May 2002 Archives

May 29, 2002

Quirks mode and DOCTYPE

Quirks mode.

By now every web developer worth their spit knows that the lack of a valid DOCTYPE will trigger "quirks mode" in modern browsers (IE 6 on Windows, IE 5 on Mac OS X, and Mozilla on any platform). Quirks mode is a backward compatibility feature to simulate rendering bugs in previous versions of the browsers (IE 5's box-model problem, Netscape 4's everything).

But exactly what are the quirks that quirks mode triggers? WebDesign-L pointed me to Craig Saila's DOCTYPE reference, which pointed me to these resources:

  1. Quirks mode in IE 6 on Windows
  2. Quirks mode in IE 5 on Mac OS X
  3. Quirks mode in Mozilla

[dive into mark]

Piece from the AJC: being out of work

Coincidentally with my return to work yesterday, the AJC published a nice little opinion piece from someone else who had been out of work. The link to the AJC is here, or if the AJC pulls it down, I've included it as as an essay.

A quote:

I recently talked with a friend about how being unemployed for six months affected him.

"Do you remember yourself this time last year when we met?" I asked him.

"That person is dead, " he replied.

It's been a year since I lost my full-time job as an information technology specialist and six months since my last contract job. Now I'm going back to work. I'm looking forward to getting my life back. But it will be a different life.

I have a job again

I didn't get a chance to note it yesterday, but I have a job again. I'm working at Georgia Tech for their central IT group. Yesterday was the first day I'd been to work in 158 days, so the change was very welcome.

One of the differences about working for a university is evident today: I came to eat lunch at the student center, and while looking around for a place to sit, I noticed iMacs sitting around the edge of the room. iMacs, running OSX, just sitting here for people to use them. So that's where I'm blogging from right now.

Right now I have a temp position with Tech, but there's a pretty good chance I'll be brought on full-time in the next month or so. Right now we're in a "try-before-you-buy" mode.

They're setting up an old PII laptop for me. Tech has 802.11 at various places around campus, so I should be able to enjoy blogging outside (or home on the couch) again.

May 25, 2002

Revenge of the Nerds: why use lisp

Paul Graham's Revenge of the Nerds is the best explanation I've ever read of why computer programmers who use the Lisp language seem so snobby about it: The short explanation of why this 1950s language is not obsolete is that it was not technology but math, and math doesn't get stale. [Paul Boutin]


Aggregator-roll. Thanks to jenett for pointing me to Andy who pointed me to Jake's Radio 'Blog, which ultimately ended up in me finally being able to re-publish a list of the sites to which I subscribe! There's now a Radio macro for this that you can insert into any template. Since I subscribe to so many sites, I put it on its own page, so you can now view a list of Sites I Read in My Aggregator. I'll be adding a permanent link to it on the right. I also plan to re-do my blogroll using Radio's outliner at some point, too. [The Shifted Librarian]

May 24, 2002

Useful tips on making pages accessible

A thread from a long while back on making pages accessible: forum thread:

How to Feel Insignificantly Small....

How to Feel Insignificantly Small.....
"A View from the Back of the Envelope
'These pages are about approximation, and some of the fun it enables.' Examples, exercises, and links to help you grasp concepts of magnitude and scale, such as large and small numbers, the size of the world, and expressions of length, area, volume, and speed. There are sections on simplifying numbers, exponential notation, Fermi problems, using your body as a ruler, and other ways to help visualize size and scale.
Subjects: Mensuration | Dimensions | Size judgment | Approximation theory | Cosmology
Category: Specific Resources
Created by: mg on May 19, 2002 - updated May 23, 2002 | Comment On This Record" [Librarians' Index to the Internet]

Indexed, cataloged records in online directories don't get any better than this. Great resource, too!

[The Shifted Librarian]

May 21, 2002

List of Stephen Jay Gould's books

Browsing around trying to find a list of Stephen Jay Gould's books, I found a site with a useful set of links, including a (not fully up-to-date) list of Gould's Natural History essays listed by book.

Looking down at our bookshelf, I realized we have the first eight books in the series. If I read one essay a day, I could keep myself busy until next January.  (There are 242 essays in the first 8 books, an average of a about 30 per book.)

Some years ago I borrowed several Books on Tape versions of Gould's essays from the library.  They were wonderful.

: how many helium balloons would it take to lift a person?

My middle son has asked this question before: how many helium balloons would it take to lift a person?   How Stuff Works has the answer.

May 20, 2002

How copyright became controversial

   How Copyright Became Controversial (PDF).

"How did copyright become controversial? In a phrase, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Although many of legal controversies that have swirled since its October 1998 passage trace their roots to other elements of copyright law, the DMCA created a new feature in copyright law that has crystallized why so many academics, librarians, computer users, and technology entrepreneurs object to what they regard as the overreaching nature of copyright law....

By linking the concept of anti-circumvention to copyright infringement, the DMCA starkly raises new questions about the nature of copyright law. Originally designed to prevent copying, it now also constrains access, including access to materials that one has purchased, like a DVD or a computer. While examining the justification for doing this as a form of contract law is beyond the scope of this essay, I do suggest this fundamental change in copyright law forces a reevaluation of its grounding."


May 19, 2002

Radio Express - Adding Content Just Got Easier

Radio Express - Adding Content Just Got Easier.

Found this great little tool while surfing over at Radio Userland's Discussion page. It's very similar to Blogger's "blog this!" bookmarklet (a bookmarklet is a javascript button that gets added to your IE toolbar). While browsing, if  you see an item you want to add to your blog, just highlight the text you want to post, click "RadioExpress" on your toolbar, and it pre-fills the title, link and text boxes with the right text.

Adding content to your blog couldn't be easier. Nice!

[tins ::: Rick Klau's weblog]

May 17, 2002

Using radio outlines tutorial

Rick Klau has written a little tutorial on using Radio outlines to manage a list of other sites.

Book: "The Mystery of Capital"

Dan: What's the simplest thing we can do tomorrow morning? Davie H-W: Read The Mystery of Capital. It will change your life. Look for how to change things for the better in the intellectual property world.

May 16, 2002 ISO images of 35 different Linuxes is a site with ISO images of 35 different distributions of Linux.  These are install images ready to burn to a CD, which is usually the easiest way to install Linux.  The site name is a slight misnomer; FreeBSD and netBSD are also available. 

I've had good success using these kinds of images with VMWare.  VMWare allows you to install an operating system as a "guest", which allows it to run at the same time as the "host" operating system.  In my case, the host is Windows 2000, but there's also VMWare for Linux.

[Fred Langa's LangaList newsletter.]


May 15, 2002

Spell Check Your Weblog

Spell Check Your Weblog. Radio doesn't offer this onboard, but you may find MicroSpell to your liking if you are a Windows user. [Russ Lipton Documents Radio]

May 13, 2002

Buzz, a Python-based outline tool

Buzz is a Python-based outline tool that groks OPML.  I must say, though, that the home page for Buzz is one of the ugliest pages I've seen in a while.  (But it is cool: the page is a clickable outline.)  Installation looks like it might be a bit involved.  I'll probably try it, though; there's a dearth of tools that speak OPML.

tools for authoring editing XML in text form

Bag of new tools for editing XML in simple text form. XML has become more popular as authoring format, and it brings with it the frustrating choice between typing tags ad nauseum, or adopting XML GUIs that may be too expensive, too buggy or too proprietary for preference. Numerous systems, formats and tools have sprung up to provide useful authoring formats for XML. [xmlhack]

Someone is also using Wiki to produce DocBook format stuff for the Linux Documentation Project.

May 12, 2002

Monthly archive page in radio

Here's a description of how to do a monthly archive page (all stories) in Radio.

CSS-based radio theme

True or Not, Flattery Works: Report

True or Not, Flattery Works: Report
Wed Apr 24,10:27 AM ET

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Flattery may indeed get you everywhere, regardless of whether the compliments are true, new research shows.

A number of theories have been offered up on why people typically like those who flatter them, instead of being suspicious of their motives. Some researchers owe it to vanity, while others say that to most people with a healthy self-image, a compliment may simply make sense.

But in a series of experiments with college students, researcher Roos Vonk of the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands found that participants generally liked their admirers regardless of whether they thought the compliments were true--and regardless of a range of other factors.

Instead, it seems people are just suckers for flattery, according to Vonk's report in the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (news - web sites).

"Flattery works because it feels good when you're being flattered, even if you know that the flattering comments may not be entirely accurate," Vonk told Reuters Health.

To investigate, the researcher set up a series of experiments designed to look at specific situations and personality traits thought to sway a person's opinion of his or her flatterer. For example, past research has shown that while the subject of flattery tends to take it at face value, people observing the exchange take a more skeptical view. And some researchers have said this could be due to the fact the object of praise, being actively involved in the conversation, may be distracted from critically evaluating it.

But Vonk's experiments showed that while people who were objects of flattery liked their admirers more and saw them as less "slimy" than observers did, distraction did not account for this.

Similarly, people's moods, self-esteem, and desire to like those complimenting them were not the keys to whether flattery worked.

In the real world (news - Y! TV), Vonk points out, these variables are probably a factor. But, he adds, they don't beat the simple feel-good aspect of flattery.

"Flattery is the way to go," he said, "especially in superficial relationships."

SOURCE: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2002;82:515-526.

How I use the 'Noted' category

I put a number of items in my weblog directly into the 'Noted' category without having them show up on this home page.  These are almost always items I've copied from other weblogs; I put them in the Noted category without comment so I can find them later. 

I've now put a (long-winded) button directly to Noted category in my navigation links to in the left column.

Here's a pointer to the RSS/XML feed just for the Noted category.
April 2003: I no longer have a separate RSS feed now that I've moved to Movable Type. I could put it back if someone wanted it.

CIO comments from Wharton

From CNet News:

The changing world of the CIO
From Knowledge@Wharton
Special to CNET
May 12, 2002, 6:00 AM PT

The CIO has come a long way.

Over the years, as technology has grown more integral to a company's operations, the job of the chief information officer has expanded and become more business-centered. Instead of managing only the computing technology of a company, from the wires to the networks and applications, CIOs in many companies are now involved in determining their company's strategic direction.

CIOs were pushed into this new role by technology itself. The dot-com boom and rise in e-business initiatives forced many companies to realize they could no longer manage their business as they once did, or take for granted their status in their industry. New technologies could make them obsolete almost overnight. In addition, concerns about security, along with new developments like mobile computing, have required a broader outlook.

CIOs have always needed to be fluent in business concepts to help meet a company's objectives. But CIOs must now also capitalize on the strategic and economic value of information. In "knowledge intensive" companies--particularly in financial services, where customer acquisition, marketing and information-based pricing contribute directly to growth--information is often a company's main competitive asset.

It's the CIO, points out Ravi Aron, a professor of operations and information management at Wharton, who helps senior management determine what kind of new service the company can introduce in the market. And it is often the CIO who will make the call about whether a given information-based strategy is realistic.

Many technology-based decisions also affect customers, notes Robert B. Carter, executive vice president and CIO of Federal Express. "The CIO has much more impact now on the revenue of the company, the company's brand image, and the company's perception in the marketplace," he said. This means the CIO must be cross-disciplinary in his or her ability to think about both business and technology.

As technology's role in companies has become more integrated organizationally, with the CIO attending most senior management meetings, the information technology department has increasingly been mainstreamed into the business. IT management, for instance, is now frequently asked to justify its investments economically (as other business units do), using metrics such as return on investment, net present value and discounted cash flow.

A new mold
As a result of this shift, the CIO job description and skill requirements have been recast. More and more CIOs have an MBA and, ideally, experience on both the business and IT sides of the house. "If the CIO comes strictly from an IT background, he's never going to properly interface with the business units or really understand the business," observed William Barna, a senior consultant with Microsoft Consulting Services.

"If business units aren't held accountable for generating the benefits side, benefits won't be generated. That's how companies waste money on IT."
--Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist, MIT's Center for Information Systems Research
On the other hand, someone from the business side may not be equipped to manage the IT staff or understand all the implications of a technology decision. Barna added that some of the most effective CIOs he has worked with were not reared exclusively in the IT world. They logged a few years in sales, or managed operations for a business division, before shifting into IT and climbing the ranks.

In some quarters, it is even debatable how much technical expertise CIOs require. For years they had to understand--intimately--how to achieve a particular technology objective. But this may no longer be the case.

Wharton's Aron argues that two changes have made technical know-how less necessary, freeing CIOs to concentrate on strategic initiatives. First, the "how" of implementing complicated technology can be bought from consulting firms like Accenture--making the CIO, in his words, a "sophisticated consumer of advice from outside agencies."

Second, software makers like Microsoft, Oracle and Sybase are eliminating some of the complexity of technology by turning to standardization and Web protocols. In effect, software makers that once sold clients standalone technologies have become systems integrators by assuming the risk that various software components will talk to each other.

In recent years, many large corporations have begun hiring CIOs from outside the IT organization. Dow Corning, Lowe's and UPS are among the companies that have taken this path.

For many companies, bringing in a superstar from outside IT who knows IT well can be a godsend, says Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at MIT's Center for Information Systems Research. In the best cases, Ross points out, the consistent reaction on the part of IT people has been one of delight.

"They'd been beaten up for years, no one knew what they were doing, and they were overloaded," she explained. "The very first thing a good CIO would do is go in and say, 'These umpteen things--we're not going to do them anymore, since they're not important enough. We can't do everything.' That tended to be an epiphany for many IT people."

Nonetheless, Ross cautions that a broad business mind-set isn't always enough. Hard technology decisions must still be made, and the CIO must understand the IT infrastructure and what's possible or impossible for a company to handle.

FedEx's Carter, who has an MBA (and who says that getting it was one of the best things he did), stresses that there's no way around a deep understanding of technology. The era of CIOs who came from nontechnical disciplines, he points out, is passing.

"Technology decisions are very, very critical, and they're not to be made lightly," he said. "A CIO must seriously contemplate and understand the technologies involved in order to steer the company in the right direction."

Shared accountability
While CIOs must think about IT investments in terms of their company's business objectives, they must also push for shared accountability from the business units that would profit from the benefits. A new application may promise extra sales revenue, says Microsoft's Barna, but when a CIO presents that benefit to a chief financial officer, the CFO typically won't consider it real until the head of sales actually builds it into his quota for the next year. And the salesman may discount the value of his benefits if he has to put more sales into his quota. For companies serious about using the business case to make a decision about an IT investment, accountability of the measurable benefits that are likely to result is a vital goal.

"CIOs must change the culture in the IT unit so everybody thinks that in this business we can only afford so much in order to achieve a certain amount of functionality."
--Jeanne Ross
Ross agrees that establishing accountability outside IT is crucial. "If business units aren't held accountable for generating the benefits side, benefits won't be generated," she said. "That's how companies waste money on IT."

Shared accountability, though, is tough sledding. FedEx's Carter offers a dose of reality. "If (implementing an IT initiative) is purported to have a savings of X amount, then the business units have that productivity factored into their run-rate budgets," he said. "But at the end of the day, who's going to get the call from the chairman? It's going to be me." If the money is spent on IT, then it's usually IT that will be questioned about the delivery and quality of the goods.

Most importantly, IT must be responsible for clear communication. Historically, technology departments have existed in a kind of IT ecosystem, disconnected from the business units. They often didn't deliver projects on time, couldn't explain what they were doing, and didn't understand the function of other business units. The result is today's IT credibility problem. This "misalignment" between the IT department and business units can now be seen in IT projects that do not meet the needs of those they were designed for, and in the rancor resulting among the various parties.

One way for CIOs to counter this is to get their department to balance functionality and cost. In particular, IT must think about unit costs the way other departments do, says MIT's Ross. Not only is this a more professional tack for any department, but business units are more likely to understand the costs and difficulties of an IT project if they're laid out clearly.

"CIOs must change the culture in the IT unit so everybody thinks that in this business we can only afford so much in order to achieve a certain amount of functionality. It's just like in your house, where you have a budget, and if you spend more than what's budgeted, you go broke," she said. This entails getting IT to calculate costs in clear-cut business terms: What's the unit cost, for example, of a programmer's time to access one item of data in a particular database?

FedEx's Carter points out that nothing is more critical in his work than the relationship between business units and IT. And for some companies, it's a make-or-break situation. "I feel very strongly about this," he said, "because the high-productivity, successful projects in IT in my career have always--not sometimes and not most of the time, but always--been associated with points in time when there were good business partnerships between IT and the business units that they were supporting. More than process (management) and CMM (the Capability Maturity Model), what seems to have the biggest impact on IT's ability to deliver business-impacting solutions is how well connected they are with their business associates."

IT and business decision-makers should be able to sit down at a table and talk--that is, have conversations free of condescension and jargon. "I'm on a rampage since I feel that's a message the industry needs--that we must learn to speak a common language more effectively," Carter said. "I put a lot of the responsibility on the CIO to set the stage for positive business relationships--not just so everybody can be happy and sing 'Kumbaya,' but because it makes for a highly effective implementation of projects and because an effective linkage between the two can bring strategic and competitive advantage to the business."

For trust to be established between departments, IT must change. It's up to the IT department, says the FedEx CIO, to learn about the company's business, understand the business, speak the language of business, learn to think in business terms, and be a better listener. For many in the IT world, this involves a radical shift in mental policy.

As the pace of technology has increased, CIOs have begun to confront new issues. One task thrust upon many CIOs, says Shafeen Charania, director of the business value division at Microsoft, is the need to act as the integrator of IT initiatives launched outside the IT department.

"I put a lot of the responsibility on the CIO to set the stage for positive business relationships--not just so everybody can be happy and sing 'Kumbaya,' but because it makes for a highly effective implementation of projects."
--Robert B. Carter, executive vice president and CIO, Federal Express
In the last half-dozen years, many companies have set up Web capabilities and IT projects outside the IT department. The in-house IT staff might have been too busy or uninterested, or it might not have understood the potential impact of those initiatives. However, "IT is now on the hook for the fragmented Web strategies launched by different departments in the organization," Charania said. A system that was perfect for a given department for three or four years can quickly become problematic if it needs to (finally) be connected with back-end systems that control inventory or fulfillment. It's the CIO who must bring these various initiatives under one roof.

Wharton's Aron suggests another new decision that CIOs increasingly face: outsourcing. A CIO in a tech-savvy company may pursue an information-based strategy, but that information does not have to be developed within the firm or even within the country. The CIO can outsource some of the infrastructure that produces the information to countries such as India, Australia and Canada. Yet the decision to outsource generates a host of new decisions for the CIO and senior management: If we move the back office, should it be paid for in one shot? Should an overseas call center report to the CIO? How should the pricing agreement with the overseas firm be structured?

Eric K. Clemons, an operations and management professor at Wharton, adds that CIOs must also begin to look at the strategic function of technology differently. Technology used to support the traditional economy-of-scale model, which hinged on the idea that growth was good. "Today's strategy focus is on precision--which customers to attract and what to charge them," he said. And tomorrow it might be different, based on changes in the marketplace. CIOs therefore need to think about how technology can help them plan for an uncertain future.

In particular, he says, CIOs must start thinking about contingency planning. This doesn't mean planning for a power failure or the loss of phone lines. Instead, it means figuring out what a company will do if its current strategy becomes inoperative--if, say, regulations change and the company's pricing framework becomes obsolete. This kind of contingency planning is something CIOs did not address in the past. "But given that almost no strategy today can be implemented without precision systems, the idea of not having a backup for your strategy is potentially disastrous," he said.

Clearly, CIOs today fill an increasingly important role in companies. To meet the new demands placed on IT, they must, with their corporate colleagues, be accountable for improving overall business performance, and they must make their case in the language of business. They must also go beyond saving money to delivering technologies that give their company the agility to prosper in a changing world. Only then will they succeed in helping to pave the way to new markets, new sources of revenue and better business returns.

This report was prepared for Microsoft by Knowledge@Wharton.

To read more articles like this one, visit Knowledge@Wharton.

All materials copyright © 2002 of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

How to Good-bye spam

Spam fighting info from Mitch Wagner's 24-hour drive-thru blog.


Elsewhere in cyberspace, I've been participating in a discussion about measures to block spam, and I posted Uncle Mitch's Handy Spam-Fighting Tips. I thought you all might be interested, too, so here's a revised version.

I'll start by saying that I find most of the common wisdom for dealing with spam to be useless, more trouble than it's worth, or both. Most so-called spam experts advise keeping two e-mail addresses. One of them, a private one, would be guarded like you would an unlisted phone number, given only to close friends and business associates with need-to-know. The other one, a public e-mail address, would be used for mailing lists, buying stuff from Web storefronts, registering software, Usenet, and other activity which attracts spam. I've never seen the sense of having two e-mail addresses, though; yeah, sure, you might block spam from one of them, but you have to check two e-mail addresses, so where's the reduction in work in that? Morever, I have no evidence to support this but I'm convinced that eventually your private e-mail address will get out, and once you get on one spam list you'll be on all of them, and you'll be right back where you started.

So, while I have several e-mail addresses, they're all forwarded to my main address,

Likewise, the experts say to block any e-mail address you receive spam from. The problem with that is that the spammers change e-mail addresses rapidly; you'll seldom get spam from the same address twice.

The measures I take to avoid spam are two-fold. First off, my two main e-mail providers, The World and, are very good at filtering out most spam. For the remaining four to half-dozen spams I receive every day, I have a set of Eudora filters that route the traffic efficiently.

These filters are pretty complex--I have about 75 of them--but I've set them up one at a time over a course of several years. Each filter takes only about 15 seconds to put in place, and each filter is ITSELF valuable. In other words, you don't have to take the trouble to set up 75 filters all at once, just one filter will help you out.

Here's how the filters work:

1) First, Eudora looks at the From address to see whether the e-mail is sent from a mailing list. If it's from a mailing list, the e-mail is sent to its own folder, and Eudora stops processing that message.

2) Then Eudora looks at the From address again to see whether the e-mail comes from an e-mail address that I've flagged as a source of high-priority mail. These are the e-mail addresses of my friends and family, colleagues, and some whole domains from small ISPs whom I know are really good at keeping spammers off, such as,, and If the e-mail is from one of those addresses, Eudora changes the color of the e-mail to red, plays a sound - because I want to jump on those e-mails right away - and then stops processing that message. The message is not moved, it stays in the In box.

3) Then, Eudora once again looks at the From: address to see whether the e-mail comes from an address that I've flagged as a source of middle-priority mail--stuff that's important, but not as important as the previous groups. Mostly, I set up this group of rules when I was working as a staff writer for computer trade pubs, and mostly these were the e-mail addresses of the companies I was responsible for covering and their PR agencies. Eudora changes the color of the e-mail to blue, doesn't play a sound, leaves the message in the in box, and stops processing that message.

4) Then comes the fun part: the spam trap. Eudora searches the remaining messages for the following keywords: "make money" "unsubscribe" "to be removed" "to remove" "webcam" "shoes" "china." It also checks the From address to see whether the e-mail comes from known spam sources: the top-level domains .tw, .mx, .ro, .it, .cn, and hotmail accounts. I do get some legitimate e-mail from hotmail accounts, but that's handled with previous filters. Eudora will also filter for e-mail formatted in HTML - mostly, HTML-formatted e-mail is spam. Some legitimate e-mail also comes formatted in HTML, but, again, those e-mails are handled by previous filters.

All of the e-mail caught by this level of filters gets sent to a folder called "junk." Some people have their spam filters set up to automatically delete junk mail, but I don't do that--every few weeks, my spam filter will accidently trap a piece of legitimate e-mail.

5) Now the NEXT spam trap: The remaining e-mail gets looked at to see if my e-mail addresses appear in the To: or CC: line. Much spam gets sent to BCC'd or undisclosed recipients. If Eudora doesn't see me when it looks at the e-mail headers, then into the junk folder it goes.

Like I said, this is hairy, but I've been working on it for years. And it's not as hairy as it looks--about a year ago, I switched e-mail clients, and I was able to convert all my filters over in a couple of hours. And your spam filters don't have to be as hairy as that, you'll start getting value from the first filter you put in.

The end result is that, as I sit at my computer during the day, Eudora runs in background the whole time checking e-mail. When an e-mail comes from an important person, Eudora makes a sound and I know to check it. I also check a couple of times a day to see if any OTHER e-mail has come in. I check mailing lists once or twice a day.

If I've been away from e-mail for a day or more, I can glance at my in-box, look at the e-mail marked red, and tackle that first. Then, I tackle the blue e-mail next, then the stuff that's not marked in any color. Later on, when I'm good and ready, I tackle the junk mailbox.

Probably this system is too complicated to be worthwhile for most people, but I used to get literally HUNDREDS of e-mail every day when I was a staff writer at computer magazines during the dotcom boom. Now I get a lot less, but these rules still come in handy for me.

[24-hour drive-thru]

Creating a Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections

First Monday: Creating a Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections. Managers and implementers of digital collections are now expected to take much the same approach to digital collection development. This means that planners of digitization projects today must consider issues of reusability, persistence, interoperability, verification, and documentation. From [Tomalak's Realm]

Digital archives seem to be subject entropy at a much great rate than physical objects (cf Our Useless Digital Archives), so this kind of stewardship is a much needed step.

May 11, 2002

MovableType: problems with EarthLink

As I noted, I've been "Playing With Movable Type".  Looking around the MT support bboards, several people said they'd had some glitches installing MT on Earthlink hosted web sites.  The source of the problem is that Earthlink is running Perl  5.00404, which the MT people claim is over five years old.  That struck me as odd: what's a major ISP like Earthlink doing running a 5-year old version of Perl?  I have an acquaintance at Earthlink, so I asked him.  His answer was interesting.

He passed the question on to an engineer in the web hosting group, who acknowledged that this was an issue on one of their lists of things to do, but not a very important one: one that they might not even get to anytime soon. 

His next comment was most interesting:

" ... it seems certain to cause more issues than it cures, since we'd be upgrading software that our customer's software (which we don't control, and can't test, and can't fix), depends. You end up with customers yelling at you because you didn't upgrade, and then different customers yelling at you because you did (as we're seeing now with the recent FrontPage upgrade)."

He's right: Perl 5.6 has significant differences from Perl 5.004, so doing a blanket upgrade would certainly break stuff.

My suggestion is to make the version configurable so that customers can have it either way.  Current customers get left at the old version, but they have the option of changing it; new customers get the newer version by default. 

But of course that has issues of its own.  The only way to run a large site is to simplify and strive for uniformity.  Earthlink must be running tens or even hundreds of thousands of web sites, small and large.  Anyone who's ever been in the ISP business will tell you that the smaller the customer, the more trouble they are to serve; it's a wonder Earthlink keeps it all running at all.

Movable Type observations

I've been playing around a bit with Movable Type. A few observations:

Movable Type (MT) is just pretty to look at. Mena G. Trott did the design, and it's very nice.

It's a bit of a pain to install. The first time took me a couple of hours, most of which was spent trying to get the proper Perl libraries in the right places. The second time I installed it on an Earthlink webhosting account, and surprisingly, that went smoothly.

MT's template language appears to be quite flexible: people are using MT as a content management system to generate some sophisticated looking sites.  (See Boxes and Arrows, for example). The ability to assign an item to several categories is quite nice.

I'm sure Radio can do anything that MT can, but in Radio these facilities are a little more opaque; the reply to "Can you do this in Radio" is often "That's a Simple Matter Of Programming."  (That's actually one of the reasons why Radio is so interesting.) MT can do it, but given that MT is another application built in Perl, I sure don't have any interest in hacking on it.

Another nice touch: MT breaks the formatting of templates off into CSS.  The default templates rely exclusively on CSS to generate a multi-column design. There's nothing to stop you from doing this with Radio, but MT is ahead of Radio here.

MT makes it particularly easy to generate multiple pages when you publish. MT presents a number of default templates that get published in addition to an HTML page: RDF, RSS, and you can trivially create other types of pages.  

Finally, MT supports mutiple authors and multiple blogs.  In fact, that's the feature that drew to me check it out.

I can't say anything about the stability of the system; I just haven't used it enough.  I am a little concerned at the number of posts in one MT support forum after the most recent upgrade; I saw dozens of complaints, small and large.  Maybe MT users are just more vocal than other folks.

I'm certainly not giving up on Radio, but Movable Type is worth a close look.

Mozilla's tab browing is great for reading RSS news feeds

I second what other people have said: Mozilla's tabbed browsing is outstanding for reading through a news feed. If you haven't tried it, tabbed browsing creates titled tabs just above the window you're in, letting you see at a glance what windows you've opened.

To get the most out of the feature, go into the Mozilla preferences and find the Tabbed Browsing preferences: it's under the Navigator preferences. Turn on Middle-click or control-click of links in a Web page; this will allow you to open links into tabs by Command-clicking (on the Mac) or control-clicking (on the PC). You'll also want to turn on Load links in the background, which is what really makes browsing a news aggragator feed fly: you scroll down the list of items, control-click the ones you're interested in, and keep scrolling down. When you're done, you have a tabbed list of items to look at.

Mozilla just announced release candidate 2; it's already my default browser on the Mac, and I'm using it heavily on the PC.

The only thing holding me back from using it full time on the PC is that the WYSIWYG HTML editing tool that Radio uses doesn't work under anything except IE on the PC. That's a pain, because I really don't like working in straight HTML when I'm creating a story. (Though I'm doing it right now because I'm sitting downstairs using the iMac.)

May 9, 2002

Attack of the clones .. bad smell?

A.O. Scott of the New York Times just panned Attack of the Clones.  And I was getting hopeful .. the fact that Lucas had a co-author, and that Time Magazine seemed to imply that it might be better ..

I'll still see it, of course, but if this one really does turn out to be a dud, that put three out of the five films in that category.  (Jedi doesn't hold up for me.)

'Attack of the Clones': Kicking Up Cosmic Dust. "Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones" is not really much of a movie at all, if by movie you mean a work of visual storytelling about the dramatic actions of a group of interesting characters. By A. O. Scott. [New York Times: Movies]

OS 10.2x coming

OS X 10.2 is being hyped by Jobs, and it sure sounds interested.  I'd love to play with it, but even Jobs himself admits that you'll need a pretty new Mac to get the most out of it.  Guess I'll have to wait a while until I can get someone else to pay for it.

Jaguar Preview Is Stunning. By now you may have heard some of the announcements at the 2002 WWDC conference in San Jose, Calif., but here's a detailed overview of just about everything Steve Jobs covered in his keynote address where he introduced Apple developers to Mac OS X 10.2, code named Jaguar. [O'Reilly Network Articles]

If the apocalypse comes, I'm toast

I've always been fond of post-apocalypse stories.  Books like The Stand, or Earth Abides, or A Canticle for Lebiowitz all the same plot premise: disaster strikes, and the trappings of the modern world are swept away.  City-dwellers, suburbanites, and famers are all left to fend for themselves and ultimately to rebuild society.  The stories are aways brutally Darwinian: those who can't adapt, die. I've often wondered what would happen to me in that kind of world.

My father was a man who worked with his hands; he spent 20+ years in the Navy as a machinery repairman, making parts to keep ships and bases running.  I inherited none of his skill or love of working with my hands. I’ve always been a creature of the mind, reading, thinking, never very fond of the outdoors. I’ve spent my life making a living on a technology of the mind, one that didn’t exist when my father was born.

I suppose the need for project management might still be needed. Assuming there’s enough of society left to try to knit things back together and rebuild, there will always need to figure out how to get things done.


Nah. I’d be toast.

Understanding that Dow 30 number

From the Motley Fool ..

How to Calculate the Dow

By Selena Maranjian (TMF Selena)
May 9, 2002

Q. How is the Dow Jones Industrial Average calculated?

A. The Dow is essentially the average price of its 30 component stocks. This may seem strange, though, with the Dow recently around 10,000 and none of the 30 stocks trading anywhere near $10,000 per share.

On average, though, the shares really would trade in the neighborhood of $10,000 -- if they had never been split, issued dividends, or undergone major changes such as spin-offs or mergers during the time they were listed in the index.

For example, consider a share of Microsoft. If you bought one share of the company when it came public in 1986, it would have been worth less than $100 at the time. But, as of the time of this writing, the stock has split 8 times and that single share has become 144 shares, each worth about $55. Total it up, and that single initial share has grown to be worth roughly... $8,000.

Today, though, most stocks don't trade at such lofty levels -- thanks to events such as stock splits. To get from current stock price levels to the larger index number, a number called the "divisor" is used. The original divisor -- back in 1896, when the Dow was created -- was just the number of stocks in the index (12). However, to account for stock splits, mergers, and such, the divisor has to be adjusted frequently.

The current divisor is 0.14452124. If General Electric falls four points, for example, the DJIA will drop by 22.6 points (4 divided by 0.14452124 equals 27.68). The overall average is calculated by adding up the current stock prices of the 30 stocks, and then dividing by the divisor.

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This question and answer is adapted from The Motley Fool Money Guide: Answers to Your Questions About Saving, Spending and Investing. For answers to this and 499 other common money questions, check it out -- it's a handy resource.

Light up the world

I've been enmeshed in a job search since CNN let me go in December.  One of the organizations I've been talking to work to relieve poverty in poor countries, and thinking about moving from the for-profit world I've been a part of for 5+ years back over into the not-for-profit side has me thinking about how technology can help people.  I came across two projects in the last day that are working in that direction.

The first one is the Light Up the World Foundation, which is experimenting with light into the homes of poor rural people.  The project uses clusters of white LEDs powered by pedal generators; 30 minutes on a pedal generator (think of an exercise bike) can charge a battery to power light in a house for four hours.  The goal is to provide the light so children can read and study in the evening.  [From SlashDot].

The SlashDot thread also points to the Engineers Without Borders group.  (From their web site, they appear to be only based in Canada at this point.)

(Postscript: I didn't get the job, but the ideas are still worth thinking about.)

May 8, 2002

Instant Ouline Instant Rendering !

Instant Ouline Instant Rendering !. This time, it's for real. With Andre's help, I've added a little code to the activeRendererSuite, in the script. Now every time I save a Radio outline in my instantOutliner folder, or anywhere below the gems folder, an additional copy of the outline is saved in the outlines folder, and an HTML rendered copy is upstreamed immediately. [read more] [s l a m]

May 7, 2002

Sharon Hogan obit

I was looking in the New York Times on Saturday, and found a story that brought me up short: Sharon Hogan, UIC Librarian, had died at the age of 57.  Here's what the Chicago Sun Times said in her obiturary.

I knew Sharon from my time at CICNet.  CICNet was one of the early "regional networks" that made up what was then known as NSFNet.  CICNet was a creation of the Big 10 schools, who put in a proposal to NSF to  fund a network to tie the schools together.  ("CIC" stands for Committee on Instiutional Cooperation; "Big 10" is the athletic league, and CIC is the umbrella under which these schools cooperate on the academic side.)

Besides just providing a network, we worked hard to find projects to help the universities leverage this newly available connectivity, and one of the first and most enthusastic groups to embrace the Internet were the libraries.  Sharon Hogan was a leader in that community.

More than that, Sharon was just a neat person to be around.  She had no pretense, she was willing to talk, and she was someone who had ideas and the drive to see them through.  And she loved libraries.

Appropos, I wrote this entry using a public PC at a branch of the Dekalb County Public Library. 

Winer on programmers

May 6, 2002

Using Samba as a PDC

Using Samba as a PDC. You might think that Samba is useful because it allows Windows users to access files or printers on a Unix system. Indeed, Samba does this perfectly well, but that's only part of what this facility can do. [Linux Magazine]

May 3, 2002

Usability On The Cheap

Usability On The Cheap.

"You can't afford usability testing! ...Or can you? Suneet puts usable design in the hands of the masses as she explains discount usability techniques." [Usability News by]

I'm hoping to get in some usability testing on the current SLS web site in order to start planning for the future one, so I'll be reading the above article very carefully.

[The Shifted Librarian]

Segway rider injured: no film at 11

Here's a story that begs for more explanation: "Segway rider injured in Atlanta". Here's all the useful detail in the story: "The heralded Segway has claimed its first Atlanta victim. A member of the Central Atlanta Progress Ambassador Force toppled from one of the personal scooters on Cone Street near Luckie Street about 8:40 p.m. Thursday. The officer, whose name was not released, injured his knee going up a driveway onto the sidewalk, said Atlanta Police Sgt. Michael Giugliano. He was taken to Grady Hospital." Heavens, this is only a few blocks from CNN: why aren't they all over this?

Kellnor and AOL: the wrong tree

Ernest Miller produced a piece taking apart AOL's Jaime Kellner's views on the relationship between creators of content and consumers.  Kellner is the CEO of Turner Broadcasting, the part of AOL Time Warner that runs CNN and all the Turner television properties (TBS, Cartoon Network, TNT, etc.)  This is a painful piece for me to read, because I worked for CNN for five years, and when he started, I had some hope that he might be able to bring CNN back from the slow decline they've suffered over the past few years.  Kellner's comments suggest he's on the wrong track.

Companies like Turner can only succeed by giving people what they want.  News and entertainment aren't a commodity like oil that people have to use no matter what; if you get too far from consumers, they will bypass you. And Kellner's view here sound an awful like what he wants, not what consumers want. 

Years ago I used to like watching "thirtysomething,"  which was once described as a bunch of people sitting around whining "What about my needs?"  Kellner's comments strike me that same way.  Turner and AOL certainly have a right to make a profit, but  I think Kellner's on the wrong side of history on a number of these issues, and it doesn't bode well for Turner or AOL.

Experience using Personas

Taking the "you" out of user: My experience using personas is a wonderful little piece from Meg Hourihan, co-founder of Pyra - the company behind Blogger.  "Personas" are a concept from Alan Cooper that he describes in his book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the SanityInmates is one of my favorite books.

As described by Cooper, personas are a way of giving a face to potential users of software. Cooper suggests giving them a name, a backstory, and using them as as way to test your assumptions.  I.E.: "Mike is a 67 year old retired mechanic. He's not particularly computer-phobic, but he's not real savvy, either.  He's never been big on writing, and his spelling skills need help." What would Mike think of Radio?  (He'd probably be lost without a spelling checker.) 

Meg describes how their initial take on their target customers was radically changed after they used personas to try to think of how real users might approach their product.

From [Boxes and Arrows].

May 2, 2002

Law meets blog

Law Meets Blog: Electronic Publishing Comes of Age []. This recent article on, by Denise Howell, documents emerging best practices in web publishing for judges, lawyers, and courts, focusing on the use of simple weblog technology.   I read Denise's weblog, Bag and Baggage, regularly, and appreciate the opportunity to learn from her professional interests and explorations. [via Rory Perry's Radio Weblog]

Thanks for the catch, Rory. Denise writes a good article about how weblogging is capturing some significant momentum in the legal profession. Spread the word!

[tins ::: Rick Klau's weblog]

Internet and life

Cyber Scholars

"What I found, however, at the Digital Divides conference convened by the Pacific Regional Humanities Center at the University of California, Davis, was that the academic world has made quite a turnaround. In the 80s and early 90s there were a handful of university folk exploring topics like hypertext or the social impact of computers, but by now the topic of digital change has infiltrated every department from history and linguistics to art and psychology. The Digital Divides event was itself one of a series of three such conferences within the University of California system....

Alladi Venkatesh, of UC Irvine, looks at the results, rather than the roots, of the digital revolution: using ethnographic research techniques to study the impact of home networks and highly-wired communities on family life. For his research he has focused on a housing development called Ladera Ranch, in southern Orange County, where homes have 'IT nooks,' high-speech Internet access and the entire community of 2000 homes is interlinked with a common intranet. 'Unlike other appliances,' he notes, 'Americans haven’t yet figured out which room of the house the computer belongs in. This will be a very important time to study.'

His findings should interest Lee Rainie, head of the Pew Foundation’s ambitious Internet and American Life project, which for two years now has conducted in-depth polling to study how the Web is changing U.S. society. At Davis, Rainie presented some newer findings about the 70 million Americans currently not online. Of that number, fully 45 percent say they don’t believe they will ever go online, for reasons that include fear, cost issues—and 40 percent who simply say they don’t need it. Among the offline, 23 percent are disabled—a number underscoring the importance of Web site accessibility—and close to 20 percent are 'drop-outs' who once had Web access but no longer do. On the connected side, Rainie described the 63 percent of American teenagers who use instant messaging. Among them, 14 percent have used IM to ask for a date, 12 percent have broken off a relationship with IM, and 20 percent have shared their screen name and password with a 'best friend.' In the last instance, Rainie adds, often with unhappy consequences: 'Best friends don’t last forever in the teen world.' " [MSNBC]

You can view the whole conference program and even listen to some of the presentations. It sounds like it was a fascinating event! Emphasis throughout the article is mine.

Automating diagrams with Visio

Automating diagrams with Visio. By doing the demanding intellectual work first and then forcing the tools to succumb to need to produce seemingly speedy deliverables, you can get around the difficulty of choosing between "Good, Fast and Cheap." Here's one approach using Excel and Visio. [Boxes and Arrows]

May 1, 2002

Using CSS with radio