Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kids' Tech

While visiting with family for Christmas I asked my nieces if they used RSS. It seemed legitimate enough, since they are from a very metropolitan suburb of Atlanta and two of them live in Athens, GA...home of the University of Georgia. I figured if anyone knew about this stuff it'd be them. They didn't know what RSS was...or news...or Google Reader...or the orange box. I'm convinced it is still too difficult to use for the mainstream. The informal mini-survey just supported that feeling.

I also asked about Facebook. The answer was that it's a way to waste time instead of doing homework. My assessment is that it serves the same purpose as "the Mall" did 30 years ago. It's a place to hang out and talk to friends...albeit one extremely large mall.

I was also told of an instructor that "gets it." I had to ask what that meant. He was "able to relate" is the answer I got. It seems that's the phrase used when more than one person thinks the same way. It doesn't matter whether it's right or wrong, if people agree they think the other one "gets it." I wonder how often I've heard that applied to IT. Tech people tend to think everything we see is a nail just because we have a new hammer. In many cases, paper is all the information system a person needs. Paper is one very robust system for storing data. Any IT person that doesn't recognize that apparently "doesn't get it." :)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Reflecting and Forecasting about the Beloved RSS Feed

We haven't even begun to see the power of RSS feeds. The searching, sorting, re-using, and general acceptance of feeds are still in their infancy.

Remember when it required serious 'net savvy to find stuff on the WWW? Google (and other services to a lesser degree) changed that. Expect to see similar advances in the way we use RSS feeds. Web browsers (d)evolved to the point they are intuitive for the most computer illiterate user. The same will happen in feed reading, because the masses don't want to think about the technology. It should happen naturally, obviously, and intuitively. It shouldn't require hours of search, cut, paste, and re-type to find and download podcasts on a particular topic, for example. It's bound to happen, and reassuring to think it won't be Microsoft or Apple that makes this a user-centric technology. The Google Reader and iGoogle are making headway fast.

Losing Weight without Dieting

Standing will be priority one for losing weight easily. Regular exercise will be the primary regimine, but simply standing more and sitting less should help get things moving.

One of the first things I've learned as a lab rat in a weight loss study is that my perception of exercise isn't necessarily related to how many calories I'm burning. Heart rate was a much better indicator during my last exercise session. Sitting down decreases heart rate, which I do a lot since I spend so much time using a computer. Luckily, I have a notebook PC which works great while standing at our bar. The solution is obvious...more time at the bar! I wonder if that's how one of my co-workers avoids gaining weight too. :)

If standing and computing is something easy for you, I'd be curious to know if it makes a difference for you.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Presidential Election 2008

ABC News' Match-O-Matic for finding which Presidential candidate agrees with your personal views. Answer the questions and find your match.

I've done a good enough job avoiding all things political that I'm not sure who's even running, but it said Romney, Hunter, then Paul for me. All Republicans? Neat, but I probably have a better chance of winning *myself* on a private party ticket than any Republican. You make your bed, then you lie in it (pun intended).

The Demise of Google

Make a local copy of anything you have on any Google site. They'll be filing bankruptcy in a matter of days. How can I be so sure? I bought a share of GOOG stock. My track record with such things is impeccable.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

School Prayer

Another great irony...notice the upper right hand corner of this magazine. "A Christian View: Behind The Fight Against School Prayer." This is Look Magazine from June 18, 1963! Contrary to popular belief, this is not a new issue.

Behind the Wikipedia Controversy

Make no mistake about it, I love wikipedia. What makes it work is the passion that people have about their interests, and the general good nature of people. Ironically, that same passion is also its greatest problem.

I've been a part of a similar "experiment" for 10+ years. This experiment is simply a social network originated (and primarily maintained) via e-mail. The basic rules are that there are no rules. It is commonly agreed that we'll not show blatant disrespect for one another, but that occassionally takes a back seat to the passion. The result is an e-network vastly superior to any engineering reference I've ever known. I'd love to discuss the details, but for now it's better to get to the point.

Heaven only knows if there is validity to the Register's article about the secret mailing list of administrators behind Wikipedia , but the comments highlight the pros and cons of such a resource nicely.

Where this all ties together is in the behavior of people and their passions...more explicitly in the comment made by David Wiernicki, which I'll dub my quote of the year.

I am not an expert...
By David Wiernicki
Posted Tuesday 4th December 2007 02:25 GMT
...but my understanding of the Wikipedia project is that its strength comes from a vast number of people making small changes.

However, the process self-selects to self-destruction - to wit, people who have lots of free time get the most power. But those people are usually the ones who are involved in order to gain personal prestige - the antithesis of Wikipedia in the first place. They're experts in the expert-less community.

So the community automatically becomes run by unstable people who care more about their personal power than the results. And this becomes impossible to stop, because reasonable people by definition will not be obsessed enough to fight the tendency.

And therein lies the doom of a good idea.

I should clarify my interpretation of that to say that a passionate person's power and prestige is often simply ego. Eventually the "reasonable" contributor gives up the fight and becomes a foe to the project. It doesn't necessarily ruin the data, but it is a huge distraction. The typical result is division, with multiple that for good or bad.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


If if were rich and famous (or even poor and influential), I'd start my own term called "e-networking" to replace all the social crap being spewed about. Why do we need social networking, social bookmarking, social annotating, or social anything else? Doesn't the term "social" imply that it is not for business?

If it were up to me, I'd drop the social and make it electronic networking. It's really all about people building networks of relationships and using those relationships to share information. In other words, it is the electronic version of the same networking we've always done.

My kids' peers think it's funny to make up words. My peers (my e-network) will probably just laugh at me. :)

Zen, Dudes!

Zen Habits describes at least 2 reasons to blog (without saying so). If you blog, you can cover items 2 and 15 in their recent post entitled 15 Can’t-Miss Ways to Declutter Your Mind.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Web2.0 is Outdated is yet another video sharing site, but one that lets you add tags and comments inline with the video. More neat technology.

One video shared there is "How to Bluff Your Way In Web2.0" by Andy Budd and Jeremy Keith recorded at SXSW.

The video is a humorous look at web design aspects currently dubbed "Web2.0." You'll likely pick up a few new sites and terms, just in time for them to tell you that the term "Web2.0" has outlived its usefulness. It is now holding us back rather than moving us forward. When companies come to web designers asking for a "Web2.0 design" it means we have a problem. There is a website to create responses for those folks. It's called "The Web2.0 BS (sic) Generator." Just click the button and it'll give you terms to use in your presentations. :)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Facebook Gadget Brings New Hope

There is a gadget for displaying Facebook updates on your iGoogle page!

Anyone with a Google/Gmail account has the ability to create their own custom Google search page. It is called "iGoogle" and is a very customizable personal portal. "iGoogle" has Gadgets (aka widgets on other sites) for putting things like email and RSS feeds on our personal iGoogle page. The Facebook gadget means that you can get important data out of Facebook without having to go to the Facebook site directly. This is a beautiful discovery for those of us dying to see the "walled garden" philosophy of Facebook change.

The only problem with this type of solution is that it teaches users to enter do entirely the wrong thing. Namely, it wrongly teaches them that it is OK to enter a username and password somewhere other than the website from whence it came. That brings me to a third option, which is just to use a different password for every website's registration and use a password manager like password safe to handle the mess.

"Monte, I think I'll take what's behind door number 3."

I still hate Facebook, but maybe I'll miss fewer updates now. Once again Google saves the day.

Avoid Adobe (Macromedia) Contribute

The Contribute (web) Publishing System has huge shortcomings in any reasonably sized environment. The standard install uses unencrypted LDAP queries to authenticate with Active Directory. Plain text logins like this should have gone away years ago. Implementation of LDAPS for secure authentication in Contribute is done via arcane java commands.

Once you get a secure connection running you must ensure that the email address field in AD is complete. That's the (un-configurable) field used as the key in the CPS database to check a user's permissions.

The need for this configuration assumes that you can get the server to run at all. There seems to be some conflict between the Contribute service and the ColdFusion service when using a secure connection. The 2 services to not automatically restart when the server restarts.

Bottom line: avoid Contribute. There are better ways to allow a novice user to update a webpage without sacrificing the security of your entire network.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Will Facebook Adapt Faster Than AOL Did?

As we were doing our In-Service training last week I was reminded that we ('net users that is) are quickly moving toward an online experience that allows us to choose what news comes to us, esp via RSS technologies. We no longer take the time to visit our favorite websites to check for updates. How ironic was it that the next topic of training was about the popularity of Facebook as a social networking site. Facebook requires you to visit the site to find out your news. It tells me that some big changes are coming. Either Facebook will figure out how to adopt to a different business model, and will drop the walls around their garden, or they'll become the next AOL.