seem to give a shit about), but it'd be worthwhile to compare the relative TPU of "similar" products, I think.

Hmm. I guess TPU could also mean "total pain units." That'd be just as accurate in many cases.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:52 PM

Who Developed RSS, according to

Well it seems that can't get the facts straight. David Becker in "RSS gets down to business" writes:

Blogging pioneer Dave Winer developed RSS several years ago as a way to automatically receive new chunks of frequently updated content. The format has caught on primarily for keeping track of Web logs and news sites, but developers see applications for many other types of dynamic content, from e-mail to server status reports.

Eh? I seem to remember Netscape developing RSS. In fact, when I check the RSS History page (that Dave wrote) it confirms this theory.

And, David, it's "weblog" not "web log." My web server produces logs all day log. Some folks refer to them as "access logs" or "web server logs" or even "web logs" for short. But they have little to do with the larger notions of weblog. I know, it's confusing. But getting it right is your job, mmmkay?

Posted by jzawodn at 01:21 PM

August 13, 2004

They could have made this less intuitive...

I'm a sucker for humorous ways to point out usability mistakes. But for some reason I read this line today and laughed my ass off:

They could have made this less intuitive, but then it would involve a trip for a smog check.

Apparently I had forgotten how unintuitive setting the default browser in Panther is. Luckily I've only done it once.

Either way, I need to make sure to use that line sometime soon.

Another line that someone used at dinner the other night was:

He has limited emotional resources.

And that's just funny in a whole different way. It's both highly ambiguous and insulting at the same time.

Posted by jzawodn at 06:35 PM

Family Coming to Town

It's family visit time again. My sister and brother in-law are arriving at SJC on Saturday morning and return to Ohio on the 26th (that's a 12 day stay in case you're wondering). On the tentative agenda for their first visit to California are:

  • Alcatraz
  • Yosemite National Park (2 days)
  • Sequoia National Park (2 days)
  • Glider rides (woohoo! I get to fly!)
  • Lick Observatory
  • Winchester Mystery House
  • Monterey Bay and the Aquarium
  • Muir Woods
  • Hearst Castle
  • San Fransciso for a day

It's a good mix of local and day trips plus a few bigger outings. I'll be joining them for about half of the stuff. I just haven't quite decided which half (other than the Yosemite/Sequoia trip, which I'd be nuts to miss).

Expect to see a bunch of pictures at some point... :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 06:08 PM

New Yahoo Finance Home Page

Though I haven't worked in Y! Finance for about a year and a half now, I've been a loyal Yahoo Finance user for at least six years now. And they just pushed an updated home page. The look and feel is a bit cleaner. The changes aren't massive, but it feels a bit less cluttered to me.

Good job, Finance team.

Having said that, I still believe that the better long term strategy for Y! Finance is to publish all those content modules and My Yahoo! modules and stop mantaining a Finance specific portal. But that's just me.

Oh, and RSS feeds too. But don't get me started on that dead horse.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:56 PM

Switched to Verizon and the Motorola V710 Phone

As previously threatened, I've switched to Verizon and picked up a Motorola V710 yesterday. They just arrived on Wednesday, so I'm one of the first few folks to get one (at least from my local Verizon Wireless store).

To recap, my reasons for switching are twofold:

  1. I wanted to get onto Verizon for the superior coverage.
  2. I wanted a Bluetooth phone. The V710 is Verizon's one and only Bluetooth phone.

So far, all I can say is that it's taking my old Sprint phone number longer to move to my new phone than I expected. The Verizon guys said "2-12 hours, but it's generally closer to 30 minutes." So we'll see. It's been about 18 hours now and the number still rings to my old Motorola Timeport.

Once the number is switched over, I'll work on figuring out how much I can and cannot do with the crippled Bluetooth Verizon ships.

Update: There's some great commentary over on Russell's V710 post. It sounds like we can expect a flash update in a few months to provide better Bluetooth support. We'll see.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:18 AM

MovableType 3.1 Preview Party and LobbyCon

Last night Ray and I headed up to San Francisco for the MovableType 3.1 Preview gathering. It was a good chance to talk with some other MT fans and meet more of the Six Apart folks.

We all walked away with a 32MB USB memory stick that contains the [nearly?] latest 3.1 code. After a big of encouragement from the crowd, we got a quick demo of MT 3.1's new features. Anil got the equipment set up, Mena did the talking, and Ben drove the demo. The picture at the right is of Ben and Mena addressing the crowd before the demo started.

I spent a few minutes talking with Ben about MT 3 features, comment spam, and TypePad. It occurred to me then that TypePad is also in a very good position to help prevent comment spam.


A bit later, Mary suggested that some of us head over to LobbyCon (thanks Sean) at the W Hotel just about three blocks away. Though my name was on the LobbyCon Wiki, I had forgotten that it was last night. I think that I originally saw the date and became convinced I had something else going on that day, so I blocked it out of my memory.

The LobbyCon turnout was pretty good. It seemed that about half a dozen folks made it there after first attending the MT 3.1 gathering.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:58 AM

August 11, 2004

Living and Working in the Virtual Workplace

For some reason, I found myself thinking about how different my "work day" is now than it was 5 years at when I worked at Marathon Oil in Findlay, Ohio.


Back then my day was fairly straightforward. I got to work at roughly the same time each day (typically a bit later than I hoped, but I'm not a morning person). I worked at my desk until lunch time. Then some of us would usually head to lunch, come back, and work for another four hours or so. And there were meetings. Lots of regularly scheduled meetings.

I could generally predict the time I'd arrive at the office and the time I'd head home to within 30 minutes. It was rare to stay an extra hour or two. And when I was at home, I rarely dealt with work stuff. Yeah, we eventually got some VPN software, but I didn't want to deal with Windows more than I had to anyway.


It's hard to describe a "typical" day in my work at Yahoo. There really isn't one. Let's take yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) for example. Yesterday I got to work around 10:30am and left to head home around 7:30pm. But after I got home I spent a few more hours dealing with work stuff remotely. Yeah, we have a VPN, but I still to most stuff with a combination of SSH and Yahoo Messenger. It's not at all uncommon to get people pinging me on messenger at all hours of the day or night. If I'm on-line, I'm "available." I forced myself to go to bed just before 3am.

Today, like most days, I got up and checked my work e-mail during breakfast (meaning 9:30am or so). I didn't head to the office until about 11:30am, since I knew I had a meeting at noon. I headed home at about 7:00pm only because traffic is better if I wait until after seven--the carpool lanes open up. Then, a few hours later, I was answering more e-mail, posting a job listing, and talking about product ideas with someone via messenger. I'm sure he was at home too. I know people who regularly conduct conference calls from their cars or their lazy boy recliner at home.

And then there are the days that I'm helping someone in England or India at midnight. And there are the days that I spend the whole morning dealing with the random errands and stuff that tend to pile up as part of life. And the days that I work from home because I'm really far behind on laundry and there are fewer distractions interruptions at home anyway.

My work day starts when I wake up and ends when I convince myself to go to bed. Much less of my communication is face to face compared to back then. There's the phone, e-mail, messenger, and so on. But there's a lot of non-work stuff that gets injected in there too. Life and work blend together far more this way. And I see nothing wrong with that except that the burden is on me to keep things in check. But with that burden comes the freedom of more flexible hours, locations, and so on. Few of my meetings are repeating, regularly scheduled affairs. That, of course, helps a bit too.

If someone actually asked me "how many hours a week do you work?" I'd have no idea how to answer.

Welcome to the virtual workplace and, in some ways, the virtual job/life mix. It's one of the cultural differences between working a high-tech job and a more traditional job. But equally important is that it's much more a part of Silicon Valley culture than it is in somewhere like Columbus, Ohio (where many of my old friends now live and work). Many people I know at other Bay Area tech companies also live a similar work/life blend in which the boundaries change daily.

Most of the time I really don't even notice anymore. Living and working this way just seems natural. But when friends and family come to visit, they're often surprised, confused, or just in disbelief. "This is your job?" "You work this way?" "That's not work--you're just using instant messenger." And so on.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:29 AM

August 10, 2004

Yahoo! Job Opening: Software Engineer

Yup, another job opening. If you're interested or know someone who'd kick ass in this job, let me know.

The job is on-site in Sunnyvale, California.


Enjoy solving hard problems creatively? Know all the GOF patterns? Can you make database schemas into 3rd Normal form? Do you know the difference between REST, SOAP, and MOM?

We are looking for an engineer to architect new services, build shared libraries, and refactor existing systems. You will work with Yahoo! News, Sports, Weather, Finance, Health and other groups to build exciting systems. You will deliver complex projects in demanding deadlines while helping other engineers design and implement their systems.

If you've had experience building high-throughput systems, can design an class hierarchy in your sleep, and know all about web services, then we're looking for you.


  • 5-7 years experience designing modern systems
  • BS or MS in Computer Science
  • Knowledge of practical application of design patterns
  • Good written/verbal communication skills and strong investigation, research and evaluation skills
  • Clear prioritization skills in a chaotic, fast-paced environment
  • Web services experience a plus
  • C/C++, Perl, Java
  • Apache
  • MySQL/Oracle


I know some (many?) of the folks you'd be working with in this job. They're smart folks who love building great technology.

Oh, and don't ask me what "exciting systems" are. We all know that job listings are partly sales pitches, so that's what you get I guess.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:43 PM

Deleted Scenes on DVDs: Why such poor quality?

This has bothered me for a while now. It seems that on most movie DVDs, the deleted scenes are of very poor video quality. It's as if someone went back to the cutting room, pieced together the film, scratched it a lot, and then projected it on a big screen so they could record it with a cheap-ass handheld video camera for later use on the DVD.

Why is that? Anyone know?

Posted by jzawodn at 09:13 PM

Variable Intensity Brake Lights

Here's an idea. Why not design brake lights whose intensity varies depending up on how hard the driver is stomping on the pedal?

It might help ease some of the overreaction I've seen on various highways and interstates in the last few years.

According to a quick search, this isn't a new idea. But why it it only mentioned on the expensive 5 series BMW cars?

Posted by jzawodn at 08:38 PM

Can one test the new Safari and RSS without installing Tiger?

Any Mac geeks out there know if it's possible to install the newer Safari (the one with the fancy RSS stuff built in) without doing a full Tiger install? I'm very hesitant to install Tiger on my only Powerbook, but I'd really like to test out the RSS integration in Tiger.

Update: I completely forgot. As C.K. pointed out in the comments, I just need an external FireWire drive. I've got one of those. Now I just need to get my hands on a Tiger image. That's the easy part. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 09:40 AM

August 08, 2004

Search Engine Marketing, Optimization, and Blogs

As previously noted, I was on a panel at the SES Conference to talk about the world of "web feeds" (that's Danny Sullivan's term for RSS/Atom) and blogs. Of course, the folks in the audience care a great deal about the effects that this "new" technology and the micro-content it produces are having on search engine results.

These are my longish unordered thoughts, several days and one round trip to the Nevada desert later...

Random Notes

  • It was great to meet some folks that I've "known" in the blog sense for some time now (Scott Rafer of Feedster, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watch, Andy Beal of Search Engine Lowdown, Chris Tolles from while also seeing those that I hadn't seen in a while (Mark Fletcher of Bloglines, Dave McClure of PayPal, others I'm surely forgotten).
  • I didn't know what to expect going into this. I'm used to speaking at technical conferences where the folks in the audience are developers or sysadmins, not marketers, PR, or other business folk. It turns out that it's not really that different.
  • Attendance at the talk was amazing. The room was full and this was the last session on the last day of a multi-day conference. People who attended more of the conference than I did tell me that this was one of the best attended (if not the best attended) sessions of the show. Wow!
  • My presentation isn't on-line yet. I'll see about getting the PR-approved version put on-line somewhere.
  • If I told you what the one difference between the slides I made that those that I presented at the the talk, you'd laugh. Not at our PR folks but at me. Really.
  • I used my time (actually a bit less than my alloted time) to briefly talk about RSS and search engines in general (link spam anyone?) before giving a quick overview of the integration between Yahoo! Search and the "RSS Headlines" module on My Yahoo!
  • The marketing and advertising angle on Search and RSS is now much, much more clear to me. Not that I'd ever spent many cycles thinking about it, but it's clear that Bloglines, Feedster,, and probably many others (Technorati, certainly) are coming at this from similar but not too similar angles.
  • The questions during the Q&A session, as best as I can remember, were fairly diverse. I especially liked when Dave McClure asked about other stuff people would like to see RSS for (stock quotes, travel fares, eBay auction items, etc). I hope that got people thinking. It always frustrates me when I come across a site with content I want that's updated regularly, but there's no damned RSS feed. That's true of a lot of the small guys out there and the big guys too.
  • Danny gave us the option of asking the audience a few "show of hands" questions, but I was only one to use that opportunity. I asked folks to raise their hands based on the number of feeds they track in their aggregators (or manually? I don't remember...). The hands really go down fast once you get above 20. I've always suspected that 20 is sort of magic number in this area, and this was really my first change to test that theory on an audience that wasn't already full of bloggers or geeks.
  • A question came from the audience about what happens when employees openly blog about their company, job, etc. I don't remember the whole question, but the gist of it was "this could be a PR nightmare, can of worms, big problem, etc, right?" And I thought for sure it was aimed at me, but Scott managed to use Robert Scoble as an example and save me the trouble of either having to say "no comment" or come up with a very good (meaning "safe") answer on the spot. Whew!
  • Andy Beal came up to introduce himself after the session ended. Though we don't always agree, we read each other's stuff and respect each other. He asked me if I ever get folks suggesting that I tone things down a bit. Sure, that happens. But it's my blog and I write it mostly the way I want. I figure that if you don't generate controversy once in a while, you're not trying hard enough.
  • Related to that, someone recently asked me about blogging and my job. I managed to explain it this way: About a year ago I realized that far more people at work were reading my blog that I had expected. I write with that in mind, but it doesn't stop me from disagreeing with what the company does or pointing out when we do something I think is great. I figure that my blog will have one of two effects at work: it'll help in unexpected but positive ways or it'll get me in deep, deep shit (maybe fired?). Possibly both. The only way to find out is try.
  • When Danny introduced me to the crowd, he mentioned that he's been reading my stuff on a daily basis for a while. He didn't say that about anyone else. And, now that I think about it, I don't know that any of the other panelists blog frequently. But I could be wrong on that.
  • Google was invited to participate but didn't send anyone. That seems weird to me.
  • Speaking of Google, I never bashed PageRank, though someone joked about it before the session.


Any doubts I may have ever had about the SEO (that's Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (that's Search Engine Marketing) crowds not realizing how the landscape is changing under their feet have been erased. They're onto this stuff in a big way. They may not understand it all yet, but I'm sure they're hot on the trail now.

One thing I do wonder is what all those people did a few years ago--you know--before search engines mattered.


Next time SES comes to Silicon Valley, I predict that...

  • This session will be during "prime time" instead of at the very end of the schedule. There may be multiple sessions focused on this stuff next time, or the notion of RSS feeds, blogs, and syndication may just weave its way into the appropriate sessions. I'm pretty sure on this one.
  • The conference site will be set up to receive TrackBack pings from attendees and speakers who are blogging the show. (O'Reilly Conferences have been doing this for, what, two years now?) It may not happen, but it should. The technology is not rocket surgery.

Other Coverage


Hats off to the Inside Yahoo! folks for this little poke at Google for running out of beer at the Google Dance. Battelle picked it up too. As I said in his comments, I've never attended a Yahoo party in 4+ years where we ran out of beer. Imagine the horrors! :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 08:39 PM

August 05, 2004

iTunes Music Sales: Mac vs. Windows

I've done a bit of looking around but cannot find this data. Does anyone happen to know what percentage of iTunes Music download sales are to Mac users vs. Windows users?

Failing that, does anyone know what percentage of iPods are owned by Mac users vs. Windows users?

Posted by jzawodn at 08:28 AM

August 04, 2004

Larger SUVs are Illegal on Many California Streets

There's an interesting article over on Slate titled California's SUV Ban: The Golden State has outlawed big SUVs on many of its roads but doesn't seem to know it. Andy Bowers does a good job of explaining how the largest SUVs often weigh more then 6,000 pounds, the traditional cutoff between light and heavy trucks.

It turns out every big SUV and pickup is too heavy for my street. Here's just a sampling: The Chevy Suburban and Tahoe, the Range Rover, the GMC Yukon, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Sequoia, the Lincoln Navigator, the Mercedes M Class, the Porsche Cayenne S, and the Dodge Ram 1500 pickup (with optional Hemi). What about the Hummer, you ask? Hasta la vista, baby!

The article does a good job of explaining how infrequently the restrictions are enforced. But I came away wondering what would happen if we started calling to police to report these illegally parked and/or moving vehicles? Would the police refuse to ticket someone. If so, can we sue the police for not enforcing the law?

It makes me wonder just a bit...

Disclosure: Yes, I own an SUV. It weighs less than 6,000 pounds. I use it 95% of the time for towing my glider (example), hauling glider gear to and from the airport, and when people visit from out of town once or twice a year and we don't fit into my normal day-to-day car (pics). In other words, I try not to waste gas by driving it only when needed. Heck, I even get an insurance break from driving it infrequently.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:12 PM

August 03, 2004

A Tent

I now own a tent.

This has been coming for a few months, but I finally motivated myself to do something about it. Well, that's not quite true. The Best Western in Truckee motivated me.

Gliderports are typically in out of the way places. That's good because it means there are lots of places to land if you can't quite make it back to the runway. Landing on a warehouse is generally frowned upon by your fellow pilots, the warehouse owner, and the aircraft insurance company.

Luckily most of them (the gliderports, not the warehouses) have some sort of on-site camping and reasonable restroom and shower facilities. This is true of both Soar Truckee (situated at an elevation of 5,900 feet and just a few miles north of Lake Tahoe) as well as Air Sailing (about 30 minutes North of Reno, Nevada and just west of Pryamid Lake).

After speaking at SES on Thursday, I'm planning to head up to Soar Truckee so that I can fly with an instructor in our club's DG-1000 early Friday afternoon. It's been about 10 or 11 months since I last flew there (pics) and I'd like to get reacquainted with the area while also getting checked out in the 1000. And I've never flown the 1000 from Truckee.

When I flew up there last year, I stayed at the nearby Best Western. But that costs something like $100/night and can add up quickly. But when I was up at Air Sailing earlier this year (pics), several of us stayed on site in a big RV. I remember thinking that I really needed to invest in a tent so that I could camp out on-site next time I flew there.

I had this notion of taking my glider up there, assembling it, and leaving it in the hangar for a few months. That'd enable me to get in some decent flying without chewing up lots of vacation time. I head up on a Friday, pitch a tent, fly Saturday and Sunday, then drive home on Sunday night without having to (1) deal with glider assembly and disassembly or (2) pay to stay somewhere. And if I used a vacation day, I could head up on Thursday and get an extra day of flying in.

Anyway, when I called up the Best Western to make a reservation, I found that I could stay there on Thursday night, but not Friday or Saturday.

Crap. Time to go tent shopping. (Yeah, there are other places to stay, but I took this as a sign.)

So I headed over to the REI web site to poke around a bit. But I knew nothing about tents (and still know very little). Then I chatted a bit with my sister. She's been camping quite a bit in the last few years. And Joyce offered to loan me a tent, but I really wanted to just get one and get used to using it.

After that, I left work and headed to REI. Upon arriving, the tent section was easy to find. They had many tents assembled (erected?) on display. I looked around a bit and then found the big wall of tent information. Unsure where to start, I got the attention of the cute tent girl (never got her name, sorry) and explained my tent requirements:

  • 2 person sized
  • easy assembly and disassembly really matter (I'll probably take it down each morning and assemble it each night--the afternoon dust devils would probably rip it apart)
  • ventillation is very important (it might be warm at night in the Nevada high desert)
  • keeping rain out is not such a big deal (it's usually dry there)
  • weight doesn't matter (I'll have the 4Runner and have no plans to hike with the tent)

After going over various tents, I decided upon the MSR Ventana Tent and accompanying footprint (a funny word for "thing that goes under the tent to protect it"). It is very light, easy to set up, and has great ventilation and visibility. It's not the cheapest, but it'll pay for itself quickly if I stick to my plans for later August and early September.

And that's the story of my tent.

Now I must set about the task of figuring out how to put it together so I can practice in the daylight.

If all goes according to plan, I'll fly in Truckee on Friday and then head over to Air Sailing with my glider. I'll camp there and fly Saturday and Sunday before returning home. I just hope there's some room in the hangar for my ship!

Posted by jzawodn at 11:08 PM

Yahoo! Local Beta

Not to be outdone by all those other beta services on-line, as of this morning you can try the Yahoo! Local Beta.

For the longest time, I've used Yahoo! Yellow Pages when I needed to find something in a specific area. But in the last few weeks of playing with the internal beta of Yahoo! Local, I've been pretty happy. In almost all cases it's at least as good as YP, but usually a lot better. The ability to selectively refine a result set is very handy when you get too many results. And the "View Results on Map" is something I wish we had a long time ago.

It looks like the version launched still has a couple of the usability quirks that I hoped would be fixed by now (like not being able to click column labels to re-sort the results instead of using the non-intuitive menu control), but hey.... It's a beta, right? :-)

Anyway, give it a try. Even with that omission, it seems to beat the pants off "similar" services that I've mentioned before. Despite my best efforts, I've yet to get random strip clubs in the results.

I'm especially interested in hearing about surprising results or searches for which we don't do a very good job. I'll pass the info along to the Local team. Of course, other bug reports are welcome too.

Update: I see that John Battelle is reporting on it now too. He "found it pretty damn good." Excellent.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:23 AM

August 02, 2004

It is NOT Time for a Blogs TLD

I when I read his post, I initially mistook the Aug 1 posting date for April 1st. Steve Rubel suggests that we need a .blogs domain. First of all, TLDs are generally singular (.com vs. .coms or .orgs or .nets and so on). But more importantly it's just a dumb idea.

Sorry, Steve, but I can think of no better way to say this. A year or two from now, blogs will exist in a form that's different than today. I fail to see why people continue to insist on separating weblogs from "the rest" of the web.

We don't do it for message boards. Or rumor sites. Or porn sites. Or spyware sites. Or sites powered by Microsoft servers.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:37 PM

August 01, 2004

What's Wrong with Yahoo's Mobile (SMS) Services?

Beats me. I have a lame old phone and am waiting for my local Verizon store to get the V710 in stock. But Russell Beattie posted his thoughts about Yahoo's SMS News Alerts and Mobile Alert IDs.

Even though I've never used or seen the service, I agree with the points Russell makes and suspect that he's simply right.


Russell lives and breathes this stuff. Anyone who's been reading his stuff more than few days knows this. There's a good chance that some of the folks who build the Yahoo Mobile services also live and breathe this stuff, but I'd be shocked it all of them do.

Near the end of his post, he jokes:

Just remember where you saw all this first so when Yahoo implements it I can demand a free t-shirt or something.

Well, you know what? I'm going to make sure he gets a shirt. He's providing some publicity for our services and a helpful dose of expert criticism.

If the Yahoo Mobile group doesn't have shirts (or aren't willing to provide one), I'll go to the company store and buy one myself. And I'm going to deliver it in person. I've been reading Russell's blog for a long time and now that he lives up in San Francisco, there's really no good reason I haven't met him in person yet.

Hm. Maybe "being busy" is a good reason? Nah.

Russell: How's an XL?

Update: I've got an XL shirt here that appeared a few minutes ago. Now I just have to figure out when to get it to Russ.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:32 PM

Comment Spamhaus: The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University

That's right, The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University is full of Comment Spam (and that's why I didn't link to them--it's if you want to check it yourself).

Steve nicely quantifies the problem and notes that for a place full of Internet big shots, they're pretty stupid about this.

The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University is chock-full of serious luminaries, but for people who are so bright and internet-aware, they are shockingly clueless about how to run a web log properly. Of the weblogs hosted on that server, 99.25% of the more than 9000 comments are spam, and the breakdown is shown here...


I guess I should add them to my blacklist before someone starts spam piggybacking.

Posted by jzawodn at 06:37 PM

Beta in the Age of the Internet

Do most Internet users know what the term "beta" is supposed to mean when applied to a piece of software or a service on-line?

I doubt it.

What got me thinking about this was getting an e-mail message from someone who I've always thought is quite clueful. He was using a Gmail account. And not just to send the message either. The Reply-To header was set back to his Gmail account.

At that point I was surprised by his willingness to rely upon a beta service for something as important as e-mail. But then I thought about it a bit harder and realized how diluted the term "beta" has become.

Earlier today, I read about Radicati recommending Yahoo Mail over Gmail. And my first thought was "yeay for us!." But then I realized how stupid that was. Gmail is a freaking BETA PRODUCT. If they'd recommended the opposite, I'd wonder what they were smoking.

The fact that they're charging $40 to read that report only adds to the stupidity of it all.

I really hope that the PR folks at Yahoo get this and don't start using such recommendations as a form of ammunition against Google and/or Gmail. It would just make us look stupid, and we really don't need anymore of that.

Looking beyond Gmail, Friendster has been in Beta since the beginning of time, but they have well over 6 million users now. Technorati was in beta for a quite a while, but recently dropped that label just before being launched into the media spotlight by CNN and the DNC.

I suspect that if anyone even notices the "beta" label anymore, they don't think twice about it. If the company was willing to put their service in front of millions of users, how likely is it that they're not reasonably confident that it's "almost there" in terms of usability and stability.

It's not like the old days when software beta programs required you to apply and then demanded regular feedback during the process. I think that in many (most?) cases, these on-line "open" betas are really just an excuse for launching services before they're ready.

Or maybe I'm just weird.

See Also:

Posted by jzawodn at 06:12 PM