May 31, 2007

On Balance and Changing

First off, I'd like to apologize to those of you who read my site with any regularity. Whether or not you know it, the last few weeks have been "interesting" in my life. Things haven't been quite the same around here. As I wrote three weeks ago in Flying as Therapy:

The last few days have been interesting (in the Chinese proverb sort of way) and educational (in a "I learned something about myself the hard way" sort of way), so the 2.2 hour trip was a good way to get out today.

That turned out to be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

If you're not interested in a bit of my personal life, please stop reading here. I know that a lot of you are here for tech stuff or flying pictures. This is neither of those.

Separate and Unequal

I've tried really hard to keep my life compartmentalized to some degree. I rarely write here about really personal stuff. I also rarely discuss such things at work. But that doesn't always work so well.

For the last 7-8 years (probably longer), my life has primarily been about a very few things:

  • Work (Yahoo!)
  • Writing (magazine articles, my book, and my blog)
  • Flying

The flying was a recent addition that restarted about 4 years ago. But together those three things consumed most of my life: work time and "free" time included. This is, I fear, partly a result of who I am and partly a result of living in Silicon Valley. The culture here rewards intensity and focus, often to the exclusion of other important things.

Keen readers are looking at my list of three things and noticing that there's something very important missing. That's right. All of my non-work friends have been flying friends. There really were no other relationships. (That's not entirely true, but it's also not worth explaining right now what the non-local exceptions were/are.)


There was a real hole in my life until recently. And it wasn't until recently that I understood that.

Please excuse my need to keep things a bit vague (see "compartmentalization"), but in the last few months that's been changing. As a result, I've been struggling with what some call "life balance." Struggling more than I realized until very recently. It's harder than I thought to change my patterns of thinking and acting. Even harder at times to make my words and actions match up. Hard to make room, despite the absolute best of intentions and beliefs. Hard to let myself be drawn out.

I've been quite surprised at the difficultly involved so far and I know there's more to come (or at least there ought to be). I've repeatedly let myself be guided by the wrong instincts, old beliefs, or held back by a stupid fear.

And you know what? It just plain sucks. And I have nobody to blame but myself.

I think I've managed to practically blast an even larger hole in the place of the previous one. :-(

I'd also like to apologize to the coworkers that I haven't been able to give 100% to recently.

Hopefully I'll be back to my regular self (or an improved version of me) before too long. But these things can take time. Until then things may be quiet around here a bit longer.

Finally, unless something dramatic happens, I'll be gone all of next week.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:41 PM

May 29, 2007

180 Day Parachute Repack Cycle in the Works

Those of you not interested in flying or aviation may not care much, but some long hard work by my favorite parachute riggers (Allen and Darrin Silver of Silver Parachute Sales & Service) may be coming to fruition soon.

On behalf of the Parachute Industry Association & United States Parachute Association, they have petitioned for an exemption to the current FAA mandated 120-day repack cycle. Currently, glider and light airplane pilots like me have to get their parachutes repacked every 120 day by a certified parachute rigger such as Allen. Their goal is to move from a 120 day repack cycle to 180 days.

Many other countries around the world have been using longer (up to 360 day or 1 year) repack cycles and have found that to work rather well. Modern parachutes are built of amazingly durable materials that will last a long, long time if treated properly. The main purpose of these periodic repacks (when the parachute hasn't been deployed) it to have an expert take the time to examine the material and look for signs of wear or aging.

The full documentation of the proposed rule changes is available on-line in Document FAA-2005-21829-9.

Feedback Needed

The abstract says:

The FAA is considering rulemaking to change the packing interval for certain types of parachutes. Currently, the FAA requires that most parachutes may not be used or carried aboard an aircraft and available for emergency use unless they have been packed within the previous 120 days. New reliability data from the parachute industry and other sources indicate it is time to review the packing interval, and the FAA is asking for public comment on a proposal to lengthen the interval from 120 to 180 days. The effect of the proposal is to ensure the rules reflect the safest parachute packing interval. In this rulemaking, we are also proposing several correcting amendments to the rules related to parachute operations. DATES: Send your comments on or before August 20, 2007.

And that last bit is important. The FAA would like to hear from pilots or parachute jumpers with opinions on this matter. I, for one, plan to voice my support for this change.

Please pass the word if you know of other pilots or jumpers who might be interested in seeing this rule change go into law.

A press release was issued on this last week, but I've been unable to find a copy on-line. So I'm including the text below for reference.

Allen Silver
Silver Parachute Sales & Service
Fax 510-785-9231

Longer Parachute Repacks on the Horizon

Hayward, CA, 22 May 2007 — Silver Parachute Sales & Service is spear-heading a multi-organizational effort to extend the repack cycle of emergency parachutes from 120 days to 180 days.

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the 180-day repack has just gone out for public comment. All pilots who use emergency parachutes are encouraged to comment on this NPRM.

Two years ago Allen Silver and Darrin Silver; working on behalf of the Parachute Industry Association & United States Parachute Association; petitioned for an exemption to the 120-day repack cycle. “We're discovering that the newer parachute materials perform better when handled less frequently,” says Allen Silver, a master rigger with over 40 years experience in the field of parachutes. “Right now, twenty-five other countries safely use repack cycles of 180 days or longer.”

In a letter dated August 10th 2005, the FAA stated that since such a large group was requesting the exemption, it would be appropriate to initiate a rule change project. This is good news for everyone who wears a parachute. Darrin Silver notes, “In addition to the safety benefits, pilots will now see reduced maintenance costs on their parachute equipment and can make it through an entire airshow or contest season without the downtime of having a parachute repacked!”

Comments regarding the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking [identified by Docket Number FAA–2005–21829] may be sent using any of the following methods:

DOT Docket Web site:
Go to and follow the instructions for sending comments electronically.

Fax: 1–202–493–2251

Docket Management Facility
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE.
West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12–140
Washington, DC 20590–0001

For additional information on the proposal to extend the parachute repack cycle to 180 days, contact Allen Silver at 510-785-7070 or visit

About Silver Parachute Sales & Service
Silver Parachute Sales & Service has been serving aerobatic and glider pilots worldwide since 1972. They are dedicated to providing in-depth, personal parachute service to aerobatic and glider pilots. Silver Parachute Sales & Service specializes in emergency parachutes and offers complete rigging services including repack & recertification, major repair & alteration, as well as manufacturing the AcroBelt five-point ratchet restraint system and S.M.A.K. PAK parachute survival kits.

Posted by jzawodn at 06:03 PM

May 28, 2007

Where to buy unlocked GSM mobile phones?

I may be in the market for a relatively cheap quad-band GSM phone that can be used in various foreign countries. Nothing fancy. I just need something I can drop a SIM card into and make calls and maybe send a few text messages.

The trouble is that I have no idea where to buy one and what to look out for. I've seen some available on and, as expected, they seem to be all over eBay. Plus there are various on-line stores that seem to specialize in selling unlocked GSM phones to people in the United States. But I don't know which are trustworthy.

So if you wanted a handy little Motorola or Nokia GSM phone, where would you buy it on-line? And, if you happen to have a preference, which phone(s) would you look at or try to avoid?

In case you're wondering, I've been a Verizon (CDMA) user for a few years now and have no plans to change that. I'm just looking for something that'd be handy when I and others travel.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:41 PM

May 25, 2007

Web Service APIs: The Landscape and Opportunities [My China Talk Slides]

Me Presenting Several people have asked for a copy of the presentation I delivered a last weekend at Alibaba's China Internet Developer Conference. After clearing it with a few people at work, I'm posting them here for anyone who wants to see the slides.

As a bit of background and disclaimer, I'll point out a few things first:

  • The talk is fairly high-level and full of unsurprising information if you've been watching trends on the Internet for more than a few years.
  • I was giving it to an audience that consisted primarily of people who don't speak English, so I tried to keep it simple.
  • There is too much text. I know that.

The Talk

The basic premise is encapsulated in slide #3 (Initial Thoughts), which talks about how the web continues to become more and more a reflection of those who use it. The infinite space nature of the Web, combined with the Long Tail effects, ends up providing some pretty interesting raw material for great stuff that doesn't yet exist today. It's my belief that Web Service APIs will be a key [required] ingredient in getting there.

From there I got through a bit of history to illustrate a couple trends. One is the move from the Yahoo! Directory to today's Web Search (from centralized authority to decentralized authority). Another is the tie between Open Source and the growth of the Web. Finally I get into Web 2.0 (which is all about participation) and Mashups/Widgets/Badges (where web sites become data sources, not just destinations).

Then I spend some time looking at what APIs Yahoo offers and look at three specific examples: MOO & Flickr, Pipes & Flickr (blogged here a bit), and Yahoo! Mail.

The presentation concludes with some lessons for technology providers, opportunities, and the challenges and risks that we'll all face.

Thanks to the folks in the Yahoo! Developer Network that provided feedback on this presentation and the folks at Alibaba for inviting me to give the talk in the first place.

Now... here are the slides: Web Service APIs: The Landscape and Opportunities [PDF]

See Also:

Posted by jzawodn at 10:32 AM

May 21, 2007

Scoring over 7,000 in Desktop Tower Defense

Despite my earlier plans to give up playing Desktop Tower Defense (which, you will recall, I consider harmful), I've been sneaking in a game now and then--nothing like how frequently I played in the past. But a little downtime in the hotel here in China motivated me to go for my goal: scoring above 7,000.

Several times I'd been within striking distance of the 7,000 mark but always came up just a bit short. Finally, I was able to really hone my technique and cross that line.

Over 7,000 in Desktop Tower Defense (finally)

I had been using the same board layout for a while now, so I can put the towers into place in my sleep.

Winning Layout for Desktop Tower Defense

But the keys to really getting a good score are:

  1. Upgrade towers in the right order.
  2. Be very, very aggressive about advancing to the next level.

I'm convinced that #1 matters to a degree, but it seems like #2 is what really provides the greatest gains for me. That's how I got my first two 7,000+ scores. I just had a push a little bit harder to get 7,102.


I don't know if Rasmus is going to start trying to top my sore or not (he'd only need 5 more points than his previous best), but part of me doesn't care all that much. You can't be on top forever. And I did finally make my real goal of getting over 7,000.

Now I suppose I could start playing on the "hard" level, but I really ought to do something more productive with my time...

Posted by jzawodn at 01:04 AM

May 20, 2007

Thoughts on China

IMG_3744 Earlier today (that's Sunday, May 20th), I went for about a 2.5 hour walk around West Lake and shot some more photos. Yesterday I spent a good chunk of my time at the China Internet Developer Conference where I spoke and got to talk to various people about technology, China, and living in the Bay Area. I even got my picture taken with Jack Ma but don't know whose camera was actually used. Maybe that'll end up on Flickr too.

I still have one day left in Hangzhou (and a bit of shopping to do), but I've observed and learned several things in the last couple of days. Here are the things I've managed to remember, in no particular order...

  • Hangzhou is crowded. But everyone tells me that it's nothing compared to Beijing or Shanghai. Even so, there are just a lot of people everywhere you go.
  • Navigating the crowd around the lake can be tricky, because I'm walking at my "walking with good music on the iPod" pace and everyone else is going much more slowly and seems to have no idea that I'm there. That second bit is quite puzzling.
  • People here seem not to think much of the Great Firewall. The technology savvy folks I talked to said that those who really want to get around it know how to, so it kind of doesn't matter.
  • If Hangzhou is representative of other similarly sized (or larger) cities, China is truly in the middle of a renaissance. Looking around, it's not hard to guess which of the stores and large buildings are less than 5 years old. And there's a lot of new demolition and re-building going on.
  • Hangzhou is quite vibrant and alive at night. Somehow that took me completely by surprise, even though I've had similar experiences in Tokyo and Taipei.
  • As the pace of Internet adoption here continues to increase, there's a very real chance that the Internet will be more Chinese and English before too long.
  • Kids in China don't seem as attached to their mobile phones as those in, say, Japan do. Sure, they have them and use them, but it's not nearly as intense.
  • There's a lot of natural beauty in this area.
  • As an English-only speaker, the language barrier here is certainly an issue. But from what I've been told, that's likely to be far less of a problem in another 5 years or so.
  • I've seen very little evidence of poor and/or homeless. Then again, I'm in a place that people from all over China flock to. So they're either well hidden in areas like this, or they simply don't exist.
  • There are far fewer scooters on the road than I expected.
  • I've seen fewer US-basedfast food chain stores here than I expected. I've also seen very few overweight Chinese folks. I suspect these are related.
  • I'm told that there's a crazy efficient courier/delivery network in China.
  • The food in this region is excellent. I've really enjoyed nearly ever dish I've tried (which is no small number). There's little spice in most of it, but the variety of textures and flavors is quite good.
  • I need to eat with chopsticks more. It had been a while and I'm a little rusty.
  • The roads here are well maintained, but there are some serious traffic flow and apparent problems with signs and good markings in places.

I'm sure there's a lot more I could write, but that's all that comes to mind right now. If I feel so inspired, I'll follow-up in a day or so. Maybe during the 14+ hours of flying required to get myself from Hangzhou back to San Francisco via Hong Kong...

Posted by jzawodn at 03:47 AM

May 18, 2007

Experiencing the Great Firewall of China

Aside from a few hours walking around West Lake and shooting some pictures (too bad it was overcast, hazy, and humid all day) I've been catching up on my digital life: reading work and personal email, various RSS feeds, and so on.

West Lake I ended up following a link earlier that led me to a Wikipedia article and watched it timeout. I tried it again and it failed. Then I remembered this comment from Daniel on my original post about coming to Hangzhou.

Apparently Wikipedia really is blocked in China. I tried to outsmart the Great Firewall by going back to the search results page where I found the link and trying to view the cached copy.

Guess what. The servers that host Google's cached pages also seem to be blocked.

This led me to keep track of what other sites ended up unreachable and presumably blocked. The list so far is quite strange.

Interestingly, Ian's blog is hosted by Yahoo! Web Hosting, while the other two are hosted blogs. I am able to get to TypePad blogs, it seems. But I'm unable to get to the Yahoo! Search blog, also on Yahoo! Web Hosting.

Thankfully I could tunnel my HTTP traffic over an SSH connection back to server in the USA and visit these sites anyway if it was a big deal.

Wouldn't it be educational if instead of simply being blocked, one was directed to a page the explained what the fuss was about?

In any case, I'll keep track of other "problem sites" I come across.

Posted by jzawodn at 03:12 AM

May 17, 2007

Made it to China

I checked into my room at the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou around 11:30pm local time on the 17th (which is 8:30am in California time) and managed to stay awake long enough to plug in, unpack a few things, and get my bearings.

I managed to sleep a bit on the 14 hour flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong (in addition to reading a complete book), hung out for 2 hours in the Hong Kong airport, and repeatedly caught myself dozing off on the 2 hour flight from Hong Kong to Hangzhou.

That reminds me... Why is it that airports in Asia seem to be far more quiet and relaxing than those in the US? Compare Hong Kong, Taipei, or Japan's Narita to San Francisco, Chicago O'Hare, or New York's JFK and it's quite a striking contrast. And the workers here (immigration, information desk, etc.) are all far more polite too.

So I was doing pretty well when it comes to being in sync with the local time zone. But then I decided to brush my teeth and wash up a bit so that I could go to bed. That, unfortunately, has given me a bit of second (or third?) wind so I'm writing blog posts and reading email hoping that the profound tiredness visits me again soon.

Flying across the international date line is always a trip. Sort of.

On the plus side, the hotel is a stone's throw from Hangzhou's famous West Lake, so I may go for a walk around the lake after breakfast. Hopefully some fresh air will help get me in sync.

I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say about China in the coming days, not to mention having a few pictures to post. But that's all for now.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:19 AM

May 14, 2007

The Beginning of a Hopefully Long-Term Relationship

abiword Today I finally taught the spell checker in AbiWord that "Zawodny" is, in fact, a correctly spelled word. And as I did so, for reasons not entirely clear to me, I found myself thinking that this must mean that I've decided to stick with AbiWord.

You see, I've been using it in place of Microsoft Word for the last four weeks or so (ever since the Microsoft Bloatware Alert, in fact) and have been pleasantly surprised by how closely it matches what I really want from a word processor while also staying out of my way most of the time.

Unlike Word, I've not had to dig through lots of preferences to turn off various "smart" features that invariably Get It Wrong and cause me to do more work than I should have to.

In case you're wondering, I used to just type these posts into my browser and fix the typos after people reported them. But I realized that was dumb and starting using Word to compose them. That was, of course, also dumb in other ways. Blog posts are the only thing I really use a word processor for anymore. Strange, huh?

Anyway... I guess it's official. I've switched.

Taking that extra 5 seconds of effort hopefully marks the beginning of a long-term relationship with a less annoying word processor.

If Ira Glass (or Aaron Swartz maybe) ever starts a radio show called "This Geeky Life" (in the spirit of "This American Life"), I'll have to remember to submit this tale.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:57 PM

How I write a Presentation

While going thru the process of putting the presentation for my China trip (and describing it to a friend part way through the process), it occurred to me that I have a specific method that I seem to follow each time.

SR-71 Blackbird at Castle Air Museum Before I describe it, I should point out that there are really two types of presentations I've had to create over the last few years: new and derived.

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that I seem to find myself presenting over and over on subjects in the same specific topic area for roughly 9 to 24 months before I move on to something newer and different. Those phases, unsurprisingly, coincide with my role at work at the time.

Past phases were roughly:

  • MySQL, Perl, and Open Source in general
  • Search/Yahoo and Social Media
  • RSS, Blogging, and Corporate Blogging

As you might expect, this time around it's about Developer Networks, APIs, Web Services, and Platforms.

I should also point out that this isn't exactly a pre-meditated strategy or even a good way to work. But it is what I find myself doing each time.

New Presentations

When I transition from speaking about one area to another, I end up thrashing about quite a bit because I haven't really wrapped my head around what exactly I'm trying to get across, how to do it, what examples to use, the necessary context and bigger picture issues, and what other relationships I can draw.

Though I've been back in the Yahoo! Developer Network for about nine months now (how time flies!), I haven't had to do any big formal slide shows yet. Instead I've been doing a lot of demos and a few panel discussions that require far less preparation.

SR-71 Blackbird at Castle Air Museum So what happens is I end up putting it off until the deadline is fairly close. Close enough than I can feel the pressure. I just avoid doing anything until I can't wait much longer. Then I sit down with a pen and paper to write out ideas in a fairly free-form bullet list. Then I annotate and expand the ideas until the paper is unreadable to anyone but me. And I usually bounce a few ideas off people at this point too.

With that done, I fire up PowerPoint in outline mode (never start by looking at what the slides will look like) and try to transfer those thoughts to digital form, organizing them along the way. I then end up with either far too many proto-slides or not nearly enough. That's when I have to figure out what needs to be expanded with more detail or glossed over and summarized at a higher level. This takes a lot of time.

Depending on the topic and audience, I use a rule of thumb for slides: 3-7 minutes per slide when it comes time to present, not including the title slide and the traditional "Questions?" slide I stick at the end. This gives me a good target to work toward. I'll spend a few hours trying to really mold things into the right shape and size.

The second to last thing I do is worry about the appearance of the slides. I'll look for illustrations, photos, and screen shots I can include to lighten things up and distract from the text. Sometimes they're even relevant to the topic at hand.

Finally, on the way to the talk (if there's air travel involved), I'll sit down with a printed copy of my slides and make lots of little notes about points I'd like to mention on each slides. I don't always end up using the notes, but the exercise alone is very worthwhile anyway. It helps me to step back and see the whole presentation, including any holes or weird assumptions it may contain.

Derived Presentations

The second time I have to speak about something that I've spoke about before, I can often recycle a fair amount of the time, energy, and sometimes even the content from the first one. Even if I end up reusing a very small amount of the material, the mental stress I endured to create the first one resulted in much clearer thinking and distilled ideas.

SR-71 Blackbird at Castle Air Museum Creating the second presentation is always far, far easier than the first. That one incentive not to change jobs too often, huh? :-)

The derived presentations come much faster but follow a very similar pattern. I start with the paper and finish by dropping pictures on slides that I'll eventually annotate with a pen right before the talk.

In both cases, I find it incredibly difficult to practice a talk before giving it. I don't know quite why, but without standing in front the actual audience it just doesn't work. Maybe it's because I know it doesn't really count. It's fake. Or maybe it's just that I need the feedback and pressure involved in a room full of people looking at you expectantly (or staring at the laptop screens, pretending you're not there).

Anyway, that's my story...

If you end up speaking in front of audiences on a semi-regular basis, is your preparation experience anything like mine?

Posted by jzawodn at 11:58 AM

May 13, 2007

What to do in Hangzhou, China for a day?

In a few days I'll be boarding a plane for a somewhat brief trip to Hangzhou, China so that I can speak at an Internet Developer Conference being put on by the folks at Alibaba (who also operates Yahoo! China).

The travel is, of course, a bit mind bending because of the number of time zones I'll cross. I'm leaving San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon and arriving in China late on Thursday night. But I make it up on the way back by returning a mere hour or so later than I'm scheduled to depart next Tuesday.

Anyway, I figure that Friday is going to be spent getting my bearings, adjusting to the local time zone, and figuring things out for the conference. I'm at the conference on Saturday and Sunday (I assume). But I'm not flying back until Tuesday, so Monday may have some free time unless the locals have stuff planned for me.

So, if I was to have the better part of a day free, what would you recommend I do and see in Hangzhou? Take an English speaking tour (which one)? Simply wander around and take pictures? Find a bus ride to something nearby that I'd otherwise never see?

This will be my first time to China but probably not my last. Everything I've heard makes me think I'll want to go back--much like Japan, where I've been three times so far.

Anyway, if you happen to be in the neighborhood, I'm apparently staying at the Hyatt Regency. We could meet up... or something. As far as I know, my schedule is kind of flexible. I won't have a phone but should have access to the Internet tubes.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:34 PM

May 10, 2007

How to decommission a free Web Service API?

Reading about the pending closure of the Yahoo! Photos and Yahoo! Auctions (in US, at least) services leads to an interesting question for those of us in the business of providing free APIs to our services.

What's the right way to decommission a Web Service API?

I suspect that since this is still a fairly new area, there aren't many "best practices" (I hate that term) established yet. And I further suspect that it's a bit more tricky that it might seem at first.

Consider the possibility that your REST-like service offers output in several formats (as some of Yahoo's do): XML, Serialized PHP, RSS, and JSON. And further assume that since the barriers to consumption are so low (no registration required), we can't possibly notify everyone in advance.

Clearly we ought to strive to shut things down in such a way that breaks people's code the least (code that we've never seen and can't influence). One line of thinking is that we pick a date and start returning the equivalent of an "empty set" for each response type. That means anyone using the results in a web site or application will have a chance to notice that something is wrong. But at some point we probably need to shutdown the actual endpoint. And when that happens, it'll generate a 404 error (or something similar) and possibly start to break things.

What do you think?

And, more importantly, is there any consensus on how to future proof libraries and code samples such that they can detect this in the future and fail more gracefully?

Oh, and I have a story about Yahoo! Auctions I should tell sometime soon...

Posted by jzawodn at 01:23 PM

May 08, 2007

My Facebook Account Finally Sort Of Fixed

If you ever tried to be my friend on Facebook and thought I was ignoring you, I wasn't. I simply couldn't get my account to work right. I was caught in some strange state where I'd apparently signed up with two accounts and knew the password to neither of them.

Today I managed to recover one of them and attached my other public email addresses to it. The downside of that is that I seem to have lost almost all the past friend requests that were queued up for me.


Oh well, better late to the party then not showing at all. At least I get to see what all the buzz is (was?) about.

So, anyway, if you're one of those people who tried to add me and still want to, my profile is here.

And if not, feel free to ignore all of this. I'm okay with lonely. Sometimes.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:25 AM

May 07, 2007

A Giraffe, an Elephant, and a Refrigerator

This came to me from a coworker earlier today. For some reason, I find it rather amusing.

The following short quiz consists of 4 questions and will tell you whether you are qualified to be a professional. The questions are NOT that difficult.

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and close the door. This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.

2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

Did you say, Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant, and close the refrigerator?

Wrong Answer.

Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door. This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your previous actions.

3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend.... except one. Which animal does not attend?

Correct Answer: The Elephant. The elephant is in the refrigerator. You just put him in there. This tests your memory.

Okay, even if you did not answer the first three questions correctly, you still have one more chance to show your true abilities.

4. There is a river you must cross but it is used by crocodiles, and you do not have a boat. How do you manage it?

Correct Answer: You jump into the river and swim across. Have you not been listening? All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting. This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:43 PM

May 06, 2007

Flying as Therapy

People often ask my why I like to fly. There's no simple answer other than "because I enjoy it" but that doesn't really answer the question. I like the view. The freedom to go almost anywhere. The art of putting technical knowledge to work in real-time.

But most of all, flying relaxes me. When I'm in the cockpit I am rarely thinking about work or the random complications that life throws me way. It was for that reason that I set off this afternoon on a little sight seeing flight from San Jose to the Monterey Coast.

Citabria N5156X Along The Monterey Coast Behind Monterey Coast Seen From Citabria N5156X Monterey Coast Behind Citabria N5156X

The last few days have been interesting (in the Chinese proverb sort of way) and educational (in a "I learned something about myself the hard way" sort of way), so the 2.2 hour trip was a good way to get out today.

I assume that everyone has a hobby or activity that helps to escape the "real world" for a little while. If you don't, make it your goal to get one.

What's your way of getting away from it all?

Posted by jzawodn at 05:10 PM

May 04, 2007

Microsoft and Yahoo (again)... I couldn't tell you if I knew.

In theory I'm taking the day off. But I'd just like to point out that a few months ago I posted What if Microsoft Bought Yahoo? and got some interesting comments (most via private email).


That's relevant because of renewed speculation that Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo for something like $50 billion dollars. Personally, that seems a bit low to me, but I'm far from unbiased in this matter.

And speaking of things that I'm biased about, here's a report that Flickr will replace Yahoo! Photos. I'm glad to hear that the decision is finally made and we're talking about it in public. The Flickr team has been busting their asses in the last few months to build out more infrastructure. They just keep rocking.

With that, I'm off for the day. At least in theory.

Call me if BillG writes that big check.

[Thanks to TechCrunch for the logo. :-)]

Posted by jzawodn at 07:35 AM

May 03, 2007

Thinking About The Strategy Behind Microsoft Silverlight

Having spent the early part of this week at Microsoft's MIX07 Conference and being there for the launch of Silverlight, I've been mulling over what's really going on. There's been a lot of discussion on-line so far, but I think most of it is missing the point.

However, before I get into it, I'll respond to a few comments I've seen so far.

John Battelle, trying to grok this, is asking Does This Change The Web? No, John. At least not right away and not in the ways you might think. Microsoft still hasn't figured out that the web is too large for even it to move. It certainly may change thousands of corporate intranets around the world, though.

Simon Willison, reacting to Mark Pilgrim's Silly Season, says "The fawning over Silverlight and Apollo is incredibly short sighted." and he's right but I'm not sure if it is for the right reasons.

Speaking of Mark Pilgrim, Silly Season is an instant Pilgrim classic (assuming you're a fan of his style--I am). His arguments are mainly focused on freedom (or lack there of) and the proprietary nature of Adobe and Microsoft's offerings. He makes good points in a way that only Mark can.

Nik Cubrilovic, over on TechCruch, recently wrote Silverlight: The Web Just Got Richer which is an excellent and more complete overview that most of what I've seen. In fact, he notes a few things that others almost completely glossed over or failed to see the significance of.

The Big Deal

With that out of the way, you're probably wondering what the big deal about Silverlight really is. Nik hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

The biggest part of the announcement today is that Silverlight will now include a mini-CLR (Common Language Runtime) from .NET. What this means is that a subset of the full .NET platform that runs on desktops can be accessed from within the browser. As with the usual .NET runtime, with Silverlight you can code in a number of supported programming languages. At this time the languages supported are C#, Javascript (ECMA 3.0), VB, Python and Ruby.


Silverlight isn’t just animations in applets, far from it - it is a very serious development environment that takes desktop performance and flexibility and puts it on the web.

Bingo. Many folks who watched the demos, most of which were about streaming video and multimedia, probably walked away thinking that Silverlight is little more than Flash 2.0. After all, that streaming, music, and animation is pretty sexy stuff.

But the reality is that Microsoft has their sights set much, much higher. They've been calling themselves a "platform company" for many years now--and with good reason. Until the web came along, they controlled "the platform" (Windows) that virtually all new applications were deployed on. When the Web came along they didn't take it too seriously at first. But then they did. Very seriously.

What happened? They created Internet Explorer and gave it away for free. That essentially put Netscape out of business and kept Microsoft as the dominant platform provider (for end users... Linux on the server is a whole different story).

Here we are several years later and things are different. Microsoft is forced to adapt in a world where the browser the platform and Macintosh computers are becoming increasingly popular among those who build web-based applications outside the corporate firewalls.

Microsoft, being a platform company and a very smart strategist, had to think long and hard about how to use its strengths in this new environment. How could they capitalize on the popularity of apps delivered in the browser, dynamic scripting languages, and streaming media?

They've decided to change the game--or at least bet that the game is changing. When they deliver a browser-based version of Microsoft Office, you can bet your ass that it'll be built to run in the .NET CLR that Silverlight offers. It'll work in Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and maybe even Opera. On both Macs and Windows boxes.

And probably on mobile devices using Silverlight Mobile (on all those smart phones running Windows Mobile).

The browser is the new desktop and Microsoft is hoping that the CLR and Silverlight in general will be the new Win32 API and/or virtual machine. And they're doing it in a way that only Microsoft can: by delivering full documentation, debugging tools, very large partners, and a world-wide network of trained evangelists and support staff. Say what you will about the company, but they know how to roll out software to developers. They've been doing it for a very long time.

That's really what this is about. It's not about competing with Flash. Microsoft is thinking much bigger than people seem to be giving them credit for.

Now don't be fooled into thinking I believe that Silverlight will take over the web. I think it's success as even a Flash killer is highly uncertain at this point. But it's certain to be a big hit inside companies that have major investments in .NET technologies. That's an awful lot of companies and an awful lot of code. But how much we'll see Silverlight being used in "consumer" services is a whole different question.

Either way, this will have some pretty interesting ripple effects.

What do you think?

Posted by jzawodn at 04:26 PM

May 02, 2007

All your JR are Belong to YDN

One of the things that's helpful about having been at Yahoo more than a few years and having multiple roles during that time is that it provides lots of opportunity to meet lots of people and figure out what they're good at.

As a by-product, I've managed to build up a list of people who constitute my "dream team." These are the people that I wish I could take with me when I move into a new group and/or role. It's rare that you can get 'em to move since these are also the people who are often quite happy in their roles, but it never stops me from trying.

A few weeks ago I got to cross one person off that list. JR Conlin, who has worked in Yahoo! Local, Yahoo! Travel, and several others has officially joined the YDN team as of Monday (2 days ago, that is).

This is most excellent. It can be hard to find people who are good at what they do, interested in what we do, have the right mindset and skills, understand Yahoo, and are willing to jump into the group and give us a chance.

BTW, not only has he been at Yahoo longer than I have (that's saying something) JR is also the guy behind Yahoo! Cool Thing of the Day, an unofficial blog where he and a few others post about Yahoo stuff that you may or may not have heard about.

As is tradition in the Yahoo! Developer Network, we're going out for a sushi lunch tomorrow to celebrate. I don't know why, but we go only to sushi places for lunch. In fact, it's always the same sushi place.

Welcome aboard, JR.

Oh, and Yahoo! is hiring in numerous groups for engineering jobs. Ping me if you're interested and a US citizen (H1-B visa lotteries suck).

Update: As Rasmus said, Canadians with professional degrees, and thus eligible for TN status, are ok too.

Update: Okay, what I apparently intended to say was that we'd love to hear from you if you are legally permitted to work in the U.S., as Mike says.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:16 PM