November 2009 Archives

Ignite Seattle on 12/1 (tomorrow): iPhone Apps, Ben Franklin and Rubik's Cube

The 8th Ignite Seattle is this Tuesday, 12/1. We've got an amazing set of speakers and fun opening activity. We are once again at the King Cat Theatre in Downtown Seattle. Doors open at 7PM. The contest will start at 7:30 and the talks will begin at 8:30. You can track Ignite Seattle updates at Here is our list…

What Would Jane Austen Have Twittered?

After the recent Web 2.0 Expo NY–a sprawling, week-long conference and exhibition–I ducked into the Morgan Library to catch “A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy.” A one-room show about an 18th century novelist seemed like the perfect antidote to a week of tech talk in the Death Star Javits Center. As I’d hoped, the Morgan focuses on a handful of objects from Austen’s life, and the commentary is thoughtful. I was surprised, though, to find myself thinking that had Twitter been around in Austen’s time (1775-1817), she would likely have been a fan.

Steve Souders: Making Web Sites Faster in the Web 2.0 Age

How huge JavaScript libraries, rich content, and lame ad servers are slowing the web down

As much as anything else, a user’s impression of a web site has to do with how fast the site loads. But modern Web 2.0 websites aren’t your father’s Oldsmobile. Chocked full of rich Flash content and massive JavaScript libraries, they present a new set of challenges to engineers trying to maximized the performance of their sites. You need to design your sites to be Fast by Default. That’s the theme of the upcoming Velocity Online Conference, co-chaired by Google performance guru Steve Souders. Souders is the author of High Performance Web Sites and Even Faster Web Sites, and spent some time discussing the new world of web site performance with me.

Four short links: 30 November 2009

Four short links: 30 November 2009

Paywall Performance, News Decisions, Sony Subsidising US Supercomputer, Invisible Open Source Business Model

  1. Paywall Performance for News — the National Business Review (NBR) in New Zealand went to a paywall in mid-July, and Foo Camper Lance Wiggs says their visitor numbers reveal a grim picture. As a commenter says, of course, visitor numbers go down but NBR makes money directly from the visitors that stay. I’m curious to see the effect on advertisers now the site’s incentives are not to spray their load far and wide to land on as many eyeballs as possible. An interesting canary in the mine for Rupert’s paywall plans at Fox.
  2. Real Time, Real Discussion, Real Reporting: Choose Two (CrunchGear) — a long post about the Internet’s effects on journalism, but the headline will stick with me the longest.
  3. Sony Still Subsidizing US Supercomputer Efforts — US military buying PS3s as a cheap source of cell CPUs. The PS3’s retail price is subsidized by Sony, driving game sales in a razor-blades model. It’s like you could melt down razors and get more in scrap metal than they cost to buy at the supermarket … (via BoingBoing)
  4. Open Source Proves Elusive as Business Model (NYTimes) — To Ms. Kroes’s point, there is an open-source alternative, and usually a pretty good one, to just about every major commercial software product. In the last decade, these open-source wares have put tremendous pricing pressure on their proprietary rivals. Governments and corporations have welcomed this competition. Whether open-source firms are practical as long-term businesses, however, is a much murkier question. On the contra side, Mozilla makes millions from referred searches and must be counted as a win for open source even though it’s not a company.

Washington Newseum stresses individual heroism, downplays economics and social context

The Washington DC Newseum is an experience worth the entrance fee, and a capacious view into the profession that it honors. The history exhibit boasts history-making front pages throughout the life of our country, and the First Amendment exhibit brought tears to my eyes. But a lot was missing from the Newseum too, and I didn't think the omissions were just something they'll get to later. It gives short shrift to journalism's economics, influence on society, and technology.

Four short links: 27 November 2009

Four short links: 27 November 2009

3D Models from Webcams, a Javascript Scheme, EMACS in Your Browser, and CS History

  1. ProFORMA — software which builds a 3D model as you rotate an object in front of your webcam. Check out the video below. (via Wired)
  2. BiwaScheme — a Scheme interpreter written in Javascript. (via Hacker News)
  3. YMacs — in-browser EMACS written in Javascript. Emacs, for those of you who were left in any doubt, is the only editor ever created by software engineers worth a damn (where “worth a damn” == “has possibly already achieved sentience”) with the possible exception of teco.
  4. Historic Documents in Computer Science — my eye was caught by John Backus’s first FORTRAN manual, Niklaus Wirth’s original Pascal paper, the BCPL reference manual (the C programming language got its name from the C in BCPL), and Eckert and Mauchly’s ENIAC patent. (via Hacker News)

Four short links: 26 November 2009

Four short links: 26 November 2009

Ed Data, Robot Talk, Gorgeous Web Layout, and Copyright Laws

  1. 1 in 3 Schools — visual exploration of education data is the latest BERG project, and they’ve found a new application for a cute visualization and they’re calling the result Chernoff Schools. Recommended reading for those interested in visualization or education.
  2. The Robots Podcast — self-explanatory. (via So Where’s My Robot?)
  3. Dive Into HTML 5 (Mark Pilgrim) — absolutely gorgeous layout. The first thing I’ve seen that makes me want HTML 5. (Apparently O’Reilly will be publishing it when it’s finished. Yay, us!)
  4. Copyright Watch — a repository of national copyright laws.
Four short links: 25 November 2009

Four short links: 25 November 2009

Sexy HTTP Parser, 9/11 Pager Leaks, Open Source Science, GLAM and Newspapers

  1. http-parserThis is a parser for HTTP messages written in C. It parses both requests and responses. The parser is designed to be used in performance HTTP applications. It does not make any allocations, it does not buffer data, and it can be interrupted at anytime. It only requires about 128 bytes of data per message stream (in a web server that is per connection). Extremely sexy piece of coding. (via sungo on Twitter)
  2. Wikileaks to Release 9/11 Pager Intercepts — they’re trickling the half-million messages out in simulated real time. The archive is a completely objective record of the defining moment of our time. We hope that its revelation will lead to a more nuanced understanding of the event and its tragic consequences. (via cshirky on Twitter)
  3. Promoting Open Source Science — interesting interview with an open science practitioner, but also notable for what it is: he was interviewed and released the text of the interview himself because his responses had been abridged in the printed version. (via suze on Twitter)
  4. Copyright, Findability, and Other Ideas from NDF (Julie Starr) — a newspaper industry guru attended the National Digital Forum where Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums talk about their digital issues, where she discovered that newspapers and GLAMs have a lot in common. We can build beautiful, rich websites till the cows come home but they’re no good to anyone if people can’t easily find all that lovely content lurking beneath the homepage. That’s as true for news websites as it is for cultural archives and exhibitions, and it’s a topic that arose often in conversation at the NDF conference. I’ve been cooling on destination websites for a while. You need to have a destination website, of course, but you need even more to have your content out where your audience is so they can trip over it often and usefully.

Velocity 2010: Fast By Default

We’re entering our third year of Velocity, the Web Performance & Operations Conference. Velocity 2010 will be June 22-24, 2010 in Santa Clara, CA. It’s going to be another incredible year. Steve Souders & I have set a new theme this year, “Fast by Default”. We want the broader Velocity community & to adopt it as a shared mission & mantra. The reason for this is simple.

Four short links: 24 November 2009

Four short links: 24 November 2009

Pwned by English, Scammy Christmas, TechCrunch Design, Facebook Numbers

  1. English Shellcode (PDF) — paper presented at ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, showing how to encode arbitrary x86 shell code (the payload in a malware or other attack that elevates privileges and pwns your machine) as something that looks, at first glance, to be English text. Impressive piece of work. (via Slashdot)
  2. The Twelve Scams of Christmas (McAfee) — a press release, but one to send to all your civilian (non-computer-professional) friends. Scam IV: The Dangers of Holiday E-Cards. Cyber thieves cash in on consumers who send holiday e-cards in an effort to be environmentally conscious. Last holiday season, McAfee Labs discovered a worm masked as Hallmark e-cards and McDonald’s and Coca-Cola holiday promotions. Holiday-themed PowerPoint e-mail attachments are also popular among cybercriminals. Be careful what you click on.
  3. TechCrunch Deconstructed — analysis of TechCrunch’s design, talking about what works and what might be problematic. Boxing in the ad around a piece of content helps increase click-through. The logo however doesn’t offer much in terms of actions and is likely to reduce the click-through. (via Brady)
  4. Bebo to Shut Down in Australia — I don’t care about Bebo, but this astonished me. “It’s just phenomenal,” said Nielsen Online’s director of analytics, Mark Higginson. “Every time I run those numbers I have to double check. Australians are spending nearly a third of all their time browsing the internet on Facebook alone.”