Strong opinions, weakly held

Month: April 2007 (page 2 of 6)

On the topic of eMusic

eMusic has released a preview of their new download manager, which looks like an attempt to provide features like the iTunes Music Store interface in iTunes. The current manager is just a helper application that I assume is primarily designed to only let you download the tracks that you have paid for. The new application is based on Fifefox and written using XUL. Slick.

Another iPod theory

Blackfriars Marketing speculates that Apple may be restricting third party developers from deploying apps on the iPhone out of fears that their apps will use too much power and run the battery down. (Via Andrew Shebanow)

Big brother is watching you, and your pharmacist

Did you know that the government keeps track of every prescription filled in the United States? Me neither.

Be careful where you enter your email address

The New York Times has an article on “free offers” on Web sites that turn out to be something else:

I could picture my husband buying tickets online. I could imagine one of those annoying direct-marketing offers popping up. I could even picture him clicking on it. But I couldn’t see him entering a credit card to subscribe.

It turned out he didn’t have to. Tempted by a $10 cash-back award offer (“Good for your next Fandango purchase!”), he had typed in his e-mail address.

Unfortunately, he skipped over the fine print: “By entering my e-mail address as my electronic signature and clicking yes, I authorize Fandango to securely transfer my name, address and credit or debit card information to Reservation Rewards for billing and benefit processing.”

Read the whole article to get both sides of the story. As far as I’m concerned, Webloyalty is sleazy.

eMusic is still growing

eMusic now has over 300,000 subscribers, and is the second largest online music service, after the iTunes Music Store. Aside from the occasional CD purchase, it has become my sole source of new music. When I first subscribed, I wondered how much music the site offers that I’d really want, but I never have a problem finding 40 tracks I want to download each month.

Using Yahoo Pipes

Stephen O’Grady used Yahoo Pipes to solve an actual problem. Seems promising.

How big is the club?

Today Tim Bray asks how many people are really members of the a club that’s hard to succinctly describe:

In March, I gave a keynote at Web Design World in San Francisco. Frankly, it did not go that well; in particular, the crowd didn’t laugh at my jokes. Here’s one of them, more or less: “Being a Web Guy at Sun is a little intimidating. At high level strategy meetings the Chip Guys talk about what they’ll be shipping in 2009, and both the OS Guys and Java Guys talk about things a year or two out. As for us Web Guys, well… three weeks ago, I didn’t know that Twitter would become the Hot New Thing.”

It became apparent that most of them hadn’t heard of Twitter. The same joke (I’m a slow learner) fell flat at a meeting of University IT and Computer Science people a week later in Calgary. So let’s take this as evidence of the insularity and smallness—and, perhaps, unimportance—of the Internet In-crowd.

Jon Udell weighs in with the following:

What’s more, I believe this tribe is, over time, growing farther away from the rest of the world. That’s happening for an interesting and important reason, which is that the tools we are building and using are accelerating our ability to build and use more of these tools. It’s a virtuous cycle in that sense, and it’s the prototype for methods of Net-enabled collaboration that can apply to everyone.

But for the most part, we’re not crossing the chasm with this stuff. I’ve thought, written, and spoken a lot about this issue lately. It’s why I’m reaching out to public radio, why I’ve been speaking at conferences other than the ones frequented by my geek tribe, and why I am working for a company whose products reach hundreds of millions of people.

I’ve often thought about this. Let’s say you’re a software developer who reads weblogs that pertain to your profession, and tries to keep up with the latest advances in platforms, techniques, and so forth. That alone puts you in a very small minority of the overall community of developers, to say nothing of the public at large. I am consistently stunned when I talk to Java developers who don’t know anything about ORM frameworks, the MVC pattern, refactoring, or test driven development. And yet the truth is that they make up the vast majority of our profession.

In my world, Ruby on Rails is this huge thing that everybody has been talking about for the past couple of years. In the wider world of software development, it’s barely a blip on the radar. There are probably ten times more people using Fortran or Cobol at work than there are using Ruby.

It kind of stuns me that there are so many people out there who do essentially the same work I do and yet are completely unaware of the tools and resources that I think are necessary to stay up to speed.

I’ll say that I agree with Tim that the club is small, but not that it’s unimportant. People in this club are defining the future of information technology, and the rest of the club is evangelizing that future, mostly by accident. And I agree with Jon that we could be doing a better job.

Spammer infests hosting account

I was just reading about a Dreamhost customer whose hosting account was compromised by search engine spammers. They gained access to his account, altered all of his files to include an iframe that linked to some kind of search engine spam, and uploaded a bunch of other files to his account that were also obviously related to spamming search engines. Such attacks only make sense if they can be performed in an automated fashion on a large number of Web sites. It looks like one of the links they added to his site also goes to a Web site that attempts to infest your computer with some kind of malware (kozirodstwo.com). He only found out about the problem when Google notified him that he was being delisted from the index because his newly modified pages violate their guidelines.

Anyone heard about anything similar going on? It seems new to me.

Update: Looks like the vector of attack was an insecure PHP script, which is all too typical. I guess this isn’t particularly novel after all.

How to build online community

Teresa Nielsen Hayden on the blogger Code of Conduct:

You can’t have a good online discussion without moderation.

She’d know, too. Making Light is one of the most healthy and interesting online communities you’ll find.

For what it’s worth, I do delete comments. I delete anything that looks like spam, and I don’t tolerate the pointlessly obnoxious. Fortunately, I get very few pointlessly obnoxious comments, so I almost never choose to delete anything aside from spam.

War and public opinion

Alex Tabarrok reports on a couple of polling trends that explain a lot about how the public comes to support wars:

The public’s opinion of past wars improves as a new war approaches. Thus, after Vietnam most people thought the war was a mistake and this held true for decades until the beginning of the Iraq war when the opinion of war in Vietnam suddenly improved! Even more dramatically, a majority of people thought that World War I was a mistake until World War II approached when the percentage thinking it was a good war doubled. This is especially perverse in that any rational response has got to see WWI as a bigger mistake the more probable is WWII.

Althaus also shows, in Priming Patriots, that the intensity of new coverage typically increases support for war – regardless of whether the coverage is negative or positive.

When it comes to war, crowds don’t exhibit much wisdom.

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