Archive for May 2006

Action Messenger

19 May 2006 | 7

I’ve been playing with Action Messenger lately. It’s pretty nice — it doesn’t do quite everything I want, since it was built with notification, rather than chat, in mind. But, it’s a good base, and satisfies my desires to play with Jabber in Ruby.

Commitments which may be seen as meaningless given that hindsight is 20/20

19 May 2006 | 0

I always make these commitments regarding software that I want to learn/use/become expert in. Usually it doesn’t work so well (Java, Lisp). Sometimes, it works really well. For example, I took a summer while in college and picked up Flash. Now, I’m known as "the Flash guy". But, I want to move beyond my role as just a Flash developer and really know some other type of technology inside and out. I think I’ve figured out what technology that is:


Yes, Jabber. I know, no big surprise there. But, it seems like something I could wrap my head around completely (unlike, say, Linux). The client-side part of Jabber is pretty stupid simple. The server-side part… well, we’ll see. But, I’m making a commitment this summer to getting inside Jabber, and really getting to know how all the pieces fit together.

Words, browsers and cranking out code

15 May 2006 | 0

Pillow Fight Club: MSP

11 May 2006 | 0

I know I have international readership, but I’m sure I’ve dragged a few of you locals into the mix as well. This one is for you…

Pillow Fight Club MSP May 20, 2006

San Francisco. Chicago. New York. London. Toronto. And now, with all due respect to those who’ve gone before, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul! The details for Pillow Fight Club MSP (that’s our airport code, yo) are being revealed very soon (you should get on our email list). In the meantime, you better mark off your calendar for the 20th of May 2006!

Spread the word with links and flyers!

Spread the word indeed.

Amusing Ourselves to Death

10 May 2006 | 2

In between learning Chinese and building websites for everyone and their brother, I like to try to sneak a book in. Right now I’m working my way through Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. I’m only about half way through, but I must say, this is a really, really good book.

The basic premise of the book is that television culture has destroyed the way that we hold and think about public discourse. In the 1800s, text was our only medium. Before the advent of photography, it was very rare to know what public figures looked like. Thus, the way that we knew about famous individuals was via the things they wrote, and the things written about them. Because of this, a premium was placed on the ability to express oneself eloquently and intelligently.

With television, image became the most important element. TV moved discourse and debate away from thoughtful conversation and into the realm of showmanship. It became about telling a story, or rather showing a story. It’s hard to have discussions on TV, since people tend to do a lot of thinking while in discussion, and pointing a camera towards someone in the act of thinking doesn’t make for an exciting visual.

The most interesting thing for me about this book is that, since it was written in the early 80s, I’m constantly re-examining the author’s arguments in the context of the Internet Age. The Internet is a strange medium, since it’s still predominantly textual. It’s a strange kind of text, though, in that it, like television, is mostly throw-away. In the 19th century, text was expensive. It was printed, and distributed, and required special equipment. Now, most of the email traffic on the internet is spam — worthless information. It’s temporary and throw-away. Instant messaging more so. So, while the internet is mostly text, we’ve definitely not returned to the “golden age” of the printing press. We have a text world, but with the bias of a television generation.

More and more we’re running away from text on the Internet, too. As someone who works in advertising, you don’t know how many times I hear (and say), “we need less text”, “no one reads on the Internet”, “we need to show it, not tell it.” The quick cuts of TV and the desire for instant gratification have effectively killed our attention spans. People wait less than 4 seconds for a page to load. “Movies” on the Internet rarely exceed 5 minutes. Some commercial spots are down to 5 seconds. AJAX is huge right now because we can refresh part of the page, rather than the whole thing, thus cutting down reload time.

The evidence is everywhere. The Internet isn’t making is more intelligent — it’s making us less patient.

We are addicted to instant information. More so, we are addicted to instant entertainment. Whether you get off on sports scores, new gadgets, Hollywood gossip, Wikipedia entries, song lyrics, or videos of kids playing with light sabers, it’s all just entertainment. Welcome to our Brave New World.

Laptop Annoyances

6 May 2006 | 0

I’m soooooo happy. I finally solved the "clickable trackpad" issue. It seems I just had to change a setting in my /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. To the section for my Synaptics Touchpad, I added:

	Option 		"TouchpadOff" 		"2"

so that the full section looks like this:

Section "InputDevice"
	Identifier	"Synaptics Touchpad"
	Driver		"synaptics"
	Option		"SendCoreEvents"	"true"
	Option		"Device"		"/dev/psaux"
	Option		"Protocol"		"auto-dev"
	Option		"HorizScrollDelta"	"0"
	Option 		"TouchpadOff" 		"2"

That "feature" is surely the worst feature ever added to a laptop, and you have no idea how glad I am to be rid of it. Via

MinneBar recap

6 May 2006 | 0

First of all, props again go to Ben Edwards for getting this thing up and running. The event was amazing, and had a great turnout. I saw a lot of great sessions.

The best discussion I was involved in emerged out of the session by Charles Gimon from the Minneapolis Public Library. His session was about Disintermediation — how information technology affects knowledge workers such as librarians and journalists. In the days before Google, a scarcity of access to information made those jobs critical, as they were the researchers and distribution channel for information. Now, workers in that space need to either look for new work, or redefine their job to become filterers of information, rather than gatekeepers. It was a good talk with lots of participants and a strong focus — exactly how a good un-conference session should work.

Overheard at MinneBar

Software is not technical. It’s social.

You can’t be late if the name of your company is Clockwork.

How can you ask us factual questions when we don’t have access to Google?

What size shirt? Extra large. Oh, you mean Programmer’s Small.

My pics from MinneBar

MinneBar pics on Flickr