January 31, 2007

Another day, another debate

In today's episode of "bloggers take sides on some issue" I present the Flickr Old Skool Debate.

In this corner, weighing in with a growing empire of blogging tools, is SixApart's Anil Dash who says I am okay with my Yahoo sign-in. He argues that this should come as no surprise and that this is really a small dust-up that involves a very minor number of loud people.

In the other corner, weighing in with a photo sharing service of his own, is SmugMug's Don MacAskill who writes about The Dark Side of the Flickr Acquisition. In that post he and offers 50% off to Flickr refugees who sign up for SmugMug and suggests that SmugMug will never be bought because big companies don't "get" users of his site.

Personally, I agree with both of them. This stuff is very tricky.


Posted by jzawodn at 01:21 PM

Should I Post It?

Given the surprising attention attracted by yesterday's annoyance, I'm sitting on a blog post titled "Blogging Lessons" that starts out like this:

Here's a list of things I've been meaning to write down for a while. They seem to creep back into mind now and then, often after dealing with a hot (or potentially hot) button issue.

But can't decide if I should post it or not.


Part of me thinks it's worth doing and folks will likely learn something, commiserate, or add their own lessons.

Another part of me thinks that people will read too much into it, see themselves in one or more of the "lessons", and ultimately get [more] pissed off.


Posted by jzawodn at 08:19 AM

January 30, 2007

Boeing 777 Wing Test Video

Say what you will about YouTube, but not a week goes by that someone doesn't point me at an aviation video that I might not have otherwise seen. That, for example, the Boeing 777 Wing Load Test.

I have seen a few videos of wing stress tests from various sailplanes, but nothing nearly this big before. It seems that no matter how big or small the aircraft is, when the wings start to fail, they really let loose!

Posted by jzawodn at 02:23 PM

I overreact sometimes...

For the sake of history, I'm leaving the original text of this post in place--partly to remind myself of how stupid it was. You see, the little voice that normally tells me when to step away from the computer wasn't working today, and I ended up making a big mess as a result. I'm really sorry about that.

Andy, the MyBlogLog guys, and anyone else who wasted time reading this: I fucked up. I know better (most of the time) and should have just gone on with life.

I've already emailed you all privately, but wanted to say so in public as well. It's only appropriate to do so. I'll hold off from speculating about why this happened for another time.

I've also changed the title of this post.

Hey Andy, this isn't too cool:

andy beal spamming mybloglog

And I suspect that you know better. You're a smart guy. So how about setting a good example instead of making me wonder how we should treat people trying to take advantage of the system? It's a pretty cheap stunt, ya know?



Update: I hate to put disclaimers on every little thing I write, but people never seem to stop trying to generalize from my personal complaints to larger company policies, opinions, etc. Don't do that, okay?

Posted by jzawodn at 10:33 AM

What if Microsoft Bought Yahoo?

[Disclaimer: Though I work at Yahoo and know several Microsoft folks, I have absolutely no insider knowledge related to this post.]

Every now and then someone floats that idea that what Microsoft most needs to "win" on the Web is to buy someone else, typically AOL or Yahoo. Henry Blodget's Microsoft's Long, Slow Slide Into Web Irrelevance, Greg Linden's Is Microsoft's Web war lost?, and John Battelle's When Microsoft (and Yahoo) Are Sucking Wind, Is It Fun to Be Google? make me wonder if this a better idea (for Microsoft) that I had first thought.

Sure, there would be cultural problems, integration challenges, and many people who'd likely walk. But at the end of the day, Microsoft would end up with a much larger set of online services, a better advertising network, and people who know how to build, brand, and market web stuff that people actually use.

Yahoo would suddenly be part of an organization with an even more diversified revenue stream (it's improved a lot since the Tim Koogle days, of course), very deep pockets, and some serious bargaining power.

I know that Microsoft takes the long-term view. They're often quite comfortable pouring money into ventures for years before they make a profit. (You know, wait for version 3.0...) They can afford to do that. But on the other hand, I look at how long they've been trying to get good at the web and start to really wonder. They say they're serious about it, but some days I find that hard to believe. It's been a long time and the web moves quickly.

Don't get me wrong. They've built some great stuff. TerraServer is awesome and their Local stuff really shows promise. But this is 2007 and Microsoft is the biggest software company in the world. I expect more. A lot more.

The only glimmer of hope is the thought that thousands of developers who were working on Vista are finally getting feed up to work on Web related projects. A few folks mentioned this when I visited Microsoft a couple months back. That could result in some very interesting products in a few years, assuming they can ship on a web time scale (rather than an OS time scale).

So anyway, what if...?

Discuss. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 08:19 AM

January 25, 2007

My Firefox 1.5 Extensions

I just installed PwdHash and decided to snapshot my current list of installed extensions.

my firefox 1.5 extensions

Yeah, I'm lame and haven't upgraded to Firefox 2.0 yet. I should do that someday, but honestly it feels a bit like upgrading to Apache 2.0: a good idea, but no compelling need.

Am I missing any good ones?

Posted by jzawodn at 03:31 PM

January 24, 2007

This Week's Tech Jobs

Several blogs I read will pick a day out of the week and post pointers to their sponsors and/or partners. I'm going to try the same and would like to know what you think. Basically, I'm going to point to a few (5 at most) of the jobs on my job board that look interesting to me.

If you're a hiring manager, recruiter, or head hunter looking for qualified tech candidates, you can list a job opening. If you do, please email me so that I'll recognize it in the list.

Drop a comment if you have an opinion one way or another on this.


BTW, the criteria I'm using to select "interesting" jobs is pretty random. Let me know if there's stuff you'd like me to keep an eye out for.

Posted by jzawodn at 06:28 AM

January 22, 2007

Use our APIs and we'll pimp your stuff...

In Renkoo visits YDN (part 1) on the YDN blog, you can see the first in a two-part series about Renkoo and how they're using various Yahoo! APIs in their service.

One of the things we've wanted to do more is show off how people use our stuff. And I've been wanting to do more with screencasting since forever, so it seemed logical to combine the two. We invited Joyce and Adam (the co-founders and friends of mine) over to show off Renkoo while we recorded the conversation with Camtasia.

After seeing how Matt whipped it into shape, I'm really liking the idea of screencast style interview for YDN. Check it out. What do you think?

Oh, stay tuned for part #2, which should go live on Tuesday.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:26 PM

January 21, 2007

How not to land your plane on a short field

A couple months ago, in Short Field Landings and Learning Plateaus, I wrote about the frustrating experience of not being able to get my short field landing technique down.

If this video is any proof, I'm not the only one. The description says:

A wild ride in a Mooney as it does an approach into Whidbey Island in moderate to severe turbulence, landing high and fast on a short strip, and almost crashing.

But you probably just ought to watch for yourself...

I'll refrain from saying what I'd have done differently, since (a) it's always different when you're analyzing someone else's mistakes and (b) I don't have my license yet[*]. But I suspect that the pilots among you can guess what I might have written.

[*] if all goes well, that'll be false in less than a week.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:53 PM

Fan Mail

Am I the only one who gets bizarre "fan mail" that looks like it was written by a text messaging 7th grade girl in need of blogging advice?

fan mail

Assuming that I'm not, does anyone out there actually respond to these? If so, what do you say?

I'm at a loss on this one.

Suggestions, anyone? The funnier the better. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 08:32 PM

January 18, 2007

The Hardest Thing About Integrating MyBlogLog With Yahoo...

The MyBlogLog team has been on-site in Sunnyvale most of this week. But I forgot my camera on Wednesday, so only managed to snap a picture today of Todd and Eric on the YDN couch:

Todd and Eric of MyBlogLog

As you might imagine, their first week is a bit of a whirlwind. There is lots of paperwork to do (benefits, etc), people to meet, decisions to make, meetings to attend, and so on. And unlike other acquisitions that I've been involved with in one way or another, I'm helping out on a day to day basis now.

I must say, watching a small company become part of Yahoo is a very interesting experience. There's an impressive amount of people machinery involved behind the scenes. There's also just a lot of energy around MyBlogLog and it's getting contagious.

And that is likely the hardest thing about integrating MyBlogLog into the larger Yahoo family. There are so many possibilities, so many interested groups, so many directions things could go, and there is so much excitement around it that we have to actively work to ignore a good chunk of the shiny stuff for a while. For the next few months, we need to wear blinders and get a lot of stuff done: infrastructure, scaling, bug fixes, planned features, and hopefully a few surprises too.

There are worse problems to have, that's for sure. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 10:15 PM

The Tipping Point for OpenID

The noise and interest around OpenID, a distributed and open lightweight identity system, has been growing for a few years now, but my sense is that it has dramatically accelerated in recent months. So much so that things are starting to feel really, really close. And by that I mean that all it takes now is for one "big player" to jump on the OpenID bandwagon. OpenID will then either take off or fall flat on its face.

Everyone is waiting. Who will it be? I don't know.

That aside, my money is on OpenID succeeding. It may not be a roaring success, but a population of very active web users will adopt it nearly overnight. We all hate having to invent Yet Another Username/Password Pair to try out some new service. Sure, site developers can use something like Google's Account Authentication or Yahoo's BBAuth, but many would prefer to use a vendor neutral standard. Can you blame them?

The odds of OpenID succeeding for real mainstream users, however, depends on it being simple and relatively idiot-proof. I believe that a few simple usability improvements to the OpenID 2.0 spec will greatly improve those odds. Unsurprisingly, they're derived mainly from the last 10 years worth of experience and lessons learned in making web browsers more usable by humans who don't know what "http://" means.

I've been thinking about this off and on for the last few months and will post about those ideas in the coming days. Hopefully some of you will help to sanity check and maybe even improve them.

Related Reading

Posted by jzawodn at 06:55 AM

Gmail Spam Filtering Update

gmail Last week I asked Did Gmail's Spam Filtering Freak Out This Week? because it certainly had for me.

I was contacted by a member of Gmail's anti-spam team over the weekend. He asked for a few sample messages and was then able to diagnose the problem in fairly short order. In the meantime, several days worth of manually reclassifying email as "not spam" had improved things quite a bit.

At this point it's almost back to normal. However, it'll be a few weeks before I trust it to the point that I can ignore the spam folder on most days. But I'm impressed by the speed with which the system seemed to learn from my inputs and the team's interest in getting this resolved.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:56 AM

January 17, 2007

But it sounds good on paper! Another Diet Fad?

It seems like every day I come across something that sounds (or looks) good on paper but just isn't true in reality. Most of the time these things are quite obvious...

best hand job in town

But now and then something a bit more seductive pops up, often promising a solution to one of life's more difficult problems. The latest example of this comes by way of a Guardian Unlimited story: Chewing gum drug could help curb obesity epidemic. The first paragraph of the story sounds convincing enough:

An appetite-suppressing chewing gum or injection could be used to tackle Britain's obesity epidemic. Scientists are developing a way to emulate the body's natural signals for feeling full using a drug based on a natural gut hormone produced after every meal.

And it goes on to talk about how it'll make people less hungry and therefore less obese. In the UK, they seem to be following our (USA) lead in the Obesity Race:

In Britain, more than a fifth of adults are obese and of the remaining population half of men and a third of women are classified as overweight. In early trials, volunteers' appetites were reduced by a fifth after being injected with the experimental new drug.

What the article never discusses is how many overweight people are overweight because of appetite. I'm sure that's the case for some overweight people, but probably not the majority. I think the problem is self-control, not appetite. I'd wager that the majority of seriously overweight people would be far less overweight if they actually stopped eating when they were not hungry. But they don't. They enjoy eating so they keep going. Or they snack on junk. Or both.

That's the problem--not that their appetite is somehow "broken." They simply disregard it.

It sounds good on paper, though, and it'll probably help some small percentage of people for some period of time. But it's no silver bullet.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:04 AM

January 14, 2007

Summarizing Email Conversations Using Contextual Ads

conversation advertisement summary A funny thing happened a few minutes ago. I was reading the latest message in a conversation using Gmail and happened to glance at the contextual advertisements over on the right. You'll see a screenshot of them to the right of this text.

It occurred to me that the advertisements, even the blue "headline" text at the top of each ad, taken together did a good job of summarizing the discussion so far. I'm not saying they were 100% accurate or comprehensive. But I do believe that this particular set of ads is a sort of unique fingerprint that likely represents (or matches) that one conversation out of all those in my email archives.

That makes me think that better methods of conversation search (email, IM, blog comments) must be on the horizon. If the technology exists to create a very small, accurate, and [most importantly] recognizable fingerprint of a set of messages, how long is it before that distilled knowledge will be searchable too?

It's easy to say "show me the conversation that had to do with so-and-so's Dad's health news..." But as time goes on it gets harder and harder to remember any of the real details surrounding the conversation and you become less likely to get the keywords right.

Hmm. There's a gap in need of bridging and I get the feeling that the contextual advertising technology is leading the way, mainly because that's where the money is today. But sooner or later this is going to start to bleed over into more and more applications. And eventually it'll be as commoditized as search technology has become today.

As a thought experiment, what would it be like if you could select an advertisement and then be shown a list of all conversations in your email archive that were relevant. Would that be easier? More fun? Even useful?

I don't know the answer to that.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:22 PM

Want to Lose Weight? Eat like an Ape!

Seriously. In Going Ape, the BBC's Claire Heald writes about how nine volunteers ate an ape-like diet for a couple weeks.

They set up home in a tented enclosure at Paignton Zoo, Devon, next to the ape house, in an experiment filmed for TV. The idea, says Jill Fullerton-Smith, who helped organise the trial, was that modern diets, often dominated by processed foods and saturated fats, cause costly health problems.

They ate what is described as "a three-day rotating menu of fruit, vegetables, nuts and honey" and you've probably already guessed the results. They were just fine. In fact, they were better than fine. Here's how it breaks down:

Overall, the cholesterol levels dropped 23%, an amount usually achieved only through anti-cholesterol drugs statins.
The group's average blood pressure fell from a level of 140/83 - almost hypertensive - to 122/76. Though it was not intended to be a weight loss diet, they dropped 4.4kg (9.7lbs), on average.
At the same time, they increased the soluble fibre which binds cholesterol in the gut, so that it is expelled, and increased the intake of plant sterols - which help to lower cholesterol.

And, some of the participants were so full from the abundant vegetables in their diet that they weren't able to finish their daily allotments. No matter, they reportedly had excellent energy levels and were in a good mood.

Food for thought.

See Also

Posted by jzawodn at 08:19 AM

January 12, 2007

Weller Butane Torch on a Key Chain

Last week I was at the hardware store trying to find a glue gun as well as a soldering gun that's more powerful than the lame 20 watt pencil I already had. I succeeded on both counts and came away with an extra bonus find.

weller butane torch

The Weller Mini Torch (or Weller ML-100 as it is listed on some sites) is simply more fun than any keychain tool should be.

That probably has something to do with the fact that I've had a mild case of pyromania since I was old enough to understand was fire is.

But still. It's a cool little toy that refills from a standard butane cylinder.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:14 PM

Did Gmail's Spam Filtering Freak Out This Week?

gmail While I've been a big fan of Gmail for a long time now (especially the spam filtering), earlier this week things really got bad.

Until Monday or Tuesday, I'd normally see 1-2 false positives in my spam folder each month. So I only looked at it once a week or so and did so very quickly. But I wasn't seeing some mail I expected and it finally occurred to me that I ought to check the spam folder. I was shocked to see a non-trivial chunk of my mail ending up there!

If I had to guess, I'd say I was suddenly dealing with a 5% false positive rate compared to what was far less than 0.1% previously. So I've been checking much more frequently during the last few days and marking items as "not spam" when necessary.

Things seem to be improving slowly. But I was a little stunned by the dramatic change. Has anyone else encountered this recently?

Posted by jzawodn at 12:00 PM

January 09, 2007

COEUM Software: Spammers!

Normally I ignore the spam that makes it thru to my inbox. It's usually pretty easy to pick out by reading the subject and sender's address (or name). I'll just mark it as spam and go on with life. But this particular gem came thru a few days ago with a subject of "MySQL Performance and Tuning...", a topic that's been near and dear to my heart.

coeum software: spammers
click to see full-sized copy

So you can imagine how pissed I was to open the message, only to be confronted by one of those annoying large image-looking spam messages.

Worst of all is their insulting language at the bottom of the spam:

If you no longer wish to receive these emails...

It's written to imply that there was a point in history when I did wish to receive them.

Fuck that.

If you're looking for real MySQL Performance Consulting (which I used to do), let me know. I can refer you to a non-sleazy company or two. COEUM clearly doesn't deserve your business.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:07 PM

January 08, 2007

Welcome MyBlogLog to Yahoo!

It seems like only yesterday that TechCrunch posted a premature story about Yahoo! buying MyBlogLog.

Well, now it's official and I'd like to publicly welcome the MyBlogLog team to Yahoo. In the last month or so, I've had the chance to meet and get to know the team: Todd, Eric, John, Steve, and Scott. Hopefully our time together from now on will be less of me asking questions about their infrastructure and more of me figuring out how to help with it. :-)

Guys, thanks for putting up with all the questions we tossed at you.

MyBlogLog, if you haven't seen it, is an interesting twist on blogs and social networking / identity. Blog owners (or any site owner, really) can drop a little JavaScript widget (called a "face roll") on their site and it will show the faces of the last few visitors to their site--not to mention some useful statistics behind the scenes. As a reader, you can sign up for a MyBlogLog account, customize your profile, and join the communities that are forming around your favorite blogs and sites. In essence, it's a social network for the web that can be layered onto any site in a matter of minutes.

It doesn't take long to get used to seeing your own face appear when you visit your favorite sites. (I've added the face roll to the right side of my blog--scroll down a bit.)

MyBlogLog is one of those things that, in retrospect, seems obvious and simple. But at the same time, it's the first time and anyone has done this well and we think that's pretty powerful.

Without disclosing anyone's plans for world domination, our goal for MyBlogLog is to help it to grow as fast as it can while adding a ton of useful features.

Welcome aboard, guys. 2007 is going to be a fun year!

Thanks to Fred Wilson for his repeated writings about MyBlogLog. He's got a good eye for this stuff and some excellent ideas. :-)

Other thoughts and coverage:

Posted by jzawodn at 09:30 PM

January 05, 2007

Amazon Prime Saturday?

I happened to find myself on the Amazon page for the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack yesterday when I noticed that the bar at the top of the page looked a bit different. Rather than having a Two-Day 1-Click button and an Overnight 1-Click button, there were three buttons there.

amazon prime one-click saturday

How long has this Saturday 1-Click feature been around for Amazon Prime users, I wondered.

It's a smart idea, of course. There have been times when I wished I could get something in a hurry on a Saturday but didn't have that option.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:29 AM

January 03, 2007

Plane Crashes on a Google Map

For a while now, the FAA and NTSB have been recording the GPS coordinates of aviation accidents. So it was probably just a matter of time before someone made a mashup using the data, right?

Wait no longer. The folks at Aviation Marine Insurance have done just that with their AVCRASH map.

plane crashes on a google map

You can limit the search by year, location, aircraft make/model and N number, fatalities, and so on. Cool stuff. The screenshot above shows all 22 accidents in the vicinity of the San Jose airport from 2003 until today.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:46 PM

January 02, 2007

Loreena McKennitt's Ancient Muse

I'm a huge fan of Loreena McKennitt's music. I don't remember when I first bought one of her albums (probably The Book of Secrets), but it didn't take long for me to buy the rest. Her particular variety of celtic music has a mystic other-worldly quality to it, as if someone injected a bit of Enya into a more "typical" celtic vocalist.

In fact, her Wikipedia page says:

McKennitt is often compared to Enya, but is more grounded in traditional and classical invocations using literary works as sources of lyrics and springboards for interpretation...

I found that after writing this post and looking for links to information about her.

an ancient muse Browsing Amazon a few weeks ago to finish some last minute giftmas shopping, I happened across An Ancient Muse, her newest album. After I got over the shock of discovering that she's released album without me hearing about it, I immediately clicked the Amazon Prime free two day shipping button (all hail Amazon Prime!)

I've had the album in my hot little hands a few days now and have listened to it at least ten times. I think the highest compliment I can pay is to say that it's exactly what I hoped it would be: more of the same.

It's a worthy successor to The Book of Secrets, which has a 5-star rating on Amazon and over 440 customer reviews!

So many artists with a few albums under their belt decide to do something "bold" or "new" and end up disappointing the loyal fans that made them such a success. Not McKennitt. This album is classic Loreena. No surprises.

I love it.

My favorite tracks so far are "The Gates of Istanbul" and "The English Layde And The Knight", but the whole album is awesome. It further cements her among the ranks of my top five favorite female vocalists of all time. (Maybe I'll list the other four someday...)

Posted by jzawodn at 08:40 PM

Mojo Burger Review

mojo burger Until about seven weeks ago, I'd never heard of Mojo Burger before. However, Mojo #2 recently opened up nearby and a bunch of people on the Willow Glen mailing list were raving about it.

As I drove by on my way home this evening, I decided that it was time to see what all the fuss is about. I ordered the 1/3 pound Mojo Burger without cheese and added avocado. The woman who took my order was wearing a name tag that said "Mrs. Mojo" and a business card on the counter nearby was for Peter Favre, the Owner-Operator. I can only assume that she was his wife.

Like at the venerable In-N-Out Burger, my number was called after about three minutes. I grabbed the bag so that I could drive home and experience the sandwich in private (except that my cats were hovering the whole time).

The verdict?

Mojo makes good burgers! I was especially impressed with the option to add avocado. It makes so many foods taste just that much better. Plus, the burger was well packed. It was wrapped in paper, placed inside a burger-sized foam container, and then put into a bag. I had no worries about the burger getting cold during the five minutes it took me to get home from there.

I can't say that I'll be frequenting the place, since I rarely eat fast food in the first place. But if I do, I know that I'll be getting a tasty meal.

If you're a fan of cooked cow on a bun and happen to be in the area, check it out.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:05 PM

Color Photo Business Cards?

I'm looking for an on-line service that can create business cards using a color photo background of my choice. Ideally, they'll have a website that gives me a realistic preview of the cards, ordering in smaller increments (100 would be nice), and the ability to tweak the brightness of the background image so that the text is not overshadowed.

This one would be cool, for example:

The DG-1000 at Panoche

But I actually have a few ideas I'd like to play with.

I know about the excellent Flickr MiniCards made by MOO, but they're not actually the right size. I'm looking for honest to god business cards.

The folks at Qoop do cool stuff with Flickr images too, but they don't print business cards.

Various web searches have turned up a ton of folks who claim to do it, but there are many sites to try and most of them likely suck. I'm looking for recommendations from someone who has done this before.

Any pointers?

Posted by jzawodn at 02:12 PM