Entries for June, 2009

Color me silly, but I find Lady Gaga pretty hot:

For some reason, this picture reminds me of Robocop. God, I loved that movie. Maybe I'll turn it on while working ... mmm...

(I realize posting has been light lately - it's not that I've gotten even shallower and only care about the fashion styles of Lady Gaga- I just haven't had time to really write down all the stuff still bouncing around in my head lately. You'll probably get overloaded with some 3am posting one of these days).

Posted by roy on May 31, 2009 at 10:40 PM in Ramblings | 8 Comments

If you're ever to take ballroom dancing lessons, get shoes. Holy crap, do they make a difference.

And for all the dudes who aren't scared of having their sexuality questioned who happen to be reading this Tabulas, I definitely recommend taking lessons if you're curious. (Did I really just uses the phrases "sexuality questioned" and "... if you're curious" in the same sentence on purpose... OH YES I DID)

/me eagerly awaits comments to this post... don't disappoint me!

Posted by roy on June 1, 2009 at 10:32 PM in Ramblings | 18 Comments

Yay! I'll be flying back to NC for a wedding on Thursday ... looking forward to seeing everybody then! Unfortunately, as is always the case, trying to wrap up work is so tricky...

P.S. There seems to be some misunderstanding - there will be no dancing whatsoever on my behalf at this wedding. Unfortunately, I lost my groove, and unlike Stella, I never got it back.

I'm actually looking forward to the flight - for once, I'll have an iPod that can handle the duration of the eight hour flight (with layovers) back to NC. Plus I bought a buttload of interesting books to read for the flight there and back. Hopefully I can enrich my mind and do a slightly-better-than-amateurish-job at some gaping deficiencies (product management) we have at MindTouch until we can fill those holes with more competent people than I. 

Posted by roy on June 3, 2009 at 12:19 AM in Ramblings, MindTouch | Add a comment

(i don't know why i find this so funny. i really don't)

Posted by roy on June 3, 2009 at 11:11 PM in Foolishness | 1 Comments

I got an email last night which caused a LOL moment (but perhaps it's only funny to my immediate coworkers, who mercilessly make fun of my chicken scratch handwriting). (And yes, I'm one of those lame people who come home on vacation and make a big stink about not bringing my laptop with me, but end up using my parent's crappy Dell just to stay on top of things.)

The email came from Damien with the subject: "Please translate" with text: "What does the last line say?"

Which one of you brave souls can translate this? (Cause honestly, I can't understand what the last two words are)

I would have made an awesome doctor.

Posted by roy on June 5, 2009 at 12:32 PM in Ramblings | 7 Comments

Check out Aaron's post on collaborative networks: "This [Collaborative Networks] is very different from social networks or social software, which is focused entirely on enabling conversations. Collaborative Networks are focused on groups accessing and organizing data into actionable formats that enable decision making, collaboration and reuse. Collaborative Networks will increasingly be critically important to business and organizations by helping to establish a culture of innovation and by delivering operational excellence."

His post lays the groundwork for understanding why MindTouch's space is so important.

All of you know I've long been a proponent of creating social networks which have real value (fuunk.com an example of this) - collaborative networks is taking this notion to the enterprises. It's not enough to throw in some social software into your company and mimic Facebook - it's about creating real value with measurable returns by empowering all your employees with information that'll allow them to execute tactically.

This leads me to a tangent that's been bouncing around in my mind - I haven't given it much thought, so it's a bit rough. The basic premise of the argument is that the economic growth in the States over the last decade has largely been by making industries more efficient. The Industrial Revolution, the economic rise of America all were possible because they allowed more value to be extracted from capital.The dotcom boom of the late '90s was sold on the notion that an information network would allow even more productivity to be squeezed from workers. Increasing productivity build value. This is how economies grow - it's not by shuffling money around into complex financial instruments that Wall Street created out of thing air - there's no value in that.

The economic bubble that's been burst recently was the simple revaluation of assets which should have never valued that high. The notion that a country or an economy can add more value through complex financial instruments is pretty much shot to hell.

If we're to grow the economy and recover from this recession, companies have to get leaner, while still being able to product as much (or more) than before. How best to do this than by taking advantage of technology?

Past generations had the problem of not having enough information - to go out and find information was difficult and time consuming. We have the reverse problem - so much information that learning how to parse and execute on that information is becoming far more valuable than being a gatekeeper of information. Having access to all the relevant information that's strewn across all your legacy systems and humanizing that data to help make decisions makes companies more productive.

This is what's most interesting for me, working at MindTouch. We are working on a collaborative network that allows companies to empower their employees with more decision making by making more information available at a tactical level. This is about providing REAL value with data. As much as I love social networks (you know, seeing as to how I run one), my personal experience is that their value is too soft.

Posted by roy on June 6, 2009 at 12:33 AM in Ramblings, MindTouch | Add a comment

Exhausted - had an absolutely fantastic time in NC. The whole time was a blur - I had a social schedule that reminded me of college (don't think I've pulled two late-nighters in a while!) Congrats to Jennifer and Yen - the wedding was absolutely gorgeous! Almost made me want to get married... just kidding.

Finally met Beanya in real life (you know, the girl I randomly sent flowers to)... it was not as awkward as everybody hoped for (sorry to disappoint - I saw all of you staring from across the room - she's a bit too cool to make it awkward, as hard as I tried).

Time to get ready for a busy week at work!

Currently listening to: mother lover
Posted by roy on June 8, 2009 at 12:13 AM in Ramblings | 1 Comments

The Killers - Sam's Town

Nobody ever had a dream round here,
but I don't really mind that it's starting to get to me
Nobody ever pulls the seams round here,
but I don't really mind that it's starting to get to me

I've got this energy beneath my feet
like something underground's gonna come up and carry me,
I've got this sentimental heart that beats
but I don't really mind that it's starting to get to me

Now... "Why do you waste my time?"
Is the answer to the question on your mind
And I'm sick of all my judges
so scared of what they'll find
But I know that I can make it
As long as somebody takes me home,
every now and then...

Oh, have you ever seen the lights?
Have you ever seen the lights?

I took a shuttle on a shockwave ride
when people on the pen pulled the trigger for accolade
I took a bullet and I looked inside
And running through my veins
an American masquerade

I still remember from my Dixie's wake
I'd never really known anybody to die before
Red white and blue upon a birthday cake,
my brother, he was born on the fourth of the July... and that's all

"So why do you waste my time?"
Is the answer to the question on your mind
And I'm sick of all my judges
so scared of letting me shine
But I know that I can make it,
as long as somebody takes me home...

You know I see London, I see Sam's Town
holds my hand and let's my hair down
Rolls that world right off my shoulder
I see London, I see Sam's Town

Download or preview:

Posted by roy on June 9, 2009 at 10:20 PM in Music | Add a comment

A few weeks back, I was chatting with one of my really good friends from NC about her job situation. She's in the engineering (not in software, but in the real "building stuff" sense) and works for a company which is contracted to build things. (There are a lot of similarities between her company and MindTouch if you ignore the fact we build completely different things - we both have an engineering culture, which is contracted to handle custom solutions, so I was digging for information on how her company handles PM, but couldn't clean anything worthwhile)

She was complaining about the new manager in her division - apparently this guy was one of the top technical engineers for projects, and management saw fit to promote him to lead her division. This lead to a classic Peter Principle: "In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence."

The guy, while very technically talented, was utterly incompetent at leading groups of people. For example, he led a disastrous effort to reshuffle the seating organization of the office (this, at a company where some people have worked at the same cubicle for a decade!). To me, this reeks of an ego trip that served no purpose and was a total WTF. There were other specific examples which slip my memory, but the most telling sign of this guy's incompetence was that my friend told me that people would go out of their way to sabotage his orders. Wow. This is a clear failure of leadership.

As I first listened to her gripes, I sort of kept quiet and absorbed the information. Then, I started giving my thoughts on the topic, and it came off rather caustic and unforgiving ... enough that after a while, she started defending him cause she felt bad for him.

I thought this was rather interesting - I have a tendency to defend the junior employees at MindTouch to a fault, but a shortcoming of somebody in a leadership position (even at a company I don't know!) and I'll drop those reservations in a flash.

It's possible my friend thought I was being a bit unfair (and maybe I was just projecting some of my former MT bosses leadership frustrations onto this poor guy), but to me, it was a pretty clear distinction.

Junior employees are allowed to screw up (as long as they learn from their mistakes). The company is investing in their future, and should be committed to the growth of their career paths. It's a mutual agreement - in return for a lower salary, junior employees should expect mentorship, career growth and a certain shielding from "shit from above." In my personal opinion (I know this differs a bit from what seems to be the thinking of others), I think it's also important that junior employees are forced to delineate their personal and professional lives.

I actually don't think it's hard to make a junior employee work long hours - it is much harder to get them to not work long hours but to achieve the objectives that are laid out for them. I believe it's a failure of management anytime I have to reach out of office hours to get work done - it means that (1) the employee is not being productive at work or (2) the company is not being efficient and simply has too much work. (1) is a failure of the manager, and (2) is the failure of the executive team. (A caveat: that's not to say I'm averse to asking people to work extra - there are situations, like launches or product releases, that I expect everybody to achieve their objectives. But in return, they should know I am trying my very best not to make MindTouch their lives.)

Companies hire (or promote) people to senior positions with an expectation that they're able to lead. People who cannot lead should not be in senior positions - senior positions are too important to execution and morale within a company to let a bad person fester and destroy a whole division. Whole groups of people could spin their wheels around a leader who is indecisive and unwilling to step up and make a tough decision. It seems in situations like these, it's best to be as unforgiving as possible and "promote" (move) that person back into a position they can succeed in.

Of course, there's a difference between judging a leader for bad strategic decisions and incompetence. In my friend's case, the fact that the guy didn't have the support of his own team made it pretty clear it was a case of the latter - I think if a leader truly believes in a direction and inspires his team to go in that direction, but finds that was later wrong, that's ok - chalk it up to experience. 

Posted by roy on June 10, 2009 at 12:48 AM in Ramblings, MindTouch | 1 Comments

My sister is interning at the Buffalo News - her first article in a major metropolitan newspaper is up: UB Pole Vaulter Heads for the Stars. She's also started blogging again on Tabulas. Her latest post?

I left myself logged on to the news system last night. Apparently "I" sent a message to the entire sports department inquiring as to whether I'm hotter than last year's intern.

Won't make that mistake again.


Posted by roy on June 10, 2009 at 08:16 PM in Ramblings | 3 Comments

Man, I got scammed good.

When I was flying into NC, my layover was in Detroit. I normally carry-on my luggage onto flights, but the SD to DTW flight had no space, so I had to gate check the bag. Unfortunately, I forgot I had put my phone in my bag before I gate checked it.

Since my mom was picking me up (and my flight was delayed an hour), I decided to use a pay phone to inform my mom of the situation. Without thinking about it, I swiped my credit card without checking the fee - oops. The phone call lasted all of two minutes.

Well, low and behold, on my credit card today, the fee for calling from Detroit to NC on a pay phone for two minutes:

I don't even want to know what those foreign transaction fees are for - I was using an American credit card in an American airport calling an American phone.

Googling the number shows that a San Diego (gasp!) company called BBG Communications is behind these shenanigans. Big surprise - they have a F when it comes to a Better Business Bureau rating.

This is what i get for blindly swiping my card - lesson learned!

. . .

P.S. This is a beautiful Tabulas design!

Posted by roy on June 10, 2009 at 11:36 PM in Ramblings | 6 Comments

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

I think I finally have a realistic-I-can-afford-it-if-I-live-like-a-miser-for-four-years dream car! Yay!

Posted by roy on June 11, 2009 at 10:53 PM in Ramblings | 19 Comments

Aaron found a site which analyzes the psychology of a Twitter account, and noticed mine:

Aaron then added his commentary, which has now become my second "testimonial" onto my Tabulas' sidebar: (insightful emphasis mine)

This guy is all over the map! I saw this and thought: this guy is f#$ked up! First notice his fixation on space and time. Manifesting in a need for money. It makes him uncertain, sad, self referencing (self loathing probably) and he tries to fill the void with sensory overloads. Dude, ‘remember be here now’. Hold on. Aggression? Oral fixation? Taste sensations?  Laaaaddiieeess…. No Roy, I don’t want to go camping with you. LOL Ok just joking. Except for the ‘remember be here now part’.

I have to wonder how much my Lady Gaga "Poker Face" Twitter conversation with Corey affected those results.. (see #1, #2, #3, #4, #5)

Posted by roy on June 15, 2009 at 01:17 AM in Ramblings | Add a comment

Elementary school kids sing pop songs:

Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" (Journey is friggin AWESOME)

Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger"

Posted by roy on June 15, 2009 at 09:32 PM in Music | 2 Comments

A touching song by Kanye off his early album:

Kanye West - Hey Mama

(Hey Mama), I wanna scream so loud for you, cuz I'm so proud of you
Let me tell you what I'm about to do, (Hey Mama)
I know I act a fool but I promise you I'm goin back to school
I appreciate what you allowed for me
I just want you to be proud of me

I wanna tell the whole world about a friend of mine
This little light of mine and I'm finna let it shine
I'm finna take yall back to them better times
I'm finna talk about my mama if y'all don't mind
I was three years old, when you and I moved to the Chi
Late December, harsh winter gave me a cold
You fixed me up something that was good for my soul
Famous homemade chicken soup, can I have another bowl?
You work late nights just to keep on the lights
Mommy got me training wheels so I could keep on my bike
And you would give anything in this world
Michael Jackson leather and a glove, but didn't give me a curl
And you never put no man over me
And I love you for that mommy can't you see?
Seven years old, caught you with tears in your eyes
Cuz a nigga cheatin, telling you lies, then I started to cry
As we knelt on the kitchen floor
I said mommy Imma love you till you don't hurt no more
And when I'm older, you aint gotta work no more
And Imma get you that mansion that we couldn't afford
See you're, unbreakable, unmistakable
Highly capable, lady that's makin loot
A livin' legend too, just look at what heaven do
Send us an angel, and I thank you (Hey Mama)

Forrest Gump mama said, life is like a box of chocolates
My mama told me go to school, get your doctorate
Somethin to fall back on, you could profit with
But still supported me when I did the opposite
Now I feel like it's things I gotta get
Things I gotta do, just to prove to you
You was getting through, can the choir please
Give me a verse of "You, Are So Beautiful To Me"
Can't you see, you're like a book of poetry
Maya Angelou, Nicky Giovanni, turn one page and there's my mommy
Come on mommy just dance wit me, let the whole world see your dancing feet
Now when I say Hey, yall say Mama, now everybody answer me (Hey Mama)

I guess it also depends tho, if my ends low
Second they get up you gon get that Benzo
Tint the windows, ride around the city and let ya friends know (Hey Mama)

Tell your job you gotta fake em out
Since you brought me in this world, let me take you out
To a restaurant, upper echelon
Imma get you a jag, whatever else you want
Just tell me what kind of S-Type Donda West like?
Tell me the perfect color so I make it just right
It don't gotta be Mother's Day, or your birthday
For me to just call and say (Hey Mama)

Download or preview:

After his mother's unfortunate passing in '07, he redid the song:

Posted by roy on June 15, 2009 at 10:09 PM in Ramblings, Music | Add a comment

So one of the exciting things happening at work lately is a concerted effort to talk more about the collaborative aspects of MindTouch without using the dreaded "social network" phrase.

MindTouch has always excelled at the "wiki" side of things - some of the bigger public clients that come to mind are Mozilla and WhoRunsGov - the former uses it for documentation, the latter as a wiki for political figures & parties. So when it comes to dealing with static content inside a wiki, we do very well. (Those sites use DekiScript, but its usage is more to augment the content.)

One of the biggest untapped strengths of MindTouch (which is nothing new, as the concept has been inside MindTouch for a while) is the ability to create a collaborative network with it. In more technical terms, it's the ability to take data from external sources and create dashboards of that information inside MindTouch, and then collaborate (comment, share, remix) around that data. High-level, I know. Let me break it down more specifically.

Even at a company like MindTouch, which is relatively small, each department has highly specialized views. A lot of these specialized tools do pretty decent reporting. I was surprised at Mantis' summary views (pretty nice!), and I know Salesforce has tons of reporting tools. Instead of out-doing the reporting for these apps, MindTouch is about bridging between these highly specialized towers to cross-pollinate data more. Even as a engineering guy, it is very helpful for me to connect with the PR calendar (timing releases) and to understand how sales are doing at a broad level - eventually I can see the buy triggers for our customers, and be able to report back to the engineering team on how they contributed to sales (it's hard without metrics - I know Amazon actually breaks down exactly how much revenue each feature contibutes!).

It's not about replacing your current toolsets, but augmenting them by culling specific data points relevant to different teams and displaying lightweight reports around them.

Posted by roy on June 16, 2009 at 02:44 AM in MindTouch | Add a comment

I definitely know I'm growing older, as I'm actually getting excited to have my parents out here over the 4th of July weekend. (Or maybe I'm just so starved for attention... look at me!!! LOOK AT ME! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!)

Posted by roy on June 16, 2009 at 11:06 PM in Ramblings | 6 Comments

So I've been toying with a new feature for Tabulas. It's an incredibly minor feature, but it's taken me far longer to implement than I expected.

The feature: you can now granularly choose which of your friends can see your friends-only content. It differentiates people you want to read with people whom you want to share. It basically adds one more tier between making casual friends on this site, and sharing your real entries with your friends.

I'm still not sold on this feature's usefulness (to me, there's blissful simplicity in forcing people to make a decision on "friending" by also tying the friends-only features to it - I'm a bit worried about rampant "friending" now, but I'm willing to explore it.

I've actually wanted to implement this for some time, but reading ree's post finally got me off my lazy non-coding ass (That and a comment from Max at work saying that coding "wasn't something you [i] do". Ouch!).

The point isn't to talk about this, but rather an amusing anecdote I ran into while implementing this feature. I didn't realize how complex Tabulas' ACL had been.

Tabulas has 3 ACL levels: public, friends-only, and private (only you can read it). Now with this new feature, friends is essentially broken down "you can read me" friends and "let me just be connected to you" friends.

So for a given user account, you can control your entry's privacy levels though:

  • Site-level (public, friends-only, private) : it blocks everything
  • Category-level (categories and entries share a many to one relationship, too)
  • Individual entries privacy levels

 I remember when writing the ACL code, how much of a pain it'd be to change - I remember thinking, "Well, I won't ever change the ACL levels... so who cares if this code is complex?"


Conceptually, what I described about isn't too complex to pull off. The additional complexities come from the "optimization" level code I cobbled together. At a very high level, doing the ACL checks at the PHP level is pretty costly, especially when doing pagination on your friends' page - so to simplify things, I have a column which stores the effective status of an entry (entry perms + category perms + site perms) and I do a SQL query against that to simplify the pagination code. The goal is to do implicit ACL checking at the data level, so the business logic doesn't have to worry about too much about ACL checking. And unlike certain MindTouch devs, I do NOT believe in using advanced SQL - no sprocs (or even sub-selects!). If it can't be done with a straightforward SQL query, it's not worth it. (I've been bit by trying to make mySQL do things it doesn't quite know how to do well - I utilize mySQL as simply as possible)

In pseudo SQL; the friends query looks like this: "SELECT * from entries where (entry_user = 'friend1' AND entry_estatus = 'public') OR (entry_user = 'friend2' AND entry_estatus = 'friends') ORDER BY timestamp LIMIT 0, 5;

This is one of maybe 3 or 4 other optimizations that make Tabulas run faster. Another nasty one I do is to throw all data through a "recent" table - for example, trying to do the previous pseudocode when you have 100 friends who have been posting for 4 years is incredibly inefficient. So, I store a prune-able table of recent entries to poll from first (limits the data set).

These optimizations each take a maintenance and development cost (additional layers of abstraction you have to muck through), which I just had to pay when trying out this filtering feature.

Posted by roy on June 17, 2009 at 11:46 PM in Tabulas | 1 Comments

I remember the days when I only had to focus on tasks that looked more like this at MindTouch. I don't even want to try to map them now. Oh, the simpler days!

This is an interesting page because it shows, even from just an engineering perspective, what work goes into a release. All the coordination of the moving parts - and this list is nearly all engineering-focused... the list grows more complex as you start factoring in marketing/PR needs.

. . .

Here's a picture of me breathless, for different reasons, (ALTITUDE SICKNESS IS NO JOKE, GUYS), at Lake Nam-Tso in Tibet: (5,120 meters / 16,798 ft above sea level)


Currently feeling: nostalgic
Posted by roy on June 18, 2009 at 12:50 AM in MindTouch | 1 Comments

hey guys ... i did NOT win the california superlotto. i mean, i REALLY felt like i was gonna win, you know??? i know i promised some of you awesome things if i won ... but i didn't. apologies to everybody i promised kick-ass cars to.

Posted by roy on June 18, 2009 at 01:17 AM in Ramblings | 2 Comments

I seem to have hit writer's block as of late - not just on this site, but at work as well. It took me three hours to write 280 words for work tonight - that's one and a half words a minute. Jeez!

Posted by roy on June 22, 2009 at 03:51 AM in Ramblings | 3 Comments

geeoice: sure roy
geeoice: whatever you say
geeoice: you scan the crowds for a drunk whoo girl
geeoice: then you make a beeline and say "wanna come throw up in the comfort of my apt? i'll hold your hair for you"
geeoice: then as you drag her passed-out a$$ back to your apt you're thinking, "sweeet. scored a hunny for ROY!"

I'm pretty sure Joyce just says these things to get on my Tabulas ...

Posted by roy on June 22, 2009 at 03:14 PM in San Diego | 1 Comments

I don't know how this happens, but things at work all seem to time for the same week. Here is what MindTouch has been up to over just the past two weeks:

  • Released MindTouch 9.02.2 - huge update - the equivalent to XP SP2 - 9.02.x finally got stable!
  • Released MindTouch 2009 for Windows - MindTouch will now run stable on IIS, holy crap - this is technically being released end of this week. We've been available on every major Linux platform... now comes the Windows world!
  • Announced the Collaborative Intranet solution - This was very marketing/product heavy and didn't touch much (if any engineering resources). Hopefully engineers aren't too miffed they were left out of the decision making process, but c'est la vie. This is important because it's the first step in maturing MindTouch as a company outside of enterprise wiki sales into more solutions-based deals ($$$). This was also my first foray into something more non-engineering; conceptually understanding and messaging was very hard for me. (The 287 word post from below references the copy on this page)
  • Launched WhoRunsGov.com's Phase 3 tonight - these are huge updates, and begin to show the fruits of the dev team they've brought on to manage these properties.
  • Wrapped up professional service projects - we've got three (1, 2, 3) which are in hand-off mode.
  • Revamping the corporate homepage (new homepage + new solutions page launched - see above) has been an ongoing task - it started off with a new products page a few weeks back - then an overhaul of the design for IA purposes, then the IA reorg, and now the copy is being rewritten and refreshed. I really WISH I had taken a screenshot of the homepage before the current one. All I can say is that every week, the corporate website gets in a better and better place, and it makes me happy.

It's amazing what our team continues to accomplish. What we do with our resources ... is really a testament to the strength of skills of MindTouchers. As we continue to integrate the product/dev/sales/marketing teams more closely together (not too hard in a 25-ish size company), I'm really excited at what the future holds.

I'll be honest - I am abso-f'ing-lutely thrilled all these works ares are getting wrapped up. Juggling all of the above deadlines and making sure shit doesn't get dropped has been mentally draining (hello, burn-out city!). The past few weeks have been rough ... to say the least. But I feel, mentally, that we're past the rough patches and we're starting to make some real nice forward progress. Hope for a less stressful lifestyle begins. Yay!

Now that this stuff wraps up, what's next?

  • Manage the Minneopa release (maybe I can do some dev!)
  • Drive our internship program (we have two incredibly smart and capable interns - I'm excited!)
  • Assist with product management for the intranet solution
  • Scale out professional services
  • Continue to drive the professional service projects (we got 2 new ones)

It's been a while since I've felt the freshness of starting something new. And while these items are shimmering brightly, I'll be happy to latch onto them. But a Fuel so cynically notes, "all that shimmers in this world is sure to fade..."

Currently listening to: Fuel - Shimmer
Currently feeling: hopeful
Posted by roy on June 23, 2009 at 12:54 AM in MindTouch | Add a comment

This is probably the first time I saw a smartphone and said: "me want."

Beautiful! (Although the default font on the OS bothers me a lot ...)

Posted by roy on June 24, 2009 at 03:59 PM in Ramblings | 4 Comments

I feel like this is one of those critical junctures in a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book:

Posted by roy on June 24, 2009 at 11:18 PM in Ramblings | 4 Comments

The simplicity of Drudge can really leave an emotional impact:

 Compare with the impersonal impact of CNN:

Currently feeling: weird
Posted by roy on June 25, 2009 at 06:53 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

I saw an announcement about Fever, which is a self-hosted $30 RSS reader. It's a graphically beautiful application which has a nice hook: it'll scan your feeds and create a hot list of links which reoccur in your reading list.

I've been using Bloglines since forever, and I've been getting more disappointed with its performance as of late, so I shelled out $30 and gave it a whirl.

Let me first say the installation process is near perfect. What you do is you download a "Can my server run this application?" type helper. After it successfully says you can install it; you get this screen: 

After you input an activation key (which I purchased), it seamlessly installs it (part of the default helper is chmod-ing your directory to 777 - security hole!) ... so you go right the application. I really wish I captured a video on it - it is an amazing process which is just very smooth.

About the application itself? It's really pretty, but when I spend some time trying to read actual feeds, it didn't do a good job. For me, a deal breaker in any RSS aggregator is interweaving feeds based on time. I don't know why Google does this, I don't know why every other RSS application does this except Bloglines. It really boggles me - I don't see how it's beneficial to have to context switch between articles!

I have roughly 300 feeds I subscribe to daily, and each has a very different writing style, and require context to read. Scanning things is much faster when they are grouped by feed - I can skip whole feeds if I know it's the same old information (I usually skip the Apple feeds around big announcements, as there's a lot of noise). When feeds interweave, it's nearly impossible to avoid the noise. Financial crisis? I want to focus on my grouped feeds of economist blogs. And when I got Keynesian-slanted feeds mixed with Friedman-slanted feeds, it really is hard to read.


Bloglines scanning style:

  1. Title of feed (I get context)
  2. Title of posts (I can scan headlines, based on context)
  3. If the title catches, I read the post. I can skip whole sections if I'm not interested (Hot Deals Club, not so much lately since those are usually impulse buys)

Fever's scanning style:

  1. Title of post - ok, maybe this is interesting. But... what about context?
  2. Scan up for feed name - Oh, this is coming from Daring Fireball - an Apple-type feed. It must be really good. If that title came from Instapundit (conservative blog), I'd skip it.

My eyes get really tired scanning Fever feeds.

And one downside I hadn't anticipated for utilizing a server-side app refreshing 300 feeds takes a long frickin' time. (Fever has a cron job feature to alleviate this)

I've used Google Reader, I've used Fever, and I've used various Firefox plug-ins (memory fail) and I tried Thunderbird (didn't like it mixing with work emails) ... but in terms of being able to read tons of feeds quickly, Bloglines is still the winner. That really is a sad state of affairs given the fact that Bloglines is incredibly old - Google Reader (for which I was never a huge fan of) seems to have influenced the other crop of applications in adopting the worst components (at least Fever is able to "group" feeds so I can click once - a feature that seemed to be lacking when Reader launched).

If you're OK with the interweaving of feeds, I'd check out Fever. If you're not bothered by that reading style, then I'm not sure what Fever offers you more than Google Reader - I have a pretty large set of feeds, and the "tempereature' feature didn't seem to push up anything interesting.


Posted by roy on June 26, 2009 at 12:35 AM in Ramblings | 6 Comments

Had a quiet, introspective weekend... the last one in a while!

I've got my parents visiting over the 4th (Vegas, baby!), then I'm gonna tourist it up in San Fran (I've never been!) with some friends the following weekend. With any luck, I'll be entertaining a guest the third weekend here in SD, and then some of my favorite peoples (EXCLUDING BEANYA!!!) will be flying out for Caro's wedding in La Jolla the last weekend of July.

Looks to be a great month!

. . .

I had an epic fail of a moment when I made a "Hangover" joke in the engineering all-hands meeting last week... but I seriously love that movie. I have never downloaded a screener before, but after watching that movie in theaters, I had to see parts of that movie again (the roof scene cracks me up EVERY time) ... so I downloaded the screener. It's that fantastic. Go watch it!

Posted by roy on June 29, 2009 at 01:54 AM in San Diego | 4 Comments

I wrote about this band before, and I just wanted to share a track that's been on my playlist today, entitled "Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean." Melodramatic, I know. Explosions in the Sky a purely instrumental rock band ... very cool stuff. I'd say this band is the balance to all the (crappy) pop music I listen to - it's got very intricate layering of melodies and beats.

Download or preview:

. . .

Interestingly enough, I also found this Tabulas mini-project I built last year:

The project was to pick a word, and extract fragments from different entries across Tabulas with that phrase. You can refresh the demo to see a new phrase.

Posted by roy on June 30, 2009 at 02:04 AM in Music, Tabulas | 1 Comments
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