Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Data Mine

Yesterday, I was listening to Bruce Schneier’s talk at DefCon 15. As always, fantastic. While some of it was familiar, one new bit I picked up from him is the legal ramifications of not owning the data we create. We don’t know when it’s being used for secondary purposes.

“And the 4th Amendment doesn’t work to protect our privacy (secure our person and papers) when our papers are not in our desks, they’re in our SMS messages, ISPs and Google, etc.” – Bruce Schneier

Ouch. I’m not sure lack of Constitutional protection is mentioned in ‘I agree to the terms and conditions’. Puts a whole different price tag on ‘free’ services.

It also helps me better grok the Vendor Relationship Managment project Doc Searls is heading. If individuals control their data – the chances of massive data breaches1 seem less likely, as do the Facebooks. Plus, individuals start to have some idea of the market value of their information. Hint – it’s greater than zero.


“How much of my data are you letting me control today? That’s pretty much all that matters to anyone, imho. – Dave Winer”

“I don’t deal with applications, I deal with data” – John Gruber, Daring Fireball

“Braininess is open data standards and protocols, not free APIs that trap data and developers in the holding pens of big companies. Sorry, did that in the 1990s.” – David Young, Joyent

P.S. For those of you playing along at home: BINGO!

1. Techdirt does a great job of tracking this issue.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

First Crack 104. The Moustache Rangers on a Podcast

I was forced out of my podcasting hiatus by the The Moustache Rangers, a highly-entertaining, improv’ed, space-comedy duo. Aric (also of MakeMeWatchTV and LeastDangerousGame fame) and Cory share the backstory of the Rangers, the mythos of the Great Moustache, and the emotional power of guacomole.

If like me, you’re a fan of Teknikal Diffikulties, you’ll probably dig TMR. It’s a great mix of improv, parody, and low tech.

The Moustache Rangers will be performing live at the Brave New Workshop‘s Improv-a-go-go on Sunday, November 18, 8pm. $1.

Listen to The Moustache Rangers on a Podcast [30 min].

Saturday, 27 October 2007

RSS Everywhere:

Rex Hammock confirms Mac OS X 10.5’s supports reading RSS. While I’ve yet to see Apple implement RSS in a smart way, RSS in proves RSS support will be ubiquitous.

Just as I mentioned last month.

Can’t wait to see if is a better podcast-receiver than iTunes.

If you’ve got Leopard installed – is it easy to dynamically add an RSS item (title, link, etc) to an email sig dynamically?

Tyler Cowen Mostly Cloudly on

Ben and I have been exchanging late-night previews of our respective side projects for a while now.

The idea behind Ben’s project – asks, can we turn the weather into Wikipedia? (Wisdom of the clouds – hehe).

Will we get better weather predictions from it? Dunno. From what I’ve seen of the site, it’ll be fun trying.

Tyler Cowen gets all uncov on Ben:

“I predict this will fail — how many government agencies already work at predicting the weather?”

I’m glad we got out of the way even before launch.

Friday, 26 October 2007

I’ll Be Back

AJ gave me call today wondering when there was going to be another First Crack podcast. Thanks AJ!

The answer – Soon. I hope. I’ve been working on a new podcast receiver app, which is eating up all my podcast production time.

Then there’s the bit about needing some new inspiration. There’s something new fermenting. I’m excited about it, but more excited about what I’m calling a ‘feed curator’.

Until then, I’ll be posting at and on Twitter.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

REST-less with link_to

This week, I file my first major complaint with Rails.

I was innocently running tests and tweakings some views – when I discovered function that should work longer did.

A little background, my app is filled with routes the make the URLs more contextually appropriate and memorable than the standard REST URL construction. If you have any Rails experience – you can see the problem with using the link_to helper

Rails likes to turn this:
< %= link_to 'Edit', :controller => 'items', :action => 'edit', :id => '1' %>
into this:

Now my standard routes are more like this:

If I do something like this, consistent with how my routes are structured:
< %= link_to 'Edit', :controller => 'items', :action => 'edit', :item_name => 'name_of_item_1' %>
link_to doesn’t pick up the item_name. If I throw other variables into the mix, say to pre-pop some attributes, link_to grabs it’s 3 perferred variables and forgets the rest.

Makes me feel like link_to is a lot like scaffolding: great for getting things up and running quickly, but something you want to clear out once you get serious.

Where are the Good Minnesota Business Blogs?

I asked twitter about good MN business blogs and Mike Keliher mentioned the new Twin Cities Business Magazine site, while it’s not wholly a blog, there’s an editor’s blog and a very short list of local business blogs, including Graeme Thickins’ blog.

I’m not confident in getting the whole story from a single source, so who else needs to be on the list?

Add links in the comments and I’ll put together an aggregation.


Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Kongrats to Kris with a K

Since the beginning of podcasting I’ve looked to Kris Smith to make a go of it professionally in a way that feels right (selling services) verses some of the smarmier approaches I’ve seen (CPM, shoehorning the broadcast network model).

Today, Kris announced he’s leaving Room 214, the marketing firm he joined at the beginning of the year.

There’s a conversation started about re-invorgating podcast-o-land – and I’d keep an eye on Kris if you want to see how it’s done in a smart way.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Passing Sessions and Referers in Rails Functional Tests

So, you’ve set up your Rails app to present different views to authenticated people verses non. Now, how do you test functionality for the authenticated people?

Seems silly to have your tests sign in before checking whatever it is you want them to check.

Well, pass the session data in the test as a hash. Turns out the action tests are formatted like this:
method :action, {action variables hash}, {session variables hash}
Pretty straight-forward, except the session variables need to be passed as ‘strings’, not :symbols.
This works:
post :add_member, {:email => '', :group => '1'}, {'person_id' => '1'}

This doesn’t
post :add_member, {:email => '', :group => '1'}, {:person_id => '1'}

A less than intuitive distinction that I’ve bumped into before with cookies

Also a big thanks to Jon @ Ruby Nuggets for the tip passing referers info in the tests:
@request.env['HTTP_REFERER'] = 'http://foo'
not the @request.referer = ‘http://foo’ that I assumed.