January 31, 2005

Tivo's HME SDK

Tivo has released a Software Development Kit (SDK) for their broad-band connected Tivo units:

HME is the code name for TiVo’s powerful new open platform for applications that are displayed and controlled by broadband-connected TiVo Series2 DVRs. HME applications are written using the Java programming language and can run on home PC’s or remote servers hosted by TiVo. At this time, HME applications can not control any of the TiVo DVR’s scheduling, recording, or video playback capabilities. Developers use the HME software developer kit (SDK) to create these applications. The SDK is released under the Common Public License (CPL).

This means that Yahoo (or anyone) could start releasing applications for the Tivo.

Wow, a bold and wise move.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:03 AM

January 29, 2005

Ham Radio License in a Day

With the aviation frequencies we use for air-to-air communication (123.3MHz and 123.5MHz) becoming more crowded, a growing number of sailplane and hang glider pilots are turning to Amateur (or HAM) Radio for more spectrum.

Today I attended what can only be described as a one day crash course constructed for the sole purpose of passing the FCC's test for an Amateur Radio License.

The class, which cost $25, was sponsored by the College of San Mateo Electronics Technology Department and the South County Amateur Radio Emergency Services.

The test consists of 35 randomly selected questions from a bank of a few hundred. Like all tests issues by federal government agencies, the questions and answers are known and published in advance. They're even available on-line.

The Strategy

The cramming (err, I mean "study") process is fairly straightforward. The "rules" are as follows:

  • the test questions are printed on 60 pages
  • study a set of 10 pages worth of questions for 45 minutes
  • read the question and the correct answer only
  • do not think or try to reason out the right answer, just read
  • take a 15 minute break after each session
  • after 6 sessions (and a mid-day lunch) take the test

Using that method, I took the 35 question multiple choice test and scored correctly 33 of 35 questions (94%). You can miss as many as 9 and still pass (70% is the minimum passing score).

The system works. You don't learn a lot doing it, though I did pick up more than a few facts along the way. But for my purposes, this gets me a license. And now I can legally operate my new Vertex VXA-700 Transceiver.

Oh, I suspect that all of the 30-40 people at today's class passed.

I'll likely attend a "HAM Orientation" class at some point, which covers the basics of radio protocol, terminology, and so on.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:43 PM

January 28, 2005

The Mysterious eBay Note In My Cube

The eBay Note I came back to my desk after 3.5 hours of meetings and presentations to find the following on a post-it note stuck to my laptop:

Dear Jeremy,
We came by the do a leveraged buyout of your underpants. But you weren't here. Sorry! Talk soon.
Your Friends @ eBay

I'm not sure if I should be happy or sad that I was not around.

The fun part is seeing if one of my eBay friends takes responsibility of this as a result of reading it on my blog. If not, I'll just have to ping everyone I know at eBay. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 05:00 PM

January 27, 2005

Use a Modern Perl with Kwiki

To anyone else considering Kwiki (an excellent minimal yet extensible Perl Wiki), make sure you're running a recent Perl. I spent far too long attempting to set it up under Perl 5.6.x recently only to discover that it was utterly painless under Perl 5.8.x.

I wish I had thought to try that hours earlier.

That concludes this public service announcement.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:28 PM

January 26, 2005

The Leak, Day #7: Still Showering with a Hose


Robert hadn't called or arrived by 5pm, so I called AC Plumbing to see what was up. Michelle told me he'd be by tonight. He had one thing to fix in Monterey and then he'd be back my way. No problem, I thought. If he's running late, he's running late.

Then she called me back at about 5:45pm to let me know he hadn't made it to Monterey yet because a job in Los Altos ran behind. His new plan was to finish up in Monterey and then hit my place first thing in the morning.

That was my cue to get the 90 foot garden hose back out and take a shower.

The moral of this story: I should have just gone to work after my oil change and waited for Robert to call. I may have gotten more done that way.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:14 PM

Sunnyvale Acura Got Net

About two years ago I noted that Sunnyvale Acura Needs WiFi. Today I spent a bit over an hour in the waiting room and found that things have improved a bit.

They still don't have wireless, but now there's an Ethernet jack hooked up to a little Netgear router. Basically it's a DSL line for customers in the waiting room to use.

Kick Ass!

Now I can still get stuff done while they're working on my car.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:03 PM

The Leak, Day #6

Yesterday is the day everything was supposed to be done. And it was... sort of.

I had told Robert that I'd be home late (BASA meeting) and asked him to call me if anything came up. I was a bit surprised when he called me at 9:45pm and said things were not going well.

It turns out that all the new plumbing was in and working. However, when they went to test the showers, both clogged up. There was so much sediment in the lines that both of them locked up hard. So they spent some time fighting with the showers but had to give up when it got late.

So the work was "done" but I still had no shower. :-(

On the plus side, I finally have hot water back at all the faucets and don't have to keep turning it on and off at the tank.

Michelle called me this morning to say that Robert would be able to come back out this afternoon to tackle the shower problems. Yay!

I just hope he doesn't need to get into the wall behind either of the showers. Having to replace tile would suck.

More later...

Posted by jzawodn at 09:02 AM

January 25, 2005

My Yahoo RSS Subscriber Stats Bug Fixed

Over on the FeedBurner Weblog, Dick writes about My Yahoo Subscriber Numbers, noting that the numbers were stuck for a while and that things are now better.

I checked in with Scott Gatz at My Yahoo to get the scoop. Here's what I found out.

  • The bug lasted from October until last week. So it may have looked like My Yahoo users stopped subscribing to your feed for several months.
  • The bug was confirmed and fixed this week.
  • The subscriber count is generated from a rolling 30 day look at who actively viewed your feed(s) in the 30 days. The numbers are currently updated on a weekly basis. They're working in reducing that delay.

So re-check your stats. Remember that YahooFeedSeeker will leave a note in the User-Agent field of your server logs:

YahooFeedSeeker/1.0 (compatible; ...; users 100; views 2511)

Any questions? Leave 'em in the comments.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:52 PM

Google's Per-User AdSense Tweaking

As reported by Inside Google:

Google is testing out a new functionality for AdSense that allows users who are not satisfied with the current ads being served to choose a different set of ads. This is a just unbelievable idea. Google is truly pushing the idea that its ads are more than just ads, they're useful, and I commend it.

There's an example on this page.

Interesting stuff.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:40 AM

January 24, 2005

The Leak, Days 4 and 5: Exploratory Cutting and New Pipes

It's funny. More than half the folks I ran into in the hallways at work today asked, "how's the plumbing?" or something to that effect. I guess that means I'm getting behind on my updates. :-)

Day #4

The guys came back on Saturday to do the exploratory cutting that would help them figure out where the existing pipes are and where to route the new ones.

Without going into a lot of detail, let's just say that by 2pm on Saturday I had a large (18 inch wide and 5 feet tall) hole in my living room wall and a matching one in the kitchen.

There were also smaller holes in ceiling of the kitchen and laundry room.

Day #5

The plumbers took Sunday off, so day #5 is actually today (Monday). I don't know how long they were here, but when I got home I found that they had run new copper pipes in the first floor bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room. It looks like they got about half of all the new pipe in place.

That means tomorrow should be the big day. I believe they plan to get a bit more pipe in place, turn off the water, and then cut over to the new system. It'll be a long day, but I have a BASA meeting after work so I'm not going to notice.

I can't wait to take a shower without the aid of a garden hose!

Of course, the next step is to bring in a contractor who can patch up the damage they've done. I'll likely take that opportunity to get a few other things done around here that have been on my list:

  • install ceiling fans in two of the bedrooms
  • install new towel racks (the current ones were done but a real idiot)
  • install the new screen in the computer room window

But I'm just taking it one step at a time.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:09 PM

January 23, 2005

Reactions to the Pew Study on Search Engine Users

I'm seeing some amusing reactions to the just released Pew study on Search Engine Users.

Disclaimer: I have not yet the report but would like to spend some quality time with it. I'd really like to see where it disagrees with what we believe we know at work.

Chirs Sherman of SearchEngineWatch, in Searchers Say, Damn I'm Good! is impressed by how many search users are confident in their ability to find things:

A new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that 92% of search engine users are confident in their searching skills, with more than 87% saying they are successful in finding what they're looking for most of the time.

That's great news for companies in the web search business. It means folks who need to find something barely hesitate to use a search engine.

Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing said that a few facts left his jaw hanging.

Nearly half of searchers use a search engines no more than a few times a week, and two-thirds say they could walk away from search engines without upsetting their lives very much....

In other words, a large population of on-line users don't use the web like those of us who practically spend our lives on-line do. This is no surprise. There are a lot of people who just check their e-mail, maybe read a bit of news, and then go back to their real lives.

Where's the surprise here?

I'm sure this will change over time, as the Internet becomes more and more of an essential technology in the lives of "normal" people.

He also notes that:

Only 38% of users are aware of the distinction between paid or "sponsored" results and unpaid results.

I'm surprised that Cory is surprised by that finding. In fact, I would have expected a higher perctentage. When you think of all the places in the modern world that advertising has snuck in without many people noticing, why is search any different?

At least most search engines label the sponsored results. It's too bad the rest of the on-line and off-line media aren't as clear about such things.

The more philosophical question, of course, is this: If you find what you're looking for, does it really matter if it's a sponsored result or not?

I know that's a can of worms and there's no "right" answer for everyone, but there are people who think of search engines as a high-tech on-line phone book of sorts--especially when they're looking for something obviously commercial in nature. Most phone books have a Yellow Pages and a White Pages, right? Where do you go looking for a plumber?

Before you jump up and down and flame me for advocating advocating one view point or another, take a deep breath. I'm not.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:08 PM

January 21, 2005

What's your favorite Flickr group?

While I keep finding great stuff on Flickr, my favorite photo group is one of the smaller ones: The California Desert.

There aren't many contributors, but the stuff that shows up there really appeals to my sense of desert scenery. (Yes, there's scenery in the desert.)

Just spend a few minutes browsing the group pool and you'll find some real gems.

Last summer I began regularly flying my glider in the area which is known as the Great Basin (see also: Great Basin National Park) and quickly came to enjoy being in the desert. I like the dry air, the clear skies, the great soaring conditions, and the sparseness of it all. When the sun goes down, it's quiet outside. And the view of the night sky is to die for. I'm probably going to buy a telescope this year just for use in the desert.

Every once in a while, often right around sunrise or sunset, I realize that feels a bit like some of the far away worlds depicted in Star Wars.

I should really take more pictures there next summer. Maybe I can start up a Great Basin group on Flickr. I bet there are some awesome photos of the Nevada desert floating around out there.

What are your favorite Flickr groups?

Posted by jzawodn at 08:02 PM

Tracking Overture Campaigns with Google AdWords

This is really interesting. As Candida writes on Silicon Valley Watcher:

Check out Google's latest: they've improved the Adwords Conversion Tracking so that you can track conversions not just from Adwords, but also Overture, emails, banner ads, and all other sorts of online advertising campaigns. This allows the merchant to compare the campaigns against each other. Yes, you can track Overture campaigns within your Google Adwords account.

That kinda reminds me of something I suggested a few years back: let Yahoo Auctions users pay for their purchases with PayPal. Of cousre, that came to pass several years later (2004, IIRC). Too late in my mind, but it did happen.

The point here is simple: giver users what they want, where they want it and they'll use it--especially if you simplify things in the process.

It's like that old saying: The customer is always right.

Posted by jzawodn at 06:55 PM

The Leak, Day #3: Leak Found, Pictures, Showering with a 90 Foot Hose, and other Fun Tidbits

Well, I managed to wake up at the crack of 6am so that I'd be semi-coherent when Robert and Victor (the leak finder) came by at 7am. They were right on time, too.

Leak Discovery

They pulled a big hose into the house and hooked it up to the hot water line. The idea was to blow air through the system and listen for leaks. Victor used what I can only describe as a plumber's stethoscope. It's like a normal stethoscope except that instead of a little metallic disc on the end, it actually has two long rubber tubes with larger discs on their ends. He puts them on the floor and listens to pinpoint the leak.

I should have taken a picture, but well... it was early.Anyway, the good news is that he found the problem. The bad news is that there are multiple leaks, which means the galvanized pipe is likely shot. Rather than jackhammer into the floor and patch them up, the real solution appears to be re-plumbing the house to bypass the degrading galvanized crap.

That's about $4,500 worth of work, I'm told. I confirmed this with a friend who has recently been through a similar job.

After finding the leaks, Victor pulled out a new device to map out where the pipes are. It's like one of those wands they use to detect guns in your pocket at the airport--only much bigger. He puts a couple of electrodes on the pipes and then uses the wand to pinpoint their location. He put blue tape on the floor to note where the pipes and junctions are.

If nothing else, I'm getting a good plumbing education in the process.

I told Robert that I'd like to get started ASAP. He said they'd checkt he schedule and call me shortly.

Total cost for the leak location work: $275.

The Good News

Michelle (from AC Plumbing) called me a few hours later and said, I kid you not, "Hi, this is Michelle from AC Plumbing. We're ready to rock on your plumbing work tomorrow." Apparently they're arriving at 7am to being "exploratory cutting." Robert explained this while he was here. He needs to get into the walls at several places to get a more precise idea of where to put the new pipes. Once they've done that, they can get started on the real work of putting the pipes in place.

The Insurance Company

A claims representative called me this afternoon (I was expecting a visit). Based on all the advice from everyone yesterday, I explained to her that this was a misunderstanding. I wasn't trying to open a claim--I merely wanted to get some questions answered. So she killed the claim paperwork and answered my questions.

The insurance company is officially off the hook now.

The Temporary Solution

Around noon I had a brainstorm. Or maybe just a light drizzle. See, I was thinking about the water heater.

And then I remembered the valve near the bottom of the tank.

And I realized that it's the same size as those you'd hook up a garden hose to.

So I thought about how much hose I'd need to get hot water up to the nearest shower. I figured 75 feet ought to do it. So I ran off to Orchard Supply Hardware (it's only 2 miles away) and bought a 90 foot hose and nozzle to go with it.

I then attached the hose to the tank.

And ran it upstairs into the bathroom.

And into the bathtub.

There were two remaining issues:

  1. Getting the water pressure right
  2. Getting the temperature right

Hooking directly up to the tank, I knew there'd be no trouble getting water upstairs. There are no leaks before the tank, so that was easy. But I didn't want to turn the water on too hard. Having the water actually hurt in the shower would suck. So it took about 5 minutes of trial and error: try a setting, run upstairs to see, run back down to adjust, repeat.

The temperature would be more tricky. It's like solving math problems about the space shuttle's fuel tank. The longer the engines burn, the lighter the craft gets and the less fuel you need.

I had to turn the temperature down a bit on the tank and let out some hot water out. My theory was that the cold water that'd flow in to replace the hot would bring the overall temperature down enough that I wouldn't burn myself. And, if I didn't use too much water showering, I should be able to do the job without running out of warm water.


I actually got a decent shower out of the deal. Yeay!

Hose: $26.
Nozzle: $9
A non-cold shower: Priceless!


The only problem was that the seal between the hose and the spout wasn't 100% closed. So there was a bunch of water on the floor around the water heater. I used an old blanket to soak most of that up. I consider it a small price to pay for a semi-warm shower.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:00 PM

SUVs Keeping Tahoe Blue

I've noticed that the vast majority of vehicles I see sporting the Keep Tahoe Blue bumper sticker are SUVs.

Does this cognitive dissonance not register with anyone else?

I've even spotted it on two Hummers in the Bay Area. But never once have I seen one on a hybrid auto like the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight.

Is this some inside joke I'm not aware of?

Posted by jzawodn at 10:58 AM

Link Condoms Reduce the Risks of Unsafe Linking

And you thought nofollow was the solution to all your linking woes! Not so! The new Link Condom helps to "Stop the spread of Viral Link Skank today!!"

For the humor impaired, this is a joke making fun of the common complaints against the nofollow attribute.

Yes, it's Friday. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 08:56 AM

January 20, 2005

The Leak, Day #2

What a fun day this has been.

This morning I turned on the hot water and raced upstairs to take a shower. There was no hot water pressure in my bathroom shower, so I tried the guest bathroom. It was better than nothing, so I used it. But the water went from lukewarm to cold in about 3 minutes.

Then I called First American Home Buyers Protection (FAHBP from here on out) to explain the problem and get help. I spoke with Mary. She called me back and said someone could have a look in a few days. I explained the problem in more detail and she said, "oh, so this is an emergency!" and found someone more quickly.

Before long, Robert from AC Plumbing called. I described the problem symptoms and he said "you've got a slab leak." That means the there's a problem in the pipes that run through the cement slab upon which my house sits. I asked him what's involved in repairing such a problem and he began to speak of jackhammers!

Meanwhile, I decided to call back FAHBP and ask how much of this they cover. The answer: $1000. Good to know.

Realizing that, I called my insurance agent to find out what my home owner's policy covers. If this was a sudden accidental problem, as opposed to a long-standing leak, I'm covered. That's good... I hope.

They suggested that I re-confirm with my Home Owner's Association (HOA) that they're not liable for any of this. I was pretty sure that'd be the case, but I called anyway. And I was right.

Robert came by around 12:30p and I gave him the tour. He did a bit of experimentation and became further convinced of the exact problem. He said that since I can't find a hot spot on the floor, we need to bring in someone with fancy electronic equipment to listen for leaks.

It was clear to me that Robert has been in this business a long time and he knew way more than the guy who came out last night.

We went to find the water meter while he made a phone call or two. It turns out that his guy was available later today but FAHBP wanted to get a second opinion.


Meanwhile, we found the water meter (buried out behind the garage in a little box) and confirmed that it ran like mad when I re-enabled the hot water. But more interestingly, it also ran (more slowly, of course) when the hot water was off. That means there's a cold water leak somewhere as well.

"Fantastic," I thought in a sarcastic tone. Two leaks.

Anyway, he left and I called FAHBP to find out who would be giving me my second opinion. I spoke with Joanna (sp?) who had some wrong information. (Uh oh. That's never a good sign.) She thought that two companies had already seen the problem and that it had been referred to a third (Sub-Dynamic something or other) to come out and find the leak.

I corrected her and asked for the contact info at the sub-dynmaic place. She gave me their number and re-confirmed that FAHBP had already faxed them the appropriated details.

So I called that company to find out about setting up a visit ASAP and found the following:

  • they had no faxed documents (yet?)
  • they were completely booked for the next two weeks


I asked her to make sure to tell that to FAHBP when (if?) my paperwork arrived. I hung up and called FAHBP back. This time I spoke with Janice. I explained the situation to her. She was surprised and concerned, and said she'd send my info to the dispatch department. They'd contact someone else locally who could get here sooner and that technician (not FAHBP) would call me.

I asked, but apparently FAHBP can't be bothered to call me when they've found a new company to handle my problem. So I'm at the mercy of their speed and how busy the next place is.

I asked when would be a good time to call back if I hadn't heard anything. "Noon tomorrow, I'd guess." That's all well and good, but I have no hot water until then. I reminded her that AC Plumbing already had someone they could get out here, but she said they didn't think AC could do that kind of work.

After I hung up, I thought about it for a bit while eating a late lunch and decided to call AC back myself. I talked with Robert and he verified that his guy (Victor) could be out at 5pm tonight with the fancy leak-finding gear.

"What's that cost?" I asked. $275.

So they're both coming back out at 5pm to locate the leak. If need be, I'll fight with FAHBP about this crap later. As far as my insurance agent is concerned, I should get it fixed and then deal with them. If FAHBP doesn't get that this matters, that's their problem. I'll find another way to point that out to them.

Keeping track of this shit is a full-time job all of the sudden. Isn't FAHBP supposed to be doing this?

Posted by jzawodn at 02:19 PM

A minor correction to the internetnews.com story

In Search Leaders, Bloggers Band to Fight Comment Spam, Susan wrote the following based on an interview with me yesterday:

He said that since Yahoo doesn't host blogs itself, the use of the no-follow tag would take time to make its presence felt in Yahoo's index.

I hope I didn't say it that way during our phone conversation. Whether or not Yahoo has a blog hosting platform has little to do with the way no-follow support will be reflected in the Yahoo Search index.

This isn't a big problem, but if anyone was wondering what the relationship was, I wanted to make it clear that there isn't one. The cause-effect relationship implied does not exist.

Oh, and I was amused that she called me "a Yahoo marketing executive" in the paragraph above that. Not that job titles matter, but it is the first time I've been accused of being something that important sounding. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 10:14 AM

January 19, 2005

Dear Bloggers, Get Over Yourselves!

I'll make this a short rant.

This International Bloggers' Bill of Rights makes the blogging community look like idiots.

Is there I list I can put my name on to oppose this sort of FUD?

Maybe it's the fact that I watched a George Carlin video the other day, or that Murphy decided to shit on me. But this just annoys the crap out of me and forces me to use terms like "crap" and "shit" describing it.


On a bright note, I got an excuse to use the rel="nofollow" attribute on a link for the first time. No juice for you! :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 10:07 PM

Debugging and Plumbing

As Murphy would have it, I had to visit the DMV today and try to figure out a plumbing problem. In doing so, I realized that good plumbers and good programmers have a lot in common.

This particular problem is like trying to debug code I didn't write and really never paid much attention to until it stopped working correctly. The symptom was a lack of hot water this morning. What I found is that the burner in the hot water tank was providing ample fire but the water just didn't seem to getting hot.

Noting that it was a Kenmore water heater, I called Sears. They transferred me to some local place where I got to discuss the finer points of water heaters with a rude, impatient, and dismissive woman. I left that conversation with two bits of data:

  1. The burner was running far too long not to heat the water. That must mean the hot water is going somewhere.
  2. She was a real bitch. I really wish I had paid attention to the name of the company she worked for.

I went around the house and checked each faucet to make sure none were letting any hot water out. Then I studied the water heater for a few more minutes to get a better idea of what could be going on.

There are 2 inputs and 2 outputs. One input is gas. It's used to heat the water and was functioning just fine. I adjusted the temperature control and proved that it also worked. The other input is cold water. It was clearly working as expected.

The two outputs are both for hot water. One is used for emergencies. It provides a way to let out hot water when something goes wrong. The second output is, of course, the hot water that goes to the rest of the house. And, strangely, it sounded as if water was flowing through it.

I noticed the valve on it and closed it. As I did, I distinctly heard the sound of the water's circulation being cut off.

Ah ha!

Hot water is flowing.

But where is it going? I have no fucking clue. Unless a neighbor has managed to tap into my hot water supply, I can't figure out where it's going. And that really bothers me.

Is it collecting in the walls? I find that hard to believe. I'd have seen evidence of it by now. Many gallons of water have flowed through the system.

The plumber I called is also stumped. I suspect that there's a leak in the wall behind the shower upstairs, but that's just a hunch. I managed to convince myself that I faintly heard water flowing back there a few times. He removed the face plate from the shower control but could find no evidence of a leak.


A next logical setup is to let someone rip into the tile and do a better job of trying to find the leak. But I'm not convinced it is the right step.

Like with debugging code, I want to understand more of what's going on. I'd really like a portable X-Ray system that could see into the walls and allow me to map out the plumbing. But I don't know where to get one of those.

There's a bug here somewhere. I'm convinced of that. The water should not be flowing out of the water heater unless I'm using the water.

Tomorrow I'll call another plumber or two and see what they think. Meanwhile, I'm manually enabling the hot water only when I need it. I suspect a really good plumber will have better debugging instincts on this one.

Update: I found the paperwork for the "Home Buyers Protection" plan that my realtor bought me via FATCO. There's still a bit over a month left on it. I'll be using that phone number in the morning.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:14 PM

January 18, 2005

Yahoo! Sports is Hiring

If you're a sports nut and want to work on one of the Internet's largest and most popular sports sites, this could be your lucky month. Yahoo! Sports is hiring.

Right now they have openings for an Engineer and a Visual Designer. You can read all about the jobs here: http://sports.yahoo.com/s/jobopenings. One of the most important qualifications is this: you must love sports.

As usual, if you're qualified and interested send me your resume and let me know which job you're after.

Full Disclosure: If you get hired and I refer you, I get a nice little cash bonus. But don't let that stop you from getting a cool job. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 02:01 AM

January 17, 2005

FeeBay: Spinning the eBay Price Increases

I've always wondered what journalists have to put up with when trying to write a story about unpopular corporate decisions. Luckily Irinia has documented her experience talking to eBay:

Irina: OK. Can we talk about the eBay members who are frustrated with the fees? The ones that were increased, not the ones that were decreased.
Durzy: I think most ebay users are evaluating the price changes to see how they will impact their businesses.
Irina: Um, OK. Um. [debating if I should follow up on that "answer"] How did eBay decide on the increase.
Durzy: We carefully valuate our pricing structure from time to time. We believe these price changes are the right thing to do for the vibrancy of the market place.

Uh huh...

Irini's TypePad blog is called "here's my byline" because she writes for Red Herring, a publication that doesn't credit their writers with a byline. She has a category specifically called "aricles I wrote".

Blogs to the rescue! Hopefully she'll keep adding to that list--many of her older ones are not there.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:25 PM

Dyson DC14 Animal: The Best Vacuum Ever

A couple months back Derek mentioned that he got a new vacuum and was really, really happy with it. Like me, he has a pair of cats that tend to shed a lot of hair and leave bits of litter in the carpet.

He said it was the Dyson DC14 Animal, so I went looking for more info. Over on Amazon.com I found a lot of good reviews and also noticed the price.

Paying more than $500 for a vacuum isn't an easy decision. However, my old vacuum was badly in need of repir or replacement. So I eventually decided to give it a shot.

The first time I used the Dyson, which is bagless, I completely filled the chamber twice. It picked up an amazing amount of cat hair, litter, and other tidbits. Based on just that one use, I was sold. This vacuum is far and away the best I've ever used or seen.

Not only does it suck really well, it comes with a ton of attachments that make cleaning furniture and stairs fairly easy too. The extension hose is significantly longer than those I've seen on other units.

As it turns out, Aaron has a Dyson, Dan got one after I told him about mine, and Andy mentioned that he might get one as well.

I should be in sales.

Chirs, if you're still wondering, buy the Dyson. You can get it on Amazon.com, Yahoo! Shopping, or Best Buy (like I did).

Update: It seems that one of my trolls was in the comments. I've nuked them all but kept the intelligent responses. There's a reason I publish my comment policy, folks.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:42 AM

January 16, 2005

Kalyan of the Jungle

Kalyan was one of the early employees of Yahoo's Software Development Center in Bangalore, India. When Rasmus and I were there a bit over a year ago, he was an excellent host--taking us out to interesting places for dinner each night as well as introducing us to the rest of the Yahoos there and the Linux/Bangalore Conference.

He seemed to know everyone and everyone liked him.

A few months back, he left Yahoo and hadn't decided what to do. But a few weeks ago I was surprised to read that he was heading to the Jungle for work.

So starting Jan 1st 2005, I'm of to work there for anywhere between 2 weeks to 2 months. This place does not have power (a generator is turned out for an hour every evening) and no internet access (I'll have to drive to the nearest town to pick up GPRS signal), which means after after many years, I'll be totally offline. I never imagined (even a month ago) that I'd be doing something as random as this in my life. I, for one always wanted to do this since I was a kid. I grew up looking at Jane goodall and likes on NGC and said to myself "Hey, I want to do that when I grow up" and this is like my childhood dream come true. (I also wanted to be an astronaut, but thats a diff story).

And then, more recently, he wrote about Internet access in the jungle via GPRS:

Since the resort is on a hill, overlooking at the plains below, I can manage a weak airtel signal. So currently I have my phone tied up on a tree (to get better signal of course) and the laptop is able to connect to the phone via bluetooth even though the phone is more then 10m away.
What can I say about this place ? I'm currently sleeping on a hammock with the laptop on my tummy. There are some 20 monkey's around playing and few of them are curious about my laptop and want to have a peak. There are two camp elephants and they are day dreaming on my left and on the right the its all dense forests. Yesterday right after I landed here, a tiger walked into the camp. We heard lot of alarm calls from all the animals around and by the time I got to the place, the tiger had disappeared. Few of the guests managed to see it though.
Except for the fact that I feel a bit lonely here, this is the best thing I've done in my life.

It sounds like quite a life he's living now! He even spotted and got a picture of a wild tiger a few days ago.

Kalyan, keep up the blogging when you can. It's great to read about jungle life and what you're up to.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:35 PM

FeedBurner's XSLT and CSS Feed Views

Related to Dan's complaint, I see the FeedBurner, like a few other services, does a good job of using XSLT and CSS to render human readable views of RSS feeds.

Have a look at John Battelle's feed. Aside from the fact that they weren't expecting his feed to contain HTML, it's a pretty good shell in which to see a feed for the first time.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:35 AM

Symantec's Confusing Anti-Virus Alerts

My company notebook apparently has Symantec AntiVirus installed, 'cause it just popped up an odd dialog box. (Yes, I really ran across this at nearly 4am.)

Notice the "Action taken" part? It says "Quarantine succeeded" followed by "Access denied." I'm left wondering what really happened. Did it succeed or not?

Who knows?

I have always wanted to submit something to This Is Broken, so maybe now is my chance. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 03:54 AM

January 15, 2005

Reference Tracking and the Performance of Technorati, Feedster, and Bloglines

I was listening to the Jan 14th Gilmor Gang a little while ago. This is the first time I've listened to the show. I tuned in mainly to hear what their featured guest, Adam Bosworth, had to say.

In the part of the conversation, they discussed something I do frequently: look for references to my blog posts on the three services that provide this feature in a somewhat timely fashion: Technorati, Feedster, and Bloglines.

In fact, if you read my blog by visiting its home page in your browser (rather than looking at individual posts in an aggregator), you may have noticed that I provide per-post navigation links for this:

I check those links several times a day to see what people are saying about things I've written recently. While I've not kept a detailed log of my findings, I've noticed that the speed, freshness, and comprehensiveness of the three services vary quite a bit. Speed is all about query speed: how quickly I see results. Freshness is a measure of how quickly the services discover new links. Comprehensiveness is determined by finding the most links to me (or any other URL, of course).


Technorati has the slowest searches but it's the most comprehensive. It also seems to find more links to me in a timely manner (freshness) than anyone else. The query speed is less of an issue than it was in the past, though there are still occasional 120+ second queries. It's generally the slowest of the three for this use.


Bloglines is almost always the fastest of the three at returning results. However it's generally the least fresh and not as comprehensive as Technorati or Feedster.


Feedster varies a lot. At times I've been impressed with the freshness and speed. Other times it's disappointing. Over time, though, the comprehensiveness is good, but not as good as Technorati.


To put this in tabular form, if I was to rate the three services against each other, it'd look something like this. (1 is best, 2 is good, 3 is worst)

ServiceSearch SpeedFreshnessComprehensivenessScore

For my use, Technorati has the edge today.

What This Means

It's probably safe to assume that comprehensiveness is a measure of the index size (or number of feeds each service reads). Since Feedster and Technorati are both in the business of trying to read all of them, it's useful comparison. Bloglines happens to provide this service, but it really exists to serve the needs of readers. The fact that Bloglines is competitive at all speaks to Mark's capabilities as a developer and architect.

Based on what I've seen, I'd guess that Technorati has the largest index (the give out the number on their home page), followed by Feedster and Bloglines.

So I Ask

This leaves me with two questions to ask:

  1. What have your experiences been?
  2. Has anyone built a tool that tracks the speed, freshness, and comprehensiveness of the three services? I know that tools like this exist for web search.

It'd be interesting to simply measure the lag time in the index updates (freshness) for each service. I'd probably use PubSub as a baseline to do that. PubSub is fresh and comprehensive, but it doesn't keep any history. It provides notification or alerts based on pre-defined queries, not ad-hoc queries that look back in time.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:50 PM

Best Headphones Ever: Sony MDR-V6

In 1995 I first tried on a pair of Sony MDR-V6 headphones. I was working as a full-time Unix sysadmin (for co-op credit) in the Department of Computer Science at BGSU and my supervisor had a pair that he loaned me for a day. I was so impressed that I bought a pair the next day and it's still the only model of full-sized headphones that I buy.

The price has come down quite a bit since then. They can be had on Yahoo Shopping for less than $75 in a few stores. If you try Amazon, you'll find that they're currently not in stock (and seem not to be most of the time).

A few weeks ago I ordered two more of these. I wanted a newer pair for work and a pair for home as well. The ones I had at work were showing their nearly 10 years of age but still sounded excellent.

What's to Like?

  • foam padded earpieces that cover your whole ear and block out ambient noise
  • padded headpiece
  • 1/4" stereo adaptor included
  • excellent frequency response (the highs are clear and the lows are powerful)
  • the size adjustment mechanism works well and holds up over time
  • very long cord that never seems to lose its spring

If you're in the market for a set of full-size stereo headphones, I highly recommend the Sony MDR-V6 headphones. It's a proven design that's been on the market for at least 9 years now.

I'm seriously considering another pair just to have on hand 10 years from now when I need a replacement.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:23 AM

January 14, 2005

Windows Mobile, Flickr, MapPoint, AT&T, and Photoblogging

This is interesting. The Windows Mobile team has combined Flickr's moblogging capabilities with the location data from the AT&T network to produce an interesting technology demo.

With all that, and a hearty dose of my own .NETCF and a little ASP.NET magic on the backend, it wasn't too hard to create an app that allows me to take a picture and hit "Send" ...
Two clicks, and a few seconds later, anyone can look at the website and see the picture I took, and where I was when I took it (within a pretty wide range, as I'm on the AT&T network, which does location at the cell-tower level, so you know I'm generally in Seattle, but you can't find me exactly).
Mobile location scenarios really get me excited ... anyone else have some ideas for apps that take advantage of the fact that when you move, so does your device? Let's hear 'em in the comments!

Expect to see more of this in 2005. Lots more.

Thanks to Scoble for the pointer.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:42 AM

Where will you store your data?

Over on SiliconBeat, I ran across their How big is Bloglines? story. Before I get into what I really wanted to say, I feel compelled to say that I think they (SiliconBeat) are doing a very good job of not only reporting what they learn, but also internalizing it. I really get a sense that they get what they're writing about. That doesn't always come across in journalist weblogs.

Keep it up, guys.

Now the interesting bit that jumped out at me is related to something I've been thinking about a lot lately. It was a quote they pulled from Paul Graham's book Hackers and Painters:

"The idea of 'your computer' is going away and being replaced by 'your data.' You should be able to get at your data from any computer. Or rather any client, and a client doesn't have to be your computer."

The more I find myself using increasingly larger and cheaper USB memory sticks, my colocated server, and on-line services like Flickr, I realize how my desktop and laptop computers are becoming less and less important in the grand scheme of things. And when I think about how popular web-based mail systems (Y! Mail, Hotmail, GMail) are, it's apparent that a lot of folks are keeping their data elsewhere.

So if we fast forward another year or three, where's most of your data going to live? On your hard disk? You iPod? A 32GB USB stick? Off in "the cloud"?

What do you think?

Posted by jzawodn at 12:50 AM

January 13, 2005

Staying Power of the Friendster Post

I've noticed a recent spike in hits to my famous Fired for Blogging post, in which I broke the story of Friendster's stupidest move and tracked the growing coverage for a few days. So I decided to investigate a bit.

It turns out that much of the traffic is coming from MSN Search, where a search for friendster yields that posting just "above the fold" in the #6 position.

Note to MSN Search: consider numbering the results. I shouldn't have to count to figure out that this was the 6th result on the page.

Anyway, I've captured the moment in the screenshot at the right, just for kicks.

Yes, I'm easily amused.

Oh, here's a quick side note. Not surprisingly, Friendster continues to lose smart employees and, rumor has it, many more are currently shopping their resumes in the valley.

Note to Friendster engineers: we're hiring. Ping me if you're interested.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:54 AM

January 12, 2005

Auto Reset Ringer Style, A Cell Phone Feature I Need

I'm pretty stupid sometimes. In fact, I'm dumb enough when it comes to my cell phone that I need one a bit smarter than I am.

Too many times now, I've set the ringer setting on my phone to "vibrate" or even "silent" as I went into a meeting or movie theater only to realize (a day or two later) that I never changed it back to "loud" and missed a few calls along the way.

Does anyone know of a phone that allows you to set an expiration time on the ring style changes? I'd love to be able to say "please go into vibrate mode for the next 90 minutes, but then go back to the default."

I'd say it seems obvious, but nobody I know seems to have this particular problem as much as I do.


Posted by jzawodn at 05:19 PM

Yahoo! Finance RSS Feeds Return

You may remember me as the guy who tried to launch RSS feeds for Yahoo Finance a couple years too early. :-)

Well, good news. They're back and they're better.

You can get feeds for individual stock tickers as well as "portfolio" feeds, which are made up of multiple stocks. I'm not going to show you how to build the URLs, because there's a tool for that on the Yahoo! Finance RSS page.

Well, okay. Just one. Here's the feed for Yahoo and Google headlines.


They haven't added auto-discovery support to the quote or portfolio pages yet. After enough of you bang on it and help find any lingering problems, you can expect to see this promoted a bit more.

Thanks to the Y! Finance team for making this happen.

Share and enjoy.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:47 PM

January 11, 2005

The First 106 Miles

A bit over an hour ago I got home from the first meeting of 106 Miles, which Joyce describes as:

a networking group for entrepreneurial engineers in Silicon Valley. The plan is to get together once a month in a casual atmosphere, have a couple beers and a slice, and ask questions of an invited guest who has good stories to tell about starting a tech company. It's basically a geek kegger with a slightly more directed chat in the middle.

And it was good.

We had time to get acquainted while folks arrived and discovered the beer. Then we moved into a large conference room where we got to hear about the experiences of Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer (of Excite, Digital Consumer, and JotSpot fame).

While they said a lot of interesting things, there are two I really picked up on. First, on the topic of keeping control as a startup grows into a larger company, Joe said that you need to decide early on what you want: control or success.

They also talked quite a bit about the importance of hiring the right people, noting that it's better to hire nobody than to hire the wrong person. And it may be a good idea to put of hiring as long as you possibly can--keep it small until you can't afford not to.

I can't really do the discussion justice--or the many conversations that sprung up over the beer and pizza that followed. But it was all Good stuff.

Thanks to Joyce for organizing and CommerceNet for sponsoring.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:27 PM

My MSN and RSS Support Coming?

John Battelle says:

A birdy with an abiding interest has told me that MSN, through its MyMSN service, will tonight "quietly launch several new features for MyMSN, one of which is the ability to discover, read and search through blog and RSS content." You will also be able to add RSS feeds to your MyMSN page, just like MyYahoo. Innaresting, no?

Damn right it is.

2005 is going to be a very interesting year for blogging, RSS, and search. Just watch and see...

Posted by jzawodn at 11:06 PM

The Dave Winer Problem

If Dave can call something the "Yahoo Problem" then I can call it the Dave Winer Problem. It's good way to make sure we see each other's stuff, huh? :-)

Seriously, though... A reporter asked me if I'd comment on his recent posting titled The solution to the Yahoo problem. So I write this without having thought too hard about it or having talked to anyone on the My Yahoo! team about what they think (and some of them go back to the early RSS days and My Netscape).

Dave's proposed solution sounds a bit complicated. In my mind, this has always been solely a client-side problem. The fact is that you click on an orange XML button and the browser does the wrong thing.

In my mind, the obvious solution is to fix the browser(s) or provide a helper app that can do the job if there's no obvious way to extend the browser. I suspect that this would be fairly straightforward for Internet Explorer. Heck, we could do something like it as part of the Yahoo Toolbar. In fact, I've suggested it a few times in the past. The situation with Firefox is even better--someone could build an extension for this. I'm not sure about the less popular popular browsers (Safari, Opera, etc). A helper app would certainly be the fallback position for them.

I'm don't get grok why Dave is suggesting a centralized service that slings OPML files around. Perhaps he'll clarify that need.

Update: Dan reminded me of his Make XML Button Do Something post. He makes the case from a user's point of view.

Posted by jzawodn at 03:20 PM

January 09, 2005

Yahoo Travel is Hiring!

If you've ever wanted to work for one of the largest and most popular on-line travel sites, now's your chance. Yahoo Travel is hiring in a number of areas, including:

  • Product Management
  • Engineering (Content Management)
  • Engineering (Travel Search)
  • Business Intelligence
  • Business Operations

The job descriptions are at http://travel.yahoo.com/jobs (best to use http://careers.yahoo.com/ at this point). If you find one you like, send me your resume and let me know which job you're interested in.

Yahoo is a great place to work. No lame PR-sounding fluff stories here. If you've got questions about working at Yahoo, drop me a note. I'll answer your questions with the good and the bad.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:54 PM

Parking Lot Indicatr Photo Group on Flickr

Ross Mayfield has started a Parking Lot Indicatr group on Flickr.

The idea is simple. We've all heard that if you watch the parking lots of companies in the Valley late at night and on weekends, you get an idea of which ones might be up to something big.

That may not be true in a few years as things are more spread out and more folks work remotely. But for now, it's pretty important for people to be on-side at crunch time at may companies.

Either way, this one will be fun to watch.

Crap. I just realized it's 2:30am. I should do something about that.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:37 AM

Tapping into Tags

Steve Rubel gets it. He's telling folks to watch Flckr tags for their products and such:

Using Flickr tags, you can assess just how much consumers are evangelizing brands by stacking them against their competitors. All you need to do is simply replace the bracketed text below with the the name of your product and enter the URL into your browser...

Don't forget about the other popular tag-based service: del.icio.us. The same logic (except for the 1000 words) applies there too.

We don't yet know how tagging will really scale beyond the ~40,000 users of del.icio.us or the ~150,000 users of Flickr. Clay touches on this in folksonomies + controlled vocabularies. But for now, they're a pretty good way to feel the pulse of the geek and early adopter crowds.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:05 AM

January 08, 2005

I'm Joining the Majority by Putting the Mac Aside in 2005

Something has been bugging me for the last few months. Though I got my nice new Mac and switched to using it has my main personal desktop/laptop machine, it's been a frustrating experience at times.

Back in 2002 when I reviewed a Powerbook for Linux Magazine I was quite impressed with the hardware and the software. It seemed like the best of both worlds and months after that I began using it more and more—eventually deciding to buy a more modern version and make the switch.

But it's become apparent that my logic was flawed. I was comparing the Powerbook and Mac OS X to Linux. My old Linux setup was, well, old. A modern desktop experience such as Knoppix running KDE is actually quite more usable in many respects than Mac OS X. For starters, I don't find myself grabbing for the damned mouse nearly as often.

Class Warfare

More importantly, the open source software I want to use (vim, emacs, firefox, thunderbird, gaim, the gimp, etc) are all first class citizens on Linux. On the Mac I always feel like they don't quite belong—they are second class citizens. It's very difficult for me to articulate why this is or exactly why I feel this way. I'm hoping someone else who's had this experience can do a better job than I can.

Uncle Bill

I've recently started using the Compaq nc6000 laptop that I got at work. It runs Windows XP Professional and is a very nice little machine, though I'd prefer something with more than 512MB of memory. (Mental note: get a RAM upgrade in this notebook). It has 802.11g, Bluetooth, and very good battery life so far (on par with the Powerbook). And the keyboard kicks ass. Do not underestimate how important a good keyboard is!

The funny thing is that I spent quite a bit of effort making my Powerbook work on the Yahoo network as seamlessly as possible. Through quite a bit of SSH port forwarding magic, I got it 90% of the way there. I was able to access mail, LDAP, printing, CVS, TWiki, and so on. If any Yahoo's want to know what it takes to make your Powerbook work well on the corporate network, let me know. I've seen a more and more of them around campus.

Dog Food

But it never felt quite right. The Mac felt slow and awkward for daily "office" use. So I decided to begin using the Windows box for my work related activities in 2005. Instead of hauling the Powerbook to Yahoo each day, I now take the Compaq. A nice side benefit is that I can finally start eating our own dog food.

The vast majority of our users are on Windows. When product folks ask for my feedback on our internal Desktop Search betas, I want to be able to provide some meaningful input. New features in LAUNCH? Same thing. The newest Yahoo! Messenger? Ditto. (Though I do disable all the avatar, search, and random content bullshit. Sorry, I simply want an IM client. I'm so not the target audience in this case.)

I still lobby hard for increased Firefox and Mac support because I still use both. But it's stupid to let that get in the way of really understanding many of the products we're offering the world.

I don't run Outlook or Internet Explorer on this machine and can't imagine a situation that will change that. Microsoft has a lot of work to do on both products.

Open Source on Windows

Here's the funny thing. I've found that nearly every one of the Open Source applications I've installed seems to work better and significanly faster on this machine than on my nearly new Powerbook.

In other words, open source applications feel better on Windows than on the Mac. This was quite a surprise at first.

If you're less lazy than I am, you might look at The OpenCD for a collection of useful Open Source on Windows tools.

The Mac's Role

The Mac isn't going to collect dust. I still use NetNewsWire daily. iPhoto and the Flickr plugin are still my preferred way to deal with digital photos. iTunes, my iPod, and the iTunes Music Store are still the center of my personal music world.

I'm toying with an eval copy of FeedDemon, but I'm not sure if its style suits me yet.

But Office on the Mac just doesn't compare to Office on Windows. And does anyone seriously use The Gimp on OS X? Having to run stuff under X11 just feels so awkward and... dirty. And don't get me started on Open Office on the Mac.

The Mac is my media computer. I see it handling my audio/video/entertainment needs for the forseeable future.

The iPAQ Factor

I expect to be getting an iPAQ in the next month or two. I'll mainly be using it as a portable flight computer when I fly (probably with SeeYou Mobile or maybe WinPilot), but I want to play with other stuff on it as well. Since it runs Windows 2003 Mobile Edition, having a Windows box for it to talk to will make life easier as well.

Not Linux?

Even if I could run the applications I need on Linux (several are missing), that wouldn't be enough. Linux still has poor support for hardware—especially in the laptop world. I had hoped that by 2005 this wouldn't the case anymore, but the sad fact remains. Linux on a modern laptop requires a lot of effort.

The only viable choices (for me) are Mac OS X or Windows XP. And Windows lets me:

  • feel like I'm getting more out of the hardware
  • stop fighting the Mac's usability problems (the tab key being useless in most dialogs, the lack of hotkeys in most apps, the X11 requirement for some apps)
  • have decent power management—almost as good as the Powerbook
  • get full IT "support" at work (meaning that I get on the "real" network and don't need to do all that tunneling crap)

I'm not sure what it will take for Linux to get there. Microsoft wins this round.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:03 PM

My Uncle's Comet Machholtz Pictures

How cool. My Uncle Joe (a scientist at NASA by day) has been taking some nice astronomical pictures by night. From what I hear, he's got a nice little ovservatory setup in his coastal Virginia backyard.

He shot the picture above with his Canon Digital Rebel (a very nice camera). Check out the whole story.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:03 PM

Using mod_rewrite against stupid comment spam bots...

You'd think the comment spammers would be a bit smarter, but apparently not. Over 80% of all attempted spam hits on my site provide no HTTP Referer data. None of them work, of course, because my MT install isn't quite what they think it is (they don't know to type "jeremy" in the extra field). But it still takes up a bit of CPU effort to ask cgiwrap to fire up mt-comments.cgi and whatnot.

So I finally did what I've been meaning to do for a while now:

    RewriteCond  %{HTTP_REFERER}        ^$
    RewriteCond  %{REQUEST_METHOD}      ^POST$
    RewriteRule  ^/mt/mt-comments.cgi   - [F]

And 20 seconds after I did an apachectl graceful it blocked an attempt.

Morons, I tell you.

See Also

Posted by jzawodn at 04:17 PM

January 05, 2005

I don't believe the search numbers...

A whole bunch of people at work today asked me if I had seen a recent posting on the Google Blog News Channel: What Search Engines Do Search Engine Companies Use?

That posting summarizes a lot of data from VisitorVille Intelligence, specifically looking at which search companies use which search services.

The thing that everyone seemed to notice was this:

Finally, at Yahoo, 68.9% of employees use Yahoo, but a still-strong 29.8% use Google (compare that to Google’s 100% loyalty). 81.2% use IE (13% some form of Mozilla). Only 4% of Yahoo’s computers run Linux, and that’s only market share stolen from Windows 98, not any of the newer versions.

I see two problems with this.

First off, I'm pretty sure that the data collected is not able to distinguish one employee from the next. I just looked at their data collection page and read this:

There is some data that we do not aggregate. For example, we do not collect information on search terms used. We also do not aggregate information on what specific pages or websites people visit.

Huh? Are search engines not also web sites?

Putting that apparent contradiction aside, there's a big difference between saying "55% of Yahoo employee's searches are on blah" and "55% of Yahoo employees search on blah."

Anyway, the next problem I see is what that 100% Google figure. That seems to imply that Google never bothers to check out the competition. Is that really true? I know for a fact that it's not.

So where are all those hits counted? They aren't I guess. Maybe they're only allowed to browse Yahoo from home? Or they are more careful to mask their activities? (Not hard to do with a proxy.)

Personally, I run most of my searches on at least two search engines (the two that matter) so I can see how they differ. But maybe I'm just weird. I'm not sure why anyone working for a search company would do such a crazy thing.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't have much faith in those numbers.

Do you?

Posted by jzawodn at 11:03 PM

I'm with Tim on Podcasting

I was reading Tim Bray's take on Podcasting a few minutes ago and realized that he's done a good job of saying what I've been trying to figure out how to say for a while now.

How's that for a long sentence?

Anyway, had I not been so behind on my reading, I'd have already read Russell's PodCommuter post, in which he talks about how he's hooked on Podcasting. And I would have been able to talk with him about it when he was sitting in my bullpen a few hours ago.

It's amusing to see how Russ really gets into stuff that I try and just end up sort of shaking my head at. I need to hang out with him more often.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:42 PM

Congrats to Brad and SixApart

Assuming that Om's story is right, LiveJournal will soon become part of the growing SixApart family.

I'm not sure what you guys are planning, but it sure will be interesting to watch.

2005 is going to be a very interesting year for this whole blogging thing.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:18 PM

You know you haven't posted recently when...

I was sitting in a coworker's office (err, "cube") today when she pulled up My Yahoo to figure out what day of the week January 31st was. She scrolled down a bit to the calendar module and when she did, I noticed my blog was in her list of news sources.

It was empty.

For a split second I thought it was bug. Back in the early days of RSS and My Yahoo, there were a few bugs. One of them caused my blog not be rendered some of the time. But then I realized it was the result of me being lazy. She had My Yahoo configured to show only recent stuff.


With that, I bring you this less than interesting and fairly pointless post.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:41 PM

January 02, 2005

Denial and Television 2.0: Quotes from The BitTorrent Effect

If you're at all interested in copyright, the movie industry, BitTorrent, or Bram Cohen (its creator), I recommend reading The BitTorrent Effect from the January 2005 issue of Wired.

Here are two excerpts that I enjoyed:

Cohen knows the havoc he has wrought. In November, he spoke at a Los Angeles awards show and conference organized by Billboard, the weekly paper of the music business. After hobnobbing with "content people" from the record and movie industries, he realized that "the content people have no clue. I mean, no clue. The cost of bandwidth is going down to nothing. And the size of hard drives is getting so big, and they're so cheap, that pretty soon you'll have every song you own on one hard drive. The content distribution industry is going to evaporate." Cohen said as much at the conference's panel discussion on file-sharing. The audience sat in a stunned silence, their mouths agape at Cohen's audacity.

That makes me really wonder about that so-called industry. How can they not see it changing before their eyes? Do they not know about their own kids downloading music and movies on-line? I guess they're just too locked in to their way of seeing the world. Like Ricky Fitts says in American Beauty, "Never underestimate the power of denial."

What exactly would a next-generation broadcaster look like? The VCs at Union Square Ventures don't know, though they'd love to invest in one. They suspect the network of the future will resemble Yahoo! or Amazon.com - an aggregator that finds shows, distributes them in P2P video torrents, and sells ads or subscriptions to its portal. The real value of the so-called BitTorrent broadcaster would be in highlighting the good stuff, much as the collaborative filtering of Amazon and TiVo helps people pick good material. Eric Garland, CEO of the P2P analysis firm BigChampagne, says, "the real work isn't acquisition. It's good, reliable filtering. We'll have more video than we'll know what to do with. A next-gen broadcaster will say, 'Look, there are 2,500 shows out there, but here are the few that you're really going to like.' We'll be willing to pay someone to hold back the tide."

Not enough people have been thinking about Television 2.0. Will it be the traditional broadcasters or the Internet companies who take the lead? My bet is on the Internet companies.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:07 AM

Why do Wiki RSS Feeds Suck?

I'm a not a big fan of Wiki technology, mostly because I find the markup annoying and the random nature of Wiki changes difficult to follow. However, many Wiki software packages offer RSS feeds so that one can subscribe to a feed of changes in your favorite aggregator.

But they all suck.

At least all the ones I've tried do. Rather than take advantage of the fact that most people are reading RSS feeds in something capable of displaying HTML, nearly every Wiki RSS feed I've tried has been disappointing at best.

The most recent one I tried was the Channel9 Wiki Feed. (For a change, I'm not specifically bashing Microsoft here. This is simple the last one I tried.) Instead of providing much useful information (like *what* changed or even a snapshot of how it looks *now*), all I get is something like this:

WallopRequestList was changed 61 times by nathy, 000127A7BCBA48DF, blowdart, vivi734, Baretta, yydon, rocaliu, parachutist, selflex, Summer Maples, jackiebrent, HyLin312, cravingnigel, 00014A106DF3ED1B, plaptw, 0003000080E342B8, JThompson, erenhsiao, wek, Wek, nikanorov, huang.tseng, fdezjose, 00037FFE86C6ABFD, loadsgood, DigitalSnow, cnsoft, 00014A709211C50D, Aayush Puri, NetRyder

<sarcasm>Wow! That's soooo useful. Now I can build a script to figure out which nodes in the Wiki are changed the most often! ... or something</sarcasm>

Maybe my expectations are just wrong. Could these feeds be aimed at, not humans interested in actively participating in the evolution of an information space, but instead a piece of software somewhere that wishes to subscribe to a change notification feed for the purpose of mirroring the wiki?

That's all these seem to be: change notification feeds. "So and so change this node, but I'm not going to tell you how they changed it or even what it says no. You need to come back to me, the all powerful Wiki for that! (insert evil laugh)

Anyway, enough bitching. If anyone does know of a piece of Wiki software that produces RSS feeds that contain more than the absolute minimum of useful info, I'd love to hear about it.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:40 AM