November 14, 2003

Karl and The Register on Blogging and Bloggers

As usual, Karl is dishing out more than word soup. He hits on the reality of blogging in a post that's partly a response to Dave Winer and Kasia (as cited in The Register) and that contains such gems as:

Bloggers are people who like to hear themselves talk (I'm included), filled with an inaccurate sense of importance (probably included here too), contributing to little more than white noise in a sea of screaming brains, wired together with fiber and glue. (My grammar teacher would beat me senseless for that run on sentence, but as a self-important blogger its my prerogative)
That's blogging.
In and of itself, that's fine with me. Scream, punch, kick, do whatever you want while you're alive. But let's not pretend we're curing cancer by contributing more static to the noise pool.
It's not that individuals, or a group of outraged individuals can't make a difference, either. It just seems to me that most of the blogging community chooses to channel their collective brainpower and voice into unimportant crap.

And, later on...

I'm FAR MORE impressed every time some poor rural girls lemonade stand gets shut down by an over-zealous town mayor; the web then writing en masse and making the city/town back down. I've seen at least three of these stories this year. Humans helping humans.

Of course, we've all seen stuff like that in blogs, but Karl's point is that it tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

Your Blog versus Verizon's lobbyists. Good fucking luck.


It's good to see that Andrew Orlowski of The Register has his head on semi-straight. I love the first paragraph of that story:

Working in his secret laboratory at Harvard University, a Fellow of the prestigious institution has come up with a formula that rocks electoral maths to its core.

Don't get me wrong, blogging is important. But it's not that important and not in the ways that some would like you to believe.

That reminds me. Now would be a good time to recommend that everyone pick up and read a copy of Asking The Right Questions, which happens to be written by two of BGSU's smartest professors. It's a seriously good book that's used in their critical thinking classes. It's been a few years since I read it, so I probably should dust off my copy too. I think a lot of the "debate" (including much of the political discussion) I see in the blogsphere could benefit from it.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:23 PM

November 13, 2003

Controlling My PowerPoint Excitement

The universe works in funny ways. You see, earlier today an e-mail message when out to a large number of people at work. It said something like this:

If you create power point presentations then get ready to be very excited . . . we have a new Corporate template for you to use on all of your presentations!

I am not making this up.

There was no smiley. It was a serious message.

Not only could I not find anything in that message to "be very excited" about, it made me sort of sad. I had the sudden urge to fill out a TPS report or something.

But it turns out that I'm not alone. You see, over at FastCompany, we learn that PowerPoint is:

  • among mankind's worst inventions, ever
  • the largest single source of useless crap within companies

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:45 PM

November 12, 2003

Going to NYC. Dinner, anyone?

Next Wednesday I'm flying to New York to spend Thursday at the Yahoo! Hot Jobs office in Manhattan. I fly back home on Friday morning unless I can't get everything done on Thursday. Then I'll push back a few hours, I guess. Amusingly, the hotel room costs more than the flight does. Yeay! for cheap air fares on the SJC to JFK route.

Anyway... Are there any New Yorkers reading my blog who want to meet up for dinner on Thursday night? I'll be working in the vicinity of West 31st and 9th Ave if that makes much of a difference.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. If I had a fan club I wouldn't need too ask, would I?

Such is life.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:32 PM

I need a link blog...

But since I'm too busy to make one, here's a list of stuff I've found recently that you might also find interesting, amusing, or simply not at all worthwhile:

That's five more browser tabs I can close now.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:26 PM

November 11, 2003

Wanted: Web Discussion Board Software That Doesn't Suck (and groks RSS)

I'm looking for high quality web discussion board software. A lot of what I've seen so far sucks in one way or another. Here's my wish list:

  • Open Source
  • Written in Perl or PHP (not an absolute requirement, but it'd be nice)
  • Look and feel controlled via CSS, not a horrid mess of tables and font tags
  • Avatar support
  • A built-in simple registration system
  • Good RSS support. This is a deal breaker if it's not there. I'm sick and tired of discussion software that doesn't output RSS. I have no time to visit every forum I care about on a daily basis. Computers should make my life easier, dammit! I want a feed per-thread, a feed of new posts, and a feed per-board. Bonus points for full posts in RSS rather than just summaries.
  • Uses MySQL as the back-end database
  • Avatars
  • Does anyone have this one? Integration with PayPal. I'd like the ability to have forums that are not free. Given PayPal's cool API, this shouldn't be hard to do but I don't know if anyone has done it yet. Processing payments by hand is so lame.
  • E-mail integration. A user should be able to say "notify me via e-mail if someone responds to my post."

There's probably other stuff I'd like to have too, but those are probably the major points.

If you know of anything that qualifies (or comes close), I'd love to hear about it. Bonus points if you can point me at an on-line community that's already using it.

I'll update this post if I've realized I've forgotten something significant or said something dumb.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:26 PM

November 10, 2003

Dan's Big Brother is named Google

Interesting. Dan reports that Google is watching more closely than he expected.

I made an offhand comment on IRC with the URL for the real image (I hardlink it on the server, rather than playing Apache redirect games) and three minutes later... Pow! There was googlebot, looking at it. Turns out that one of the folks on the channel'd looked at it, and they run Opera with the google stuff on it so presumably that's how google got the URL. I will admit to being very impressed with the speed that the crawler struck out with (and it was the crawler, at least according to the log data and the PTR record for the IP address) but still...

Of course, it could have been the experimental IRC sniffer bot they've been playing with.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:16 PM

November 09, 2003

Knoppix Saved My Dad's Data

Even before today, I couldn't say enough good things about Knoppix, the coolest run-from-CD Linux Distribution ever. But it gets better.

When I got home from flying this evening, there were two messages on my answering machine. Both were my Dad telling me that his work laptop was fubar. He wanted to find a way to backup the data to his Linux box (one that I setup for him as a home server last year--that he doesn't know much about). And this had to happen tonight because the laptop is going in for service tomorrow and they'll likely just blast the drive.

Oh, and he's three time zones ahead of me.

It sounded bleak.

I called him. In the first two or three minutes of the conversation, he explained that he'd used a Knoppix CD that came with a book he bought to mount the partition with all his data on it. He just needed to know how to get the data from the laptop to the the server.

I was a little shocked. I never figured he'd have gotten this far on his own. He's apparently been reading up on Linux recently. That's cool.

It took a bit of time, but I was able to explain how to tar up the contents of the disk and the copy the data over to his server. All told, it took maybe an hour. Most of that was waiting on tar and the network.

Thank You Knoppix!

This could have been a major pain in the ass without Knoppix handy.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:44 PM