Strong opinions, weakly held

Links for July 12

  • Bruce Schneier explains why the Internet kill switch is a bad idea.
  • Yahoo’s UI group did some research and figured out the size limits on mobile browser caches. At the end they have some recommendations for people who create mobile content.
  • Andre Torrez thinks we should be able to define date formats using examples rather than tokens. Someone should create a Web page that lets you pick a language and enter a date, and returns the appropriate formatting string.
  • Frequent rc3.org commenter Jacob Davies posts some ideas for stimulus over at Obsidian Wings. Many billions of dollars could be productively spent on upgrading water infrastructure alone. Having millions of people out of work is an incredible waste of resources.
  • Best flow chart ever.
  • Ian Betteridge notices that all of those iPad killers Apple’s competitors were talking about aren’t being produced.
  • There’s something fishy going on with WikiLeaks.


  1. The tendency of the tech press and analysts to reward companies for making announcements but not ship what they demonstrated or take years to ship is an ongoing frustration of mine. I really dislike the distortion of competition, “Well, based on the spec, this is going to be so much better than $product when it ships in $n months!”

    That and those anointing any comer as “$product killer” tend to presume that the manufacturer of $product is going to stand still and take it.

  2. Thanks for the link! I am just getting the hang of it over there… frequent commenter there, but actually blogging is hard. Who knew? Oh wait, you knew.

    The examples versus formats thing for dates is quite similar the point I have been trying to make for years with regards to schema languages. If you want people to use a schema language, you need to make the schema objects LOOK JUST LIKE the instance objects they will validate. The people who need to write schemas are domain experts, not programming experts. They can probably learn your simple key-value type format (JSON, simple XML, properties files, whatever). But WHY would you make them learn a whole other language and technology set just to write down what they want to say?

    The current version of the JSON schema language I wrote (which is still a draft… the validator which our awesome summer intern wrote is waiting for the next release) doesn’t actually let you supply an instance object as a schema. But it’s pretty damn close.

  3. In some cases (like dates) examples as format definitions don’t work well because there can be ambiguity. “Monday 12 July 2010 02:30PM” is easy. What about the date string “10/10/10”? Which field is which? It depends on your preference, locale, or other requirements. I’ve worked on systems where that date string could be “Year/Month/Day”, “Day/Month/Year” and “Month/Day/Year”.

    If you use a format that is more obvious to the user, like “Day/Month/Year” aren’t you going to end up with format definitions that include values like “Day-With-Leading-Zero/Month-With-Leading-Zero/Two-Digit-Year” to cover all the variants? That’s more readable than “%d/%m/%y” (yes, I had to look that up), but I suspect I’d have to look up the syntax in both cases.

  4. If I were creating a Web application that generated the dates, I could just add a validator that flagged ambiguity. For example, if you entered, 10/10/10, it could ask you to use values that do not overlap. So they could enter 12/25/99 instead.

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