Entries for October, 2006

It takes 10 years to become proficient at anything: (Source)

Researchers (Hayes, Bloom) have shown it takes about ten years to develop expertise in any of a wide variety of areas, including chess playing, music composition, painting, piano playing, swimming, tennis, and research in neuropsychology and topology. There appear to be no real shortcuts: even Mozart, who was a musical prodigy at age 4, took 13 more years before he began to produce world-class music. In another genre, the Beatles seemed to burst onto the scene with a string of #1 hits and an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. But they had been playing small clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg since 1957, and while they had mass appeal early on, their first great critical success, Sgt. Peppers, was released in 1967. Samuel Johnson thought it took longer than ten years: "Excellence in any department can be attained only by the labor of a lifetime; it is not to be purchased at a lesser price." And Chaucer complained "the lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne."
Posted by roy on October 2, 2006 at 11:56 AM in Ramblings | 4 Comments

I'm still updating my portfolio here - I just haven't paid any attention to it lately so there have been no updates. I found myself with some cash after liquidating some positions a few weeks ago (TXU), so I got boring and bought some SPY yesterday @ $133.10.

Posted by roy on October 3, 2006 at 08:55 AM in Finances | 1 Comments

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo is a valid sentence (wow).

And this Chinese poem is filled with homophones:

Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.
Posted by roy on October 3, 2006 at 03:33 PM in Ramblings | 1 Comments

jessica biel's ass

i find that entries with pictures of gorgeous women are more likely to be read than entries with just ... well, words.

north korea and its psycho leader kim jong-il have recently been in the news for declaring that they will resume nuclear testing. there is nothing to fear, guy. nothing at all.

there is a fantastic movie called stealth which alleviated all fears about the north korean military. in a scene from this movie, our protagonist jessica biel is stuck behind north korean lines. she is crawling, trying to make her way to the south korean side of the dmz. the north koreans spot her and start shooting at her.

now, take a good look at her 'tocks. how can you MISS something like that? these are military guys with huge (semi-?) automatic guns ("big boys with big toys") and they can't hit jessica biel, much less her gorgeous, shapely 'tocks.

how can you fear a country whose infantry can't "hit that"? i, for one, am not too worried about the north koreans. they'll probably fire a shitload of nukes at us and end up hitting france by accident.

Posted by roy on October 4, 2006 at 01:16 AM in Ramblings, Foolishness | 7 Comments

So if you're adventurous, you can take a look at the new control panel (link will be below) and see what direction I'm taking the control panel. I wouldn't suggest it for daily use yet - there are still a lot of bugs left and a few features that haven't been fully implemented (hit logging / tagboards), and the adding entry is still incomplete (no pinging, no xposting, no "saving" of settings).

This control panel upgrade, nearly a year in the making (this is actually the third private iteration of the control panel, I scrapped two rewrites before) is only a small step for me. The biggest goal I was aiming for is to simplify the UI and to make management of your content easier - almost every view now has checkboxes so you can delete content much faster.

Here is some new features in the control panel (note that certain features have not been updated on your www.tabulas.com/~site/ views like the gallery!):

  1. Nested gallery albums (a few months in the making)
  2. Ability to tag your links and an easy bookmarklet so adding links to your Tabulas account is easy (i plan on really doing some cool stuff with link management, so start populating your links page with some content!)
  3. Ability to back-up your galleries
  4. Automatic backup of a RSS version of your journal (both both backup features are disabled for today, I'll get them back up tonight)

The bigger changes are more along the UI front:

Here is a screenshot from the usericon management screen. Most of all screens will look this way from now on: a checkbox, the name of the item in bigger text, and supplementary information beneath the name of the item. Individually actionable items (Edit and Delete) will be located to the far right. If you scroll down on any given page, you'll also see the ability to check all checkboxes and delete all items.  

I've tried to cut down on unnecessary page reloads; the first step was simply the edit screen for any item. Clicking "Edit" on any icon will bring up this screen w/o reloading:


This whole inline dialog thing was the biggest "new" thing I had tried on listfoo that I liked, so I'm going to adapt it extensively into Tabulas' UI. In the future, I want to run ajax queries so the Delete Confirmation pages are also being generated inline - there really is no need to be reloading new pages for that. 

Before accessing the new control panel, please understand and read these warnings:

  • Understand this is an actual work in progress - things may break at any time. If things break, go to the older control panel and fix your problem
  • This is not even remotely done - I expect there to be at least another month of work to be done before I feel it's ready to replace the existing control panel
  • Please feel free to report bugs, problems, and suggestions as comments in any control panel-related post. Please refrain from posting control panel problems in non-control panel posts :)
  • If you're looking to be blown away, you'll be dissappointed. This is a serious work-in-progress. If you want to get the whole experience, just wait a month and give it a whirl then! :)
  • This thing has only been tested for FireFox in Mac; it should work fine in FireFox for Windows. All other browsers, beware. I haven't had time to do stability testing on other browsers!
Posted by roy on October 4, 2006 at 03:27 PM in Web Development, Tabulas | 5 Comments

I've begrudgingly accepted solitude as an inevitable part of my life. The hardest part of doing things alone is finding validation. I tend to hold myself to unrealistically high expectations, and I'm always doubting the decisions I've made. I'm not sure if I'm over this whole phase in my uncertainty in my life, but I do feel like in the past few weeks I've made definite progress in not being mired in such self-doubt. Why is bringing comfort to myself so difficult?

. . .

Ugh, looks like the spammers decided that my temporary victory over spam was short-lived. They've now turned to registering accounts and abusing the skinning feature to redirect to a site of their choice. They then send out the Tabulas URL when they spam, which makes Tabulas look bad. The thing is that they're actually validating the accounts, so a human is registering, clicking through the email, and then going to the skinning page and creating a new template to redirect.

The only way I can battle this one is to make my template parser smarter and to manually check all new user registrations on a given day. Ugh, more time.

Posted by roy on October 4, 2006 at 11:32 PM in Personal, Ramblings | 8 Comments

Ok, I have a weekend project! It's been a while since I've had a small project I can hack out in a short period of time (listfoo was probably the last one, and that sucker took like two weeks or something).

So the idea I have is a site called swarmf. The 'f' is silent (because swarm.com was taken) and stands for "f-uck you domain squatters for taking all the good domain names".

The idea of this site is to allow an organizer to create a page about a topic that he can share with other users. The organizer organizes links and images (and can annotate them with notes) and organizes the page. A very simple concept.

The more specific scenario I have involves my inability to keep up with current events. I read somewhere that a Congressman is embroiled in a sexual scandal. How do I quickly find out about this topic? The short answer is that it's pretty tough to do that. You can browser Technorati (if it's working) for all relevant blog posts, but that's time consuming. Wikipedia tends to be pretty quick (WikiNews too), but editing those is not easy, and they're not under control.

In a sense, the organizer becomes the "expert" on the topic and displays links that match his/her point of view. Opinions are always slanted, so I'm not trying to fix this problem. If someone is obviously biased, somebody else will create a swarm page with the counterpoint.

The system will also store snapshots of each page over time, so you can see the evolution of annotations/notes/links on a given topic. For something like Hurricane Katrina, it could provide a really nice entrypoint for people to see what's happening.

So it's a very simple idea. I won't get into the details right now. I registered the domain, and I'm setting up the server stuff now. I'm going to start scripting out the site. My goal is to get the basic functionality done by Saturday night (since I still have to work at my job tomorrow). I'll work out design issues Sunday morning and hopefully by Sunday night I'll have the launch.

Edit @ 2:42AM: Domain name registered, nameservers updated, pointing to my DNS host, and DNS host is pointing to my server, which has the account set-up. Woot.

Edit @ 3:30AM: Got the database structure up. It's pretty simple, a lot of serialized data going in there cause I'm lazy. I've decided to use Pear's DB module and a Pear Sessions module so I don't have to deal with that crap. I'm going to write a quick wrapper for the DB module cause I hate handwriting SQL. Once this site's done, I'll release it under the WTFPL license (assuming that this doesn't conflict with the Pear modules, I'm assuming not).

Edit @ 4:24AM: Spent the last hour fussing with my Mac, getting PHP, Pear, and mySQL all set-up so I can do all this work locally. Getting pretty tired, I gotta get at least 4 hours of sleep for work tomorrow... unless I take a vac day...

Edit @ 5:20AM: Database query generator done. Pear::DB looks like a decent way tot handle DB connections, so I'll use that.

Edit @ 7:00AM: Christ, I need to get a few hours of shut-eye before work. Maybe I'll just take a vac day today. I started coding the User library; I'm mostly just getting familiar with the PEAR libraries. Things are looking good.

Posted by roy on October 5, 2006 at 11:31 PM in Projects | 1 Comments

I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but this commercial is really great:

It's probably the Royksopp in the background.

Posted by roy on October 6, 2006 at 06:59 AM in Ramblings | 7 Comments

A quote from me yesterday: "Yep, I'm sleeping well."

Needless to say, I ate my words by pulling an all-nighter last night, then managing to (barely) stay awake at my job today. Good thing Friday's are a bit slack!

I've got a weekend project I'm working on (HK1997, you weren't supposed to see that post, oops!) which is pretty exciting. I don't get excited about ideas very often, but I think this thing is gonna be really nice.

I also managed to fix up some more Tabulas spam issues - I've stripped all javascript scripting from content pages as well as from entries - there should be no reason you need JS in either.

I'll be disabling javascript in templating for free users shortly as well. This should put a stop to all those user spammers - surprisingly I've been getting a lot of emails from people who are the target of spamming - it's been a great boon to know which accounts to shut down. Special thanks to miniangel for sending me a comprehensive list of spammers (did you go through the directory or SOMETHING, wow!) as well!

The community is starting to clean up nicely now :)

Posted by roy on October 6, 2006 at 03:14 PM in Tabulas | 1 Comments

Unfortunately, there's been little work. I was pretty wiped after work yesterday, so I only got a small amount of programming done. However, the small amount was the core of the page / item / user libraries, so the important parts are done. The devil's in the details, which takes the most time. I copied some libraries over from Tabulas, and I found them generally inadequate, so I've been rewriting some stuff over, which means I'll have to merge those changes back into the Tabulas branch at some point. Oh, the joys of never being happy with one's work :)

Right now I'm working on creating some graphical views for the site - this is where I usually have the most trouble. Programming is so straight forward - you have a goal, and you know how to get to the end. The method isn't always the same, but you have a clear sense of beginning and end. Not so with design; I always find myself tweaking something to try something new. This continual tweaking leads to productivity paralysis, so I've got to make an effort to not get so caught up in the details today. Today is all about getting the gui up - I've only been testing the code from the command line ("Let me input this data... and it's output correctly here, nice!").

Today's goal: Get the basic design of the site done. Flesh out the details of the URI entrypoints for the site (I'm going to try to keep everything at one URL with multiple GET access points - which smells a lot of frameworkitis.

I also need to design on the way the public view of each page is gonna be done ... originally I wanted to just do a simple reverse chronological view (like a blog), but that doesn't seem powerful enough. Where I'm gravitating more towards is allowing more functionality that will let users basically create the front page of a newspaper. Allow users to move articles around and format everything nicely. I'm leaning towards using three columns and letting users updates in 'boxes.' in those columns. Hmm...

Posted by roy on October 7, 2006 at 12:39 PM in Projects | Add a comment

To break up the monotony of the working weekend, here is something that distracted me for about an hour:

  • panthers (-8), saints (-7), lions (+7)
  • chiefs (-3.5), rams (-3), saints (-7), titans/indy u48
  • titans/indy u48, saints (-7), bears (-10.5), chiefs (-3.5), niners (-3.5)
  • rams (-3), saints (-7), titans/indy u48

Woo, that was fun. I'm showing the Saints some mad love. Love me back, y'all! Back to work.

Posted by roy on October 7, 2006 at 03:41 PM in Foolishness | 2 Comments

I threw up a quick page that'll be good enough to for the first launch:

My screenshots tend to be a bit cluttered and disorganized - with my timeline, my mockups tend to be little more than a computerized version of sketches I make. This is enough for me to generate some graphics and to flesh out the details in the markup layer.

I got this design done about 5pm; between dinner, Law and Order SVU, I wrapped up the initial CSS/HTML markup (viewable here). Here's the checklist I ran through to make sure the design was good to go:

  • It degrades nicely w/o CSS (I'm trying my best to make this as mobile-accessible from the get-go as possible).
  • It works on the PC browsers: Opera, Firefox, and Internet Explorer
  • It works when you disable image loading
  • Validated CSS and XHTML

As an added bonus, this thing only weighs in at 24K! People from 1998 could use this site ;)

I made extensive use of the image replacement technique and spriting of the rollovers - the tabs are all from one big image, and I use background-position to position them. This works much better than creating each image individually because it cuts down on HTTP requests; for stuff like the logo rollover, you also don't have to wait for the image to load (which is problematic cause it shows the text behind the image).

IE will always b0rk somewhere - in this case, the lack of mix/max-width support (which defines how small/wide a website can be when you drag the browser window around) forced me to create a conditional IE stylesheet to handle that case. I've never been a fan of putting CSS hacks in the master CSS file (for validation reasons, but also because it makes figuring out errors much harder).

Once I'm done with all the work on my PC platform, I'm going to test it and spruce it up a bit for Mac's Safari and Firefox. Now that the design is mostly done, I have to plug it into my existing code and make sure the forms look pretty! Fun times!

Now that I put on my designer/markup hat on for today, it's time I get back into programming ...

One of the issues I've been mulling over today is how to allow authors of swarms to present their data. Like I posted earlier, I really don't want to allow it to look like a blog - I want it to resemble more of a newspaper front-spread. The problem is compounded because I want the design to stretch from 800x600 resolutions to the max width (1024x768). What happens when you have 3 columns @ 250pixels each and you want to embed a 300pixel static item? I think images will be easy to handle - I can add a parser to convert the image to a background image and then cut out the parts that extend beyond the width of a column; videos become tricker (especially ones from YouTube). Videos come in at 450px, which means the column has to be at least 450pixel or everything risks breaking... decisions decisions.

Posted by roy on October 7, 2006 at 08:36 PM in Projects | Add a comment

Today I finished up the basic functionality of the site - that involved taking my design from yesterday and integrating it with all the proper views with the site. This means there's a basic graphical interface to the site now. As you can see from the screenshots below, it's *very* rough:

The "what clippings are in a given swarm?" view

A basic form

The publicly viewable page for a swarm

You can tell these are really rough and unpolished - now that the functionality is there (both in the GUI and in the programming), what I'm going to do tomorrow is spend tomorrow making the user interface more streamlined. My original concept for having multiple tabs (you can see "manage", "add", "edit" and "create") is making the site navigation horrible (because to edit an item, you need to click "manage", then "edit"), so I need to simplify the interface some more.

Tomorrow I will also start adding in some inline dialogs (those little popups I've come to love!) to the site so there aren't so many unnecessary page view.

Today I decided some site terminology: Each main page will be called a "swarm topic" while each item within the "swarm topic" will be called a "clipping." Swarm is a bit of an ambiguous term, which means I may go with calling it something more general and vague, but I'm not sure yet.

Tomorrow I'll also tackle the hardest part of the project - allowing a user to modify the publicly viewable page. It's going to require some Javascript trickery...

And I need to finish up the user account functionality and login/logout functionality as well.

Seems like this was a wee bit longer than a weekend project... I guess I'm just a slow developer :P

Posted by roy on October 9, 2006 at 02:59 AM in Projects | Add a comment

Monopoly's back at McDonald's. This time, you need to buy a Premium Chicken Sandwich to get Best Buy dollars or two game pieces. Here's hoping to winning $5mil dollar - Mickey D's got smart and got rid of those trashy prizes that nobody wanted and are just offering flat out cash prizes for collecting monopoly on any of the sets. The four railroads net you the biggest prize now - $5 mil! The rare railroad is Short Line... soo.....

... time to destroy my liver with some bad fast food! ;)

I'm so exhausted right now - I've exited the weekend much more fatigued than I was entering it ... but it'll all be over soon... soon ... soon... I had a weekend project that I've been working on non-stop since Friday evening. Should be ready by Tuesday or Wednesday. Cool. Sleep time ... I feel like I'm gonna be so dead fo rwork tomorrow... ahh!

Posted by roy on October 9, 2006 at 03:02 AM in Ramblings | 5 Comments

Phew, thank goodness I got all that socializing out of the way today. I can now return to being the ultimate hermit!

. . .

Wow, Google just bought YouTube for $1.6 billion. Makes sense to me. Looks like I get to catch the second dot.com boom.

Posted by roy on October 9, 2006 at 09:59 PM in Foolishness | 3 Comments

Talk about being obvious:

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Who's the guy who said: "Hey, let's make people really thirsty while visiting our site?

. . .

When did webshots get not-so-crappy?.

Posted by roy on October 10, 2006 at 05:57 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

Call me jealous, but the video that the co-founders of YouTube posted after announcing the $1.6 billion (in stock) buyout has a high quotient of SMUG.

When I first Borst to this video, his first comments were: "Uh, is this a parody? They come across as rather... uninspiring..."

Sadly, it is not a parody, although this video would be ripe for parody. Just imagine what they could REALLY say:

"Hi YouTube! Before jetting off to go house-hunting in the Hollywood Hills, we wanted to shoot you guys this video. It's the least we could do! We've got EXCITING news today for us! We've been ... acquired by Google! For $1.6 billion in stock (fake) money!

Yeah guys, thanks so much for uploading tons of those Numa Numa videos and tons of copyrighted content! Who knew it was worth so much! I know we had to put up a front later on to take down those Will Ferrell SNL sketches (it was so much cheaper than hiring a law firm), but it was all worth it! We got 40 million of you to sign up so you could see those "Must confirm that you are older than 18 to see video" videos that turned out to be nothing more than montages of photogalleries!

We couldn't have gotten so much content here without you guys doing all the work, and for that, we thank you.

We're committed to building you new features, which will involve us hiring super hot secretaries to take our many messages from Time and Business Week and Fortune about how we're the "Hot New Internet Kings" (at least until that Mark Zuckerberg fellow from Facebook sells his site for a few billion!).

Well anyways guys, we're going to throw in a vague P. Diddy reference to "Two Kings" that is sort of a joke, but really isn't. We really do think we're the kings of the internet; I mean, how many people can create a cutting-edge site that broadcast video over the web?! Anyway guys, thanks for all the work! We'll be sure to remember you while we're chilling on our very own Carribean island!

You just *know* those Xanga guys are angling for a buyout too... and all those wonderful video sites. Welcome to dot.com 2.0, where you build it and hope Google, Yahoo!, Fox, or Microsoft buys you!

Posted by roy on October 10, 2006 at 09:13 PM in Ramblings | 8 Comments

Unfortunately yesterday was a busy social day (a rare one), and today I had to catch up on work, so not much work could be done on swarmf. However, I did get one key thing done: the clippings sorting on each swarm topic. This allows you to organize items wherever you want them.

This is an image of my test swarm topic a few days ago:

You can see that although each column has the same number of items, the height distribution isn't the same - I was struggling for a while on how to handle this technically. Then I realized I should just let users sort them visually!

Today's screenshot:

The beauty of scriptaculous made the whole process so easy! You can even drag items from one column to one another. Right now each page defaults to 2 columns - I want to let users pick up either 1 column or 3 columns in the future. It'd be nice to allow users to set the width of the columns as well, but I've set a minimum width for 800x600 resolutions and a maximum width on the content to 1024 (I hate content that stretches too wide); the 1024pixel max will probably render 4 column designs useless.

Right now you can only speciy columns to go vertically, but it'd be really nice in the future to allow for horizontal columns as well. And maybe even let users style each block in their own way - people could really create a nice looking magazine-esque front pages!

Posted by roy on October 11, 2006 at 01:14 AM in Projects | Add a comment

Given the amount of time I've been spending recently battling spam on Tabulas, this email from Russia gave me a very LONG LOL moment this morning:

Good afternoon! I am the user of your service tabulas.com. services rendered by you are very convenient and practical - for it to you many thanks. I am engaged in creation of pages under the order. One week ago I have accepted the order for manufacturing of 5 pages from different persons. As your hosting takes good positions in Google - I have chosen it. But yesterday all sites have been removed. I do not understand, that I have broken. If it is possible answer. Sites already cost in Google on high positions so both you and I lose money from advertising. I ask you to understand in a situation.

Which I cannot unblock the list of sites.


I can not remove your account from the deletion queue . Please help me. If I am necessary is ready to pay in reasonable limits or to pass on paid use these addresses. I simply do not wish to lose clients. I think you too! All good.


What is most amusing about this email is that the fact that he's already lost "5 clients" after I suspended his sites (and I'm pretty sure he's not 'fessing up to more, cause I suspended close to 20 sites manually today). Maybe I should get into the business of selling phentermine, tramadol, xanax, diazepam, and dipex. Then maybe I could actually make a profit from Tabulas.

<roy lustily gazes upon the 80,000 email address he has stored in the Tabulas system...>

so... is anybody interested in increasing your penis size cause you're just not satisfying your significant other?????? i give you best price!

Posted by roy on October 11, 2006 at 05:38 AM in Ramblings, Foolishness, Tabulas | 5 Comments

If you've worked in any capacity in the office doing anything computer-y, this video is just for you:

Posted by roy on October 11, 2006 at 03:29 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

I like the smell of clementine peels. I always keep peels of past-consumed clementines by my computer for a day or two.

. . .

iTunes is stupid. I updated iTunes, then connected my iPod to it, and now it's doing some stupid analysis on my existing songs (all 3800 of them). It's taking forever. All I wanted to do was transfer Angels & Airwaves' "The Adventure" so I could listen to it while I drive to McDonald's for a late night snack.

Posted by roy on October 12, 2006 at 07:02 PM in Ramblings | 2 Comments

The site's functionality is complete. Now I've got a lot of work cleaning up the UI (creating an ajax endpoint so I can generate some forms dynamically), as well as localization work and general code cleanup.

Posted by roy on October 12, 2006 at 10:23 PM in Projects | Add a comment

I had an idea for a site last week, so over the past week, I built it. If you'd like to help me test it out, please drop me a comment or email me.

The basic concept of the site is allowing users to create clippings (link to pages, images, videos, podcasts, whatever) on *one* page. You can organize the layout of this page with each item (drag + drop) - basically you can create a newspaper front page (but much richer, cause it's the web).

This idea first came up when during the Hurricane Katrina coverage, and more recently the whole North Korean nuclear thing. The thing that sucks about the blogosphere is that it's hard to track one topic when it's really fresh - Wikipedia tends to be real slow with this, and most blogs don't want to "flood" their sites with a bunch of posts on one topic. Sites like del.icio.us would work well, except searching for tags is ... well... sorta sucky.

This site tries to let one "expert" on a topic create a rich page - hopefully these will become nodes of information for situations that change rapidly. Later iterations of the site may allow for multiple editors to one topic and allow readers to submit their own links, but this early version will just allow one person to edit a given topic.

How useful would it be to see a topic on the history of North Korea's nuclear arms? Imagine if somebody had kept one since 1996 ... to see how the topic had changed (the site will offer snapshots, like archive.org, on every topic page) over time, and to quickly visit it once every few days to read the most interesting news/blog posts/videos about the subject?

Again, this whole thing is an experiment, I have no idea if this concept is worthwhile. Frankly, I'm getting a little bored with reverse-chronological two-pane blog entries forced into my RSS reader - this site is an attempt to break with that (although it still offers RSS and OPML) (... and I think I've stopped making sense with all my ramblings).

I haven't linked ot the site yet because I want to try it out with a few people first and get some feedback - I know there's a bunch of features I still want to implement so there's a "rich experience" when you use the site...

Posted by roy on October 13, 2006 at 04:14 AM in Web Development | 8 Comments

This story is 100% true.

The most amusing thing happened to me tonight. I drove out to Wendy's at about 130am to grab a snack. It was freezing outside (like 40 fahrenheit), so I put on my leather jacket. Normally when I go out I wear a hat, but I decided against that as well.

So the line for Wendy's drive through is pretty long. I'm sitting there, listening to "La la" by Ashlee Simpson, when the girl in the car in front of mine gets out (from the passenger side). I'm wondering what this girl is doing in the freezing cold. She runs over to my car carrying a napkin and a pen. She runs over to my side, and I roll down the window.

"Hey," she looks somewhat embarassed, "can I have your autograph?"

I look confused. She continues.

"You're that famous guy! Can I pllleease have your autograph?"

Finally, the shock of absurdity wears off. I reply, "Who do you think I am? I'm not famous."

She looks at me like I'm kidding. I continue.

"No really, I'm not famous. I haven't done anything remotely noteworthy to make me famous!"

This "You're famous and I know it" and "No, really, I'm not famous" banter goes back and forth a few more times. Eventually she persuades me that even though I'm not famous, she still wants my autograph. So I take the pen and napkin... and the pen doesn't work. She finally accepts defeat in not getting my autograph and ends up going back to her car.

So now I'm thinking, who the heck does she have me confused for?! Who is famous, from this area, and would be driving a Ford Taurus?

She was in her friend's car (a red Mazda) with a huge-ass Duke bumper sticker. Do you think she confused me for Doug Kim? Or maybe she confused me with some movie/TV star who got stranded in Chapel Hill driving a '95 Ford Taurus.

Or maybe ... she really knew it was me and wanted my autograph cause I make webpages. HAHAHAHAAHAH. Oh, a boy can dream...

Posted by roy on October 13, 2006 at 11:23 PM in Ramblings | 17 Comments

self-destructive attitude: bad

Posted by roy on October 17, 2006 at 02:58 AM in Ramblings | 1 Comments

It's too late/early to actually do the math on this, but according to this site, zinc's current price at $1.80/lb (of raw material) means that each penny is actually worth $0.0101867, which means you get about $0.19 in "profit" per 1000 pennies you melt down for the raw materials.

I wonder what the impact coins being denominated in certain metals has on the price of the metal. Would anybody actually melt down coins to make the profit? What if zinc were $3/lb, would that provide enough financial incentive? I imagine the amount of zinc mined far outstrips the amount of zinc you could get from melting down pennies ... but ... i really hate pennies and i'm trying to find a way to subtly hatch my plan to melt down all pennies...

Posted by roy on October 18, 2006 at 02:22 AM in Ramblings | 2 Comments

So I've been working on a new project - I finalized the 0.8 release (which most would call "beta" or "alpha" releases, except those phrases are dumb) last weekend and I've just been playing with it and talking to other people about it. There's this feeling for me that this is something original, so I'm a bit excited about it. (Credit goes to discussions I've held with Neeraj, Matt, Brian, Yush for solidifying my arguments on what I'm attempting to accomplish).

The current trend in websites is "user-generated content." All blogging, vlogging, podcasting, video-sharing sites remain the same: it's all about creating content. What's interesting is that blogging (and podcasting since it piggybacked off of blogging) started off in a distributed fashion and trended towards centralized services. Early bloggers learned tricky installation processes (remember CGI blogging tools, pre-Movable Type? Good god, they were atrocious), bought their own domains, and sat in virtual fiefdoms. Sites like TypePad and Wordpress attempt to lower the barrier to entry in creating content by simplfying the installation process (and to a certain degree, providing a simpler UI). This allowed a broader range of users to create and share content. (An aside: Due to compability and storage issues, videoblogging (or user-generated video sharing) went the other way: we're starting with a centralized location (YouTube) and vbloggers are starting to set up their own sites, BUT these sites are usually piggybacking off of a popular blogger/podcaster).

Creating sites that allow for user-generated content are so passe now. The next generation of important sites will be those that can effectively aggregate this content and create nodes of information that are of relevance to casual readers.

Lowering the barriers to content creation has created a virtual overload of information. When the web was smaller, sites like MeFi and Slashdot were able to aggregate and redistribute content; I remember when I could visit Slashdot and get nearly *all* relevant tech news for a given day. But as the web grew, these sites were largely relegated to focusing on a few articles a day; the information fiends like me transitioned to RSS aggregators to read sites and consume information. Sites like Digg and delicious, which relied on reader-editors have become the new way to discover and share information.

Not everybody in the world is a content creator; many people don't have the time to create a full website to aggregate information about a particular topic or contribute to a Wikipedia article on a topic, because it just takes too much time. And most of the time, a lot of these topics are so ephemeral that it's not worth capturing cause of the time required to blog/wikipedia it.

What I'm trying to do with Project Swarm is to allow for microaggregation by presenting information as something that is more easy for people to understand: the newspaper front page. Adding an item to your virtual front page takes about 20 seconds with a bookmarklet and doesn't interrupt your reading flow. You can drag items around and (soon) can style items differently - it's like bringing the power of creating Drudge Report to everybody. There is no barrier to creating the content or getting it approved. One of my metrics for success will be judging the actual time and amount of typing/clicking you have to do to add an item to a swarm and manage it.

So basically, low time commitment to participate and contribute in creating infonodes = the goal for Project Swarm.

P.S. I've un-privat-ized the swarmf category that has a bunch of posts I wrote while developing the site and idea.

Posted by roy on October 18, 2006 at 05:42 PM in Projects, Web Development | 5 Comments

seriously, is there a better song to rock out to on a friday than john cougar mellencamps's "authority song"?

Sweet, first activity of the weekend: Update my homepage. I've been meaning to do that for a while. Much better.

Posted by roy on October 20, 2006 at 03:04 PM in Music | 2 Comments
alice-style posting (just a long rambling of stuff i want to write out):

i can't wait to partake in the yearly tradition of gathering a group of people, driving 30 minutes, paying money to park my car, and spending hours wandering amongst a teeming swarm of people to get some good food. once every few years, things get a BIT TOO EDGY when we decide WE SHOULD RIDE THE FERRIS WHEEL. i'll probably take it easy this year by avoiding the THRILLING FERRIS WHEEL RIDE.

damn, that teddy geiger sure is talented.

my favorite chocolate bar is skor (i introduced this delicacy to han and eddie) which reminded me of my other favorite snack: lance white cheddar popcorn. unfortunately, i've only been able to find this popcorn at rest stops. why is it so good?! and why can't i buy it at wal-mart (preferably in bulk?)

also, why are the best foods in life (CORNDOGS) not available everywhere??? why don't they sell corndogs at wendy's or mcdonald's? i know sonic's sells them, but they're so far away from where i live.

homemade tacos with guacamole is excellent.

there's a greater tendency for me to eat healthy when i cook with healthy ingredients (it's the whole ego thing - "jeez i made it, it *must* taste wonderful)

i've sworn off all fast foods, soft drinks, coffee (actually i've never been a coffee person) for the month of october. i'll try to extend this as far into november as possible. this was spurred by the dirty glance this old nurse gave me when she told me that i had a blood pressure of 137/74, which is "pretty bad for somebody your age."

my attempts at scoring modafinil failed. damn you, caring doctor!

man, i'll say it again. teddy geiger: fantastic.

i recently had an incident at work which made me rethink the way i approach the world. i've spent so much time not being so edgy, anal and hypercompetitive (i have some horrible stories about my competitiveness from when i was younger that i'm not particularly proud of)  ... and i feel like it's all going to come rushing back.

life sure is hard. looking back, the problems that my friends had in college (i had no problems, for i was a useless lump of sack and lumps of sack generally don't have problems except being infected with weevils, which wasn't a problem for me) are generally inconsequential today. i wonder if i'll think the same many years from now about my problems right now (probably so).

guys, stay away from sports gambling. given the fact that there's a good chance that online gambling is going to be much more difficult due to the morons up in dc, i decided to give sports gambling a try (something i always wanted to). i dropped a bunch of money on parlays. i decided, for good karma, to take points on the saints on all my parlays. i was SURE the saints could cover against the rams (this is two weeks ago), and i was also SURE that the indy/titans game would hit the under (manning was due for a stinker), but i decided to go with "america's team" ... and missed all my parlays cause of the saints. that, and kitna being a moron. and a bunch of teams actually scoring garbage points. actually i wasn't even close to hitting my parlays. i have to say, it was quite a rush. it's like a one-way-ticket to rabid fandom, except you're allowed to root for any team (even ones that aren't your own).

i've been on my mac exclusively for about a week now, and here are my conclusion on it: macs are overrated. seriously, i think the reason everybody falls in love with macs is because of the lucida grande font and the anti-aliased text by default. the user interface is not "more intuitive" on a mac. but i have to say the *bsd is a really really nice touch - i can run a native environment that's close to my server environments.

sometimes i like to reflect on the past friendships i've had. it's odd, because besides alice and lillia (and 2 high school friends), none of the people i currently hang out with i hung out (extensively) until my junior year of college. that means the first 18 years of my life are  completely blank when it comes to friends. fortunately, i can remember all my friends going back to the first grade.

i feel sorry for soob - he's doing his mandatory military service and north korea is getting all crazy. if war *has* to break out on the peninsula, let's hope soobers is back here. maybe we can get the koreans to settle this over a game of starcraft. honestly, the only thing that needs to happen is for china and japan (which i affectionally call west korea and east korea respectively) to get all superpowerful, cause nothing gets koreans to come together faster than misguided nationalistic, racial pride.

lately i've been thinking of other places. wanderlust is hitting me pretty badly - it's been about a year since i ran off to boston and new york last year on the lark. hao's been throwing out the idea of a run to china in late december (if he can get the time off). that'd be really radical. ring in the new year in tibet. sounds magical.

i was up last night looking at places to stay in hawaii. i'm thinking i'll go over there for about three weeks sometime in january. honestly, i just want to relive out some LOST scenes on the island.

i recently got three posters in my redecorated room: (1) scarface (gangsta) (2) ansel adams' print of "the tetons and snake river" [an absolute classic, it reminds me of the lord of the rings] and (3) "the last shot" which is the game winner shot from jordan over georgetown in the '82 ncaa finals.

this years unc basketball gets me excited. i looked into season tickets. apparently you cannot buy season tickets from unc unless you donate a ridiculous (translation: $5K a year) amount of money to the school. however, you can find 2x season tickets for unc men's basketball @ $3K (so $1.5K per ticket) on ebay. something for me to mull over.

han and i are starting the biking revolution in this area. we're slowly getting people hooked on biking (because honestly it really is hellafun and it's great exercise) which reminds me of two stories:

the first time i took people biking, i was a bit unthoughtful towards the newbs i was taking (who shall remain nameless, but let's just give them fake names... like .. sech, dontgomong, tononymous. i was super excited to take them - i had begged them for months to come, and we finally all had the time and equipment to go.

we go down the first hill, and alex (oops did i use real names?) flipped over the handlebars. :(

about 5 minutes later, tonylee (oops) ran into a tree on a nasty downhill.

at that point, sech was convinced that i had brought them all out to injure them (because i'm the king of passive-aggressiveness) and was forcefully telling me that we should turn around and leave. i was so sad.

story #2: i took neosporinboy biking on the trails by unc (behind the paul green theater, across from those dorms by cobb). it was a relatively tough trail, and neosporinboy handled the trails pretty well (i was impressed).

i had exited the trail ... and then i hear a big clash and a yelp behind me. neosporinboy had slipped on the LAST turn on the trail. but here's the thing. there was nothing special about this part at all. it was flat. it as about a 60 degree turn on a flat trail. tsk. ok so that story isn't very funny *or* entertaining, but you *can* make fun of han whenever you see him for having the balance of a butterfly fart.

when did i get too lazy to use the shift key?

i think nothing is more frustrating than having the ability to start and create, but not finish. grand dreams give way to the realiziation that i can't accomplish all that. it's been rather troubling.

meanwhile, myspace gets bought out for $580 million, and youtube gets bought out for $1.65 BILLION by google. jeez.

final thought of the day: teddy geiger is awesome
Posted by roy on October 21, 2006 at 09:24 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

Thoughts from the State Fair:

An enterprising dentist should give out free floss at the State Fair. It's so annoying to get corn or turkey leg meat caught between your teeth.

What happens to the rest of the turkey after they strip off the two legs?

Nasty Nate and I decided to buy corndogs from a booth that Travis Moore said were "the best corndogs." It was, by far, NOT the best corndog I ever had - I demand that Travis Moore rescind his endorsement of those corndogs.

Nasty Nate is such a popular man, even though he hasn't lived in NC in a while. I said there was a 80% chance that Nasty Nate would run into people he knew; lo and behold, he did run into people he knew!

The turkey leg this year was awfully disappointing. I think i went to the wrong stand (two years ago, there was a good stand by the trees, but I couldn't find that one this year).

Funnel cakes are fantasgreat. Speaking of which, why can't I buy corndogs and funnelcakes from Hardees or something?

Twice while walking around, I heard people asking about deep-friend Coca-Cola. You read correctly. Those deep-friers must be stopped, they're insane! They deep fried candy bars, ice cream, Oreos ... and now Coca-Cola!

Why don't they run the State Fair for 3 weeks?

Posted by roy on October 21, 2006 at 09:33 PM in Ramblings | 13 Comments

Wow, an amazing feel-good story... I couldn't stop smiling.

Posted by roy on October 22, 2006 at 04:32 PM in Ramblings | 1 Comments

Do any of you remember AsianAvenue?

Check this graph out:

Guys, I finally feel like my life has some meaning. I can die a HAPPY man now that I defeated AsianAvenue. Hahahahahahaha

. . .

Have you guys heard? Ford officially announced they are no longer producing the Ford Taurus ... what a sad day. Generations after me will never get to experience the glory of the Taurus V6. SNL had a Weekend Update on it and had this to say:

After 21 years and sales of nearly 7 million cars, Ford has announced it will no longer make the Taurus, forcing many 30-somethings to force a new way to show the world they've given up on their dreams.

Maybe the girl who was asking for my autograph at Wendy's wanted it as a reminder of what people who have no hopes and dreams drive everyday ...

One of my goals in life has always been to get a red racing suit and pose with my Ford Taurus much like Conan did:

Lately, I've been feeling the autological clock ticking on the Green Monster - honestly I'd be surprised if it lasted long enough to see the Tar Heels reach the Final Four (March) ... so I've gotta pull the trigger on this gag soon.

I just did a search on eBay, and I can get a red racing suit for $50!!!!! Is it worth wasting $50 as a one-time gag for a joke that maybe 2 people in the world will get and think is funny? Is it worth spending $50 to take pictures, post them online, and scare potential girlfriends away from me??????


<eagerly awaits auction end...>

Posted by roy on October 23, 2006 at 04:16 AM in Tabulas | 2 Comments

First off, let me say that Matt rules for creating the first current events swarm: UNC Replaces Football Coach. He's aggregated a bunch of links regarding John Buntings getting fired from UNC... sweet.

Here's a list of changes that have been updated to swarmf this weekend:

  • Style changes - this site was developed on a Mac, and the big fonts didn't look so big. When I loaded it on a PC, everything looked superhuge. Things should look a lot better now. Brian was gracious enough to scan and send me the way NYTimes does news summaries; that's been a huge inspiration for possible ways of styling things for swarmf. I'm still mulling over the exact styling of swarmf topics (especially how to handle columns), but I'm starting to get an idea of where to go...
  • Missing titles - spaceinthewho was curious why images didn't display titles - my original reasoning was that titles were human-readable representations of urls; since images would embed directly into the page, there was no need to display a title - descriptions would work to describe the image if you needed text to accompany the image. However, in the future, I want to start caching images locally (thumbnail them) for layout reasons - if this is the case, then titles would need to be displayed again (since what would be displayed on swarmf would just be a thumbnail and not the actual image). Hence, images will also display titles/urls just like every other item. I also fixed up that annoying bug where descriptions would show up above videos (but below for images).
  • Email this topic to a friend - along the bottom of every page, youll see a new section called "Topic Options." You now have the option of Emailing a topic to multiple friends (I emailed the Bunting swarmf to nasty nate and chris; we actually had a convo this week about the need for Bunting to be fired); you also have the option of Forking a page ...
  • Forking a page - credit goes to Yush for inspiring this feature. Basically it allows you to take any swarmf and copy it to your account. It lets you remix a remix ... right now the feature may seem sorta stand-alone, but I have some ideas on creating similar topic clouds (based on item overlaps) which will allow me to generate a list of similar topics
  • Add bookmarklet - when you use the bookmarklet to add an item to any swarmf, you'll now see a checkbox that will redirect you back to the item after it's saved to swarmf - this hopefully will make less of an interruption on your normal surfing habits
  • Editing topic names - you can edit your topic names, but the URL won't update. I need to write the functionality for storing and saving redirects before I can allow topic name edits to correspond to urls
  • Contacting page author - Across from the title of a swarmf topic, you'll now see a link to the page author - you can now use a HTML form to send a message to that user. Suggestions and privacy blocks (e.g. not allowing people to contact you) haven't been implemented, but they're on the to-do list.
  • Permalinks! - your public swarmf pages are now at subdomains - for example: http://hunter-s-thompsons-death.swarmf.com/
  • Current to-do list: You can see what's on the todo list at http://roy.listfoo.com/swarmf/

. . .

I've started working on listfoo 1.1 this past weekend: check out the semi-functional mockup. Goals for listfoo 1.1

  • Standardize all the JS to the scriptaculous/prototype libraries
  • Implement a better UI to replace the placeholder UI
  • Actually write some content for the home page that makes it clear what listfoo does
  • Add internationalization support
  • Change the way checked-off items are handled
  • Add browser/platform specific keyboard commands to expedite using listfoo (cause really, who likes using the mouse?

1.1 won't be adding any big functionality; it's mostly a polish on the 1.0 release if anything. But the polish, it's oh-so-pretty.

I'm also working on something with Matt, but I won't talk about that yet. It's looking to be a busy few months ahead...

Posted by roy on October 23, 2006 at 05:43 AM in Projects, Web Development | 5 Comments

Alright, I'm a little late hopping on this bandwagon, but this performance by My Chemical Romance on SNL has got me hooked on the band. That lead singer has a great presence.

I love how the song is a mix of Greenday's latest album (sort that rock opera feeling) with a speck of Queen ... ya dig?

Posted by roy on October 25, 2006 at 10:20 PM in Music | 5 Comments

So I took a 10mg dose of Ambien roughly an hour ago, and I've still been unable to sleep. What I've learned is that Ambien makes you physically tired, but it doesn't change your mental status - my mind's been racing with so many ideas and things that I just can't shut out the voices and get sleep. So even though I'm physically very very tired, I cannot fall asleep. It sucks. I'd imagine the same would be happening if I scorded modafinil - my body would be physically alert, but my mind would be shut down. Apparently kids take Ambien and stay away (to get high, I guess); I have to admit the last time this (unintentionally) happened, I apparently went downstairs and started cooking up a storm. My mom was curious what all the ruckus was, so she came downstairs. Apparently I had a very interesting conversation with her about my sister, me, and our futures (I'm normally very reserved towards my parents), which I barely remembered the next day (I at first thought I had dreamt that conversation, then she told me it was real).

What am I trying to say? There's a good chance that I'll barely remember writing any of this tomorrow. I know I'm pretty prone to sleep walking (happened many times in my youth) and sleep talking (happened many times in my youth at college). What I didn't know I was capable was of sending phone calls to my bosses at work while asleep.

Hah! Got ya scared, didn't I?

Last Sunday (I woke up at 3pm), I checked my email and noticed that Urs sent me an email that said (paraphrased, I'm on the wrong machine): "Are you ok? Your message was a bit weird and you didnt seem alright..."

I figured his email client's autofiller screwed up and responded with a message saying, "You sure it was me? I was asleep all morning!"

His response: "Yep, it was a Roy, and you're the only Roy I know!" So either another roy mis-dialed Urs, or I *really* did call him while I was asleep. Speaking of which, this website says there are only 185 Roy Kims in the US. Bollocks. My plan on taking over the world with an army of Roys equipped with Ford Taurus has failed twice this week - once since the Taurus has been discontinued, and twice because there are not enough Roys!

So what's keeping me up tonight?

Swarmf (layout layout layout!), listfoo (version 1.1), tabulas (when is it ever going to be done?), LoD (this is my venture with Matt), and "to be builts."

I don't know what you guys think about when you go to sleep, but I like to think of projects that I don't have the time or the resources to pursue, but would love to think the project through.

If you remember my post a while ago about the "perfect webmail" client, it's that sort of thing.

Last week it was managed higher education courseware. It's astouding that even today, the dominant system is BlackBoard. Universities ... bastions of intelligence and cutting edge research .... blackboard. There is an open source version called moodle, and it looks very promising. But like all open source projects, the thing lacks polish. The diffference between unpolished and polished projects is the difference between audiomatch and audioscrobbler (guess which one tanked and which one blew up).

So on better courseware management, there are 3 groups: students, teachers, and administrators. In reality, administrators don't have much to do with the l'arnin' side of things, so we don't need to focus on them. Prospective students are nice too, but they can be pushed to the side (websites != courseware management).

The problem with creating any content management system is that the system will impose itself onto the users (in some way or another). Wikis have the advantage of being *so* open that you create your own structure (whcih is a huge difference and a huge boon). MindTouch recently switched over their homepage area to Drupal, a strict CMS, and managing it is a huge nightmare. I love the wiki way, so much more.

I think the truly best software system would be to create a really flexible framework that allows feature generation to be done relatively quickly. Build simple tools and classes; build a framework for handling views and posts and gets; handle all the internationalization and database handling and sessions handling .... and then let a few smart developers build the features you want.

What I've described is (duh!) open source software and frameworks (like RoR).

My disdain towards frameworks and OSS is primarily that it's scary. It's scary to step outside of the bounds of a framework, or it's scary to have ot modify the source code of an OSS to get it to do what you want. You cannot expect to sit there after a few hours and have a full comprehensive understanding of how this particular object was written or what philosophy came into it. What do you risk by changing it?

Part of this is frustration from my job; in the beginning days, we did not fear breaking things. We took huge risks, trusted each otehr, and basically ran running down the street as fast as we could trying out features. But lately ... things must be much more stable, and that sense of chaosness is gone (which is a good thing, too).

But I haven't been able to create. Everybody enjoys teh feeling of creation - "I did this" and that type of visceral feeling is missing from my job now. I mostly do upgrades on older stuff, fixing up bugs elsewhere, and basically take the most conservative (least risk) path.

But back to my point. It'd be super sweet to build kick-ass courseware that not only students woudl enjoy, but teachers would enjoy using as well. This alludes back to Fuunk, (which is probably the most abandoned project of mine, but I spend significant amount of time thinking about it) which was going to try to bridge the gap one way by offering students excellent tools to manage their classes and professors.

What would the ideal student-oriented courseware do?

  • fuunk: It lets me schedule classes using a powerful search interface that extracts in a lot of metadata from professors so I can easily get a "battlefield view" of possible classes
  • It'd store information about my major and give me tracking advice on my major - it woudl also show me what would happen if I wanted to switch majors
  • It would show professor ratings and comments from students
  • It would show me all the books I need to buy for classes I've registered with
  • it would let me create a profile of information abotu myself so i can connect with my friends
  • it would let me show me what classes my friends are taking and which friends have taken my classes - it could also arrange for book transfers between friends
  • A general wiki area where students can combine class notes

What would the ideal professor-oriented courseware do?

  • Easily update their own personal webpage with their CV and information about their research (gotta attract students) - give them a blog! They've got the most interesting thing to say!
  • Allow for creation of "class pages" which would have the default blackboard features - tests, quizzes, files, etc.
  • A wiki/discussion board to encourage student participation
  • Show grade breakdown of students
  • Have an easy check to make sure students aren't plagiarizing from one another
  • Allow professors to introduce promisings students to colleagues

This is the type of tools I can hope that one day will be built - a completely social tool that bounds beyond groups (students and teachers) and bridges gaps between them to help faciliate information. I think it's very easy to create an echo chamber with people you're comfortable with, but it gets much harder when you're trying to do it outside of your immediate group.

(APOLOGIES HERE because I know I'm rambling a lot; the fingers are just sorta typing, and I'm not really editing myself here. This is pure late-night-can't-sleep-even-after-i-took-sleeping-pills rambling)

So how can this apply to other concepts? Well, after the website makeover for the town of chapel hill website thing happened, it got me thinking about what needs a town would have in running a website. What do I, as a citizen, want from my town website?

  • I'd like to be able to know all relevant news regarding the town (aggregate it from N&O, the Chapel Hill News, press releases, and local bloggers)
  • I'd like to be able to access all electronic documentation (minute meetings, proposals, etc.) that is easily browsable, searchable, and readable (not just HTML, but PDF and DOC also) so I can track the status of Chapel Hill North
  • I'd like to get the contact information for people easily
  • I'd like a calendar of events , but not just of town council meetings. I'd like a calendar of events around Chapel Hill that *make* Chapel Hill special and unique.
  • I'd like a user-editable section (wiki-ish) where we can make recommendations on local venues, restaurants, etc. Owners could submit profiles of their own places and they could have their own page up there . (I realize I'm just describing Citysearch here)
  • Come election time, I'd like to easily find out who is running, where their websites are, where they stand, and what i need to do if i want to vote. The whole process, for people who haven't done it, is scary. Do I need to register? Where? By when? Maybe even throw up an easy "5 Steps to vote".

    Oftentimes when I'm helping people, I get too technical with my answers. I assume they know what a browser is. The same goes the other way too. Sometimes you just gotta offer the simplest and most basic of all questions.

And of course, the biggest thing I'd like: I'd like the data to be open. I would like the site to have very simple APIs for accessing the data so I can aggregate it on my own and write my own little programs to do stuff with them. I've seen some pretty cool mashups with data from police reports and crimes ... (I think WillR posted it awhile back).

I had this long dinner with Konrad about these dreams for a site like this - how freakin' wonderful would it be? And not only that, to have the whole project be open-sourced so any city could gain from this?

We both talked about putting together a small webcrew to try to build a demo of this if there was a chance we could land the Chapel Hill contract ... but time went on ... alas.

And you wonder why I can't sleep ...

Posted by roy on October 26, 2006 at 01:12 AM in Ramblings, Web Development | 5 Comments

<in my best ron burgundy voice> ohhh eating a whole medium pizza for dinner was a mistake....

Posted by roy on October 26, 2006 at 10:37 PM in Ramblings | 3 Comments

I know I don't touch my monitor. I make an effort not to. I like to keep it clean. So tell me, who are the little children who keep sneaking in my room and muddying up my monitors with their little fingers? WHERE ARE THESE SMUDGES COMING FROM?????? GHOST CHILDREN?!?!?!?!?!???!?!?!111

. . .

The recent upswing's given me a good chance to rebalance my portfolio. I lowered my position in NXG by a a third at a ~10% loss (too volatile, and I had nearly 40% of my portfolio tied into it, which sucked) and liquidated my recently opened position in SPY to open positions in LTD and MO. My portfolio now looks like: NXG, CUP, LTD, MO, MPW, WWW, MRK. This should hopefully be enough rebalancing for the rest of the year - I'll probably be able to open up a new position before the end of the year; got any good mid-cap recommendations? If I can't find anything I may just plow it back into MPW; their dividends are great.

. . .

Wow, the power of blogs. A shortselling stock blog called ShareSleuth (backed by Mark Cuban) published an article on UTK; look at what the article did to the stock of UTK:

One blog post. Wiped 33% off a company's market cap. This sorta looks like RHAT's plummet after Oracle announced it was entering the Linux market...

Posted by roy on October 26, 2006 at 11:34 PM in Ramblings, Finances | 4 Comments

From Oliver:

I feel safe and comfortable with Tabulas. Here, I can work myself into creative shape in a consequence-free environment. I can try to stimulate myself and get my juices going in front of you, an understanding group of friends. If I suck, I can count on you to forgive me. Also, many of your standards have been significantly and permanently lowered by regularly reading Roy’s Tabulas.

<sniff sniff> ...

Posted by roy on October 28, 2006 at 10:29 PM in Foolishness | 2 Comments

I got my red racing suit on Friday - it seriously was the highlight of my week. I was showing it off to my parents, and they were totally amazed at how awesome I am... just kidding. My dad thought it was pretty awesome, cause he kept saying things like, "Yeah you should totally wear that to church" and "Yeah, can I borrow it after you're done" and just kept getting pumped. I told him he couldn't pry the thing away from my dead fingers which totally bummed him out. My mom's reaction toward the suit was a bit more adverse. She couldn't understand why I'd waste money on it. I couldn't deal with the INQUISITION, DUDE so I left. As I left, she was bawling and and saying something about never having grandkids and me never getting married or something ... but I know she was totally jealous of my new suit.

Now I gotta procure some badass aviator sunglasses and a helmet: I hope Yush can come through and find the old helmet from 305 Lewis:

One thing that sorta sucks about this whole thing is people may think I bought this suit for Halloween, which is totally false. I hate Halloween; the last time I dressed up for Halloween was when I was like 8 years old. I don't want the ridiculousness of this whole scenario to be downplayed with some ridiculous holiday. I am crazy on my own.

I also realized how sad this post sounded; it would have sounded a lot better if I had shown my "roommates" (who would have been insanely jealous of my suit) and called my mom to tell her about the suit (instead of showing her). Somehow the punchline lacks oomph when people are reminded I live at home. Ahh, better figure out where I'm moving to soon. This is getting pretty bad.

Soon, I shall have my very own photoset with my Ford Taurus.

Posted by roy on October 30, 2006 at 10:09 AM in Foolishness | 2 Comments

From Mark Cuban's blog, an email that went out to a mailing list about the YouTube/Google acquisition:

I'm an experienced veteran in the digital media business and thought I'd share my version of events that happened at Youtube. Some of this is based on talks with people involved and some is speculation based on my experience working in the industry, negotiating settlements and battling in court.

In the months preceding the sale of YouTube the complaints from copyright owners began to mount at a ferocious pace. Small content owners and big were lodging official takedown notices only to see their works almost immediately reappear. These issues had to be disclosed to the suitors who were sniffing around like Google but Yahoo was deep in the process as well. (News Corp inquired but since Myspace knew they were a big source of Youtube's traffic they quickly choked on the 9 digit price tag.) While the search giants had serious interest, the suitors kept stumbling over the potential enormous copyright infringement claims that were mounting.

Youtube knew they had an issue and had offered a straight revenue share deal if the complainants would call off the dogs and give them time. The media companies quickly rejected this path for two reasons. First off Youtube wasn't making any money and was fuzzy about how they would generate revenue in the future. But more important the media companies view is that there was a mountain of past infringement that Youtube had engaged in and built their business on and they felt they deserved some of this accumulated value. And who could blame them. In spite of the media "user generated" puff pieces it was clear to all involved that they generated that content by hooking up their TV tuner cards to their PCs.

It didn't take a team of Harvard trained investment bankers to come up with the obvious solution and that is to set aside a portion of the buyout offer to deal with copyright issues. It's not uncommon in transactions to have holdbacks to deal with liabilities and Youtube knew they had a big one. So the parties (including venture capital firm Sequoia Capital) agreed to earmark a portion of the purchase price to pay for settlements and/or hire attorneys to fight claims. Nearly 500 million of the 1.65 billion purchase price is not being disbursed to shareholders but instead held in escrow.

While this seemed good on paper Google attorneys were still uncomfortable with the enormous possible legal claims and speculated that maybe even 500 million may not be enough - remember were talking about hundreds of thousands of possible copyright infringements. Youtube attorneys emphasized the DMCA safe harbor provisions and pointed to the 3 full timers dedicated to dealing with takedown notices, but couldn't get G comfortable. Google wasn't worried about the small guys, but the big guys were a significant impediment to a sale. They could swing settlement numbers widely in one direction or another. So the decision was made to negotiate settlements with some of the largest music and film companies. If they could get to a good place with these companies they could get confidence from attorneys and the ever important "fairness opinion" from the bankers involved that this was a sane purchase.

Armed with this kitty of money Youtube approached the media companies with an open checkbook to buy peace. The media companies smelled a transaction when Youtube radically changed their initial 'revenue sharing' offer to one laden with cash. But even they didn't predict Google would pay such an exorbitant amount for Youtube so when Youtube started talking in multiples of tens of millions of dollars the media companies believed this to be fair and would lock in a nice Q3/Q4. [Note to self: Buy calls on media companies just prior to Q3/Q4 earnings calls.] The major labels got wind that their counterparts were in heated discussions so they used a now common trick a "most favored nation" clause to assure that if if a comparable company negotiated a better deal that they would also receive that benefit. It's a clever ploy to avoid anti-trust issues and gives them the benefit of securing the best negotiating company. They negotiated about 50 million for each major media company to be paid from the Google buyout monies.

The media companies had their typical challenges. Specifically, how to get money from Youtube without being required to give any to the talent (musicians and actors)? If monies were received as part of a license to Youtube then they would contractually obligated to share a substantial portion of the proceeds with others. For example most record label contracts call for artists to get 50% of all license deals. It was decided the media companies would receive an equity position as an investor in Youtube which Google would buy from them. This shelters all the up front monies from any royalty demands by allowing them to classify it as gains from an investment position. A few savvy agents might complain about receiving nothing and get a token amount, but most will be unaware of what transpired.

Since everyone was reaching into Google's wallet, the big G wants to make sure the Youtube purchase was a wise one. Youtube's value is predicated on it's traffic and market leadership which Google needs to keep. If they simply agreed to remove all unauthorized content and saddle the user experience with ads Youtube would quickly be a skeleton of its prior self. Users would quickly move to competing sites. The media companies had 50 million reasons to want to help. Google needed a two pronged strategy which you see unfolding now.

The first request was a simple one and that was an agreement to look the other way for the next 6 months or so while copyright infringement continues to flourish. This standstill is cloaked in language about building tools to help manage the content and track royalties, some of which is true but also G knows that every day they can operate in the shadows of copyright law is another day that Youtube can grow. It should be noted that Google video is a capable Youtube competitor with the ONE big difference being a much more sincere effort to not post unauthorized works - and Google fully appreciates what a difference that makes. So you can continue to find movie clips, tv show segments and just about every music video on Youtube today.

The second request was to pile some lawsuits on competitors to slow them down and lock in Youtube's position. As Google looked at it they bought a 6 month exclusive on widespread video copyright infringement. Universal obliged and sued two capable Youtube clones Bolt and Grouper. This has several effects. First, it puts enormous pressure on all the other video sites to clamp down on the laissez-faire content posting that is prevalent. If Google is agreeing to remove unauthorized content they want the rest of the industry doing the same thing. Secondly it shuts off the flow of venture capital investments into video firms. Without capital these firms can't build the data centers and pay for the bandwidth required for these upside down businesses.

There are some interesting chapters yet to unfold. One is how much of this will become public. Google is required by the SEC to disclose material financial developments at their company. Working in Google's advantage is their enormous market capitalization and revenues will give them considerable leeway to claim that a 50 million transaction is not significant to their business. If the other video sites have the wherewithal to put up a legal fight any decent attorney will demand access to Youtube acquisition documents. Expect a claim of collusion between Google and the media companies as a defense strategy.

Infringement lawsuits will be served on Youtube and the new proud parent Google in the coming months. Google will respond with two paths: an expensive legal fight or a quick and easy settlement with most choosing the latter. Are there any larger copyright holders such as music publishers, movie studios, or unlicensed record label EMI that put up a fight rather than accepting the check? We'll have to watch and find out.


Posted by roy on October 30, 2006 at 07:35 PM in Ramblings | 2 Comments

This past weekend, I wrapped up work on Listfoo 1.1 (which has been in work for a few weeks now) and released it.

You can login with demo/demo to just try it out - no registration required!

Listfoo is a site that lets you create simple, sharable lists for free. Basically I built it because I needed an online notepad that I could use to keep track of items. The first version, which launched early February, was an OK first release, but it was nowhere near where I wanted it, user-interface wise.

1.1 is exactly where I want the UI to be. It features extensive use of the scriptaculous javascript library and has a much cleaner feel to it. Even better, I've adopted a heavy favoritism towards inline editing - it's cut down the number of page views required to manage a list from 3 (edit list, edit items, view list/items) to one!

Although 1.1 was pretty much a UI overhaul, it was also coupled with significant backend changes. I've standardized all encoding to UTF-8, so international characters are supported on Listfoo.

A screenshot of the new listfoo

Listfoo.com is also the first of my projects to be tested extensively on FF 1.5 (both platforms), IE 7, Opera, *and* Safari! And it works equally well everywhere! This version just has a nice layer of polish the first one was severely lacking ... everything just works much better here.

It's simple and sweet. I'm really proud of it. So go check it out and give it a run ... and who knows, maybe you'll find it useful :)

I've used it to capture the Listfoo 1.2 and Listfoo 1.3 roadmap. I'm guessing 1.2 won't be ready until January, while 1.3 will be a March release (I'm trying for 3 month short, small cycles).

Posted by roy on October 30, 2006 at 11:16 PM in Projects | 9 Comments
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