Thursday, 29 November 2007

“It’s Been 10 Years, You Still Amaze Me”

Today marks a decade of marriage for Jen and me.

Back then, I had no idea how dramatically our relationship would improve over the years. I didn’t know that we’d catch our stride 5 years in, nor how much easier that makes things.

Especially with the big stuff. All of which I owe to her.

Thank you.
I love you.

(oh, and yes, I’ve waited 4 years to reference the opening line from Wonderlicks’ ‘Right Crazy’)

Wednesday, 28 November 2007 – “takes the web2 out of feed readers and I love it.”

Arik Jones, one of the people I’ve asked to try for a week, wrote up his thoughts two-days in:

“Unlike Google Reader it doesn’t inundate you with useless UI elements….What I like the most about Cullect is the ability to recommend feeds and then being able to give friends a dead simple url. It takes the web2 out of feed readers and I love it.

Exactly what I’m aiming for. Thanks Arik.

As Arik mentions, if you can sign-in to right now if you have: a Twitter account, an openid, a WordPress-based blog, or a Typepad/MoveableType-based blog. While you don’t need to sign-in to read anything within Cullect, after signing in, you can send interesting posts to Twitter or to your weblog. The activation process Arik mentions is just for creating a new group of feeds.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Monday, 19 November 2007

Book Still Readable – Decades Later!

“If you’d have told me then that by 2007 the state of the art would barely have advanced beyond that of 1998, I’d have wept openly.” – Dave Slusher

If you fell into a coma when Business 2.0 had a roller coaster on the cover and woke up today, you’d have one more reason to double check the calendar. Amazon’s $400 Kindle eBook reader was announced today.

It feels exactly like all the eBook attempts over the last decade; ugly form-factor, proprietary DRM format, read-only, vendor-controlled titles, customers nickel-and-dimed after paying hundreds of dollars.

In other words – far more inconvenient and annoying than the media form it’s attempting to replace. Oh, and it’s Moore’s Law compliant? No thanks.

“What happens to these e-books if Amazon, having lost money on the endeavor, stops producing Kindle readers a few years from now?” – John Gruber

Damn good question. Sitting next to my Mac mini is a stack of CD just as tall. Decade-old backups of work, a substantial percentage of which is un-openable due to proprietary formats from long extinct companies and products. Compare that to the bookshelves of hardcovers and paperbacks I’ve moved with me for nearly two decades – all still fully functional.

If I could freely load up the ‘library’ of PDFs I’ve collected over the years or queue up some RSS feeds into Kindle, then maybe UPS and USPS should be concerned.

Unless you’re an eBook collector, there’s nothing to read.

Strib: Off-Topic, Uncredited, Fear-fanning, Ads

Reading the Strib’s Business section yesterday, I was reminded of Sesame Street’s “One of these things is not like the other” sketch. Here’s the story, can you guess which one doesn’t belong?

“Grounds for worry: Trouble’s brewing in the economy, if the news from the nation’s biggest coffee chains is any indication.

No. 2 player Caribou Coffee Co. Inc., based in Brooklyn Center, announced the unexpected departure of CEO Michael Coles, who spent the past two years overseeing an aggressive expansion that has yet to show results on the bottom line. Caribou is expected to see red ink of $1.01 per share this year and lose 63 cents per share next year.

More worrying, market leader Starbucks disclosed negative same-store traffic later in the week and took down its projections for ’08.

People don’t give up their high-end java for Maxwell House unless they’re feeling light in the wallet.”

That’s right, it’s the last sentence. Aside from free advertising for Kraft Foods there’s no reason to include it. It’s off-topic, uncredited, and simply continues to fan the ‘hell-in-a-handbasket’ attitude.

In addition, if these 5 sentences were actually news reporting, we’d see that Starbucks’ issues have little to do with people buying less coffee and more to do with the over-saturation.

“The concern is that the company has been adding locations so quickly that the new stores are cannibalizing the old ones…” – Janet Adamy, Wall Street Journal

Lastly, even if the dip in bottom-line growth in the Starbucks and Caribou wasn’t due to build-out, “Trading Up” could just as easily explain fewer sales as reaching for the lower quality coffee. Personally, I don’t remember the last time I stepped into a Starbucks, because I’ve found far-tastier and higher-priced coffee at Kopplin’s.

Thank goodness Black Monday is coming, the additional ad flyers should distract me from the paper itself.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Say When

When was the last time you – yes, you, specifically – thought, “I sure would enjoy [insert favorite publication] more if they inserted more advertisements.”

Thought so.

A friendly reminder that readers, viewers, fans, etc aren’t the people pushing and demanding advertisements.

“‘Deal with it’ doesn’t mean ‘Make better advertising’ or ‘Target your advertising more effectively’ or ‘Turn your users into marketers’ (which is Facebook’s latest idea). All that is just just more grasp.” – Doc Searls


“He knowingly took multiple ads for a movie that he he hasnt seen, but believes to be vile. What does that say about Mr OReilly?” – Mark Cuban

For Cuban to know O’Reilly dislikes the movie, O’Reilly would have had to mention it (not an ad?), Cuban buys some ad time to see how much (relevance?). Think O’Reilly’s fans would miss this conversation if it went away completely?

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Rails Cheap, MySQL Expensive

This is an update to earlier post on Performance and MySQL Indexes.

While 10-12 seconds per feed is an improvement, it’s completely unacceptable when we’re talking 2,000+ feeds (full parse would take 5.5 hours) and slow down the system to unusable.

In an attempt to find the bottlenecks, I loaded up the query_analyzer plugin on development and opened up a terminal window to watch the processes in production via prstat -Z1.

Both showed me the database – not the Rails app itself – was the slow one2.

I was able to get the average per feed parse time under 5 seconds by doing two things:

  1. re-writing the straight find_by_sql queries to use JOIN ... ON ... rather than the clumsy ...WHERE = b.a_id AND = c.b_id AND etc.... Why not use Rails’ find helpers? I wasn’t able to track down how to :include multiple tables/models
  2. Compare the feed’s last-modified date against the last-checked date in the database prior to running it through the parser.

Both of them are ‘duuuuh’ improvements, easily cutting the CPU burden of my database process in a third, often down to barely noticeable.

UPDATE 2 Dec 2007
Continued refactoring now has the average feed parse time around 3 seconds. Yes, that means in some instances I’m seeing 5+ feeds / second.

1. This monitoring process is now my biggest burden. 🙂
2. I’m sure any reasonably experienced Rails developer says this throughout the day.

China Restates Earnings

“…with the corrected China [Purchasing Power Parity] statistics, the whole question is moot. China is just not that big now and will not get that big any time soon.” – Albert Kiedel of the Carnegie Endowment

Kiedel’s article put a number of things into perspective for me – namely why I hear ‘China, China, China’ everywhere I go (like I heard ‘India, India, India’ a couple years back) – China is trying damn hard to pull itself out of poverty.

With the restated numbers, more than 500 million Chinese1 live below the dollar-a-day poverty line.

Makes me want to give them a hand and outsource something to them.

Thanks to Angus @ Kids Prefer Cheese

1. 37% of China’s population. As a reference point, the entire US population is a hair over 300 million with 12% in poverty .

Thursday, 8 November 2007

If We Can’t Share Nothing








How many times have you had that conversation?


Banality in less than 140 characters is the foundation of our social interaction. It safely builds the trust required for a longer, more engaging exchange.

If we can’t share the meaningless, what can we share?

“Part of the power of Twitter is that, among all of these social tools we use to communicate on the Web, this is the one that truly feels social…I truly feel as though I’ve established some sense of a relationship with certain people.” – Mike Keliher

Then Mike says nice things about me. Twitter-hug.