Bloggers Beware

The message in Steve Outing’s most recent column is that journalists who blog on their own time make their editors nervous.

There is a certain wisdom behind this nervousness – a paper is supposed to be impartial; a personal blog may well contain very subjective opinions that could (at least) appear to undermine that impartiality.

But isn’t it true – to varying degrees – that personal opinions of any employee of any company can help shape an outsider’s view of that given company? While the so-called damaging perception shift may be different for different careers – journalists are supposed to be impartial; Microsoft employees are supposed to be pro-technology – isn’t this a chance anyone with a personal blog or Web takes?

While I understand the desire of editors to control their writers – even personal writing – I don’t agree with it. And I really don’t see how such a policy is either fair nor realistic. The New York Times, for example, appears very anti-personal blog, according to Outing. Editor-in-Chief Len Apcar puts it bluntly: “I don’t like the concept of the personal blog in terms of The New York Times.”

– Reported by Steve Outing

Again, I see the editor’s point, but this seems a little unrealistic. You’re on your own time and – this is the part the editors don’t seem to grasp – if you blog stupidly, well, the blogger is at fault. Why did you hire this chucklehead in the first place? So it’s an issue of control, I guess.

The advice of a editor seems a little more realistic: “assume that you are always speaking publicly.” In other words, your blog’s on the Internet, it’s public, even it you don’t tell anyone about it. It’s not a diary that you lock in your drawer every night. So be aware of what you say and how this may affect you and your company.

While there understandably is a little resentment over an employer’s hold over what an employee does on the employee’s own time, the concern over personal blogs is really no different than concern over any other public action. Actions may have repercussions – if a blogger attempts to push the envelope, I fully support that; if the employer terminates that employee because of it, I can’t really fault the employer (obviously, this is on a case-by-case basis).

But I think it’s interesting that newspapers – a word-oriented world – are so frightened of personal blogs. It’s almost analogous to a totalitarian regime’s fear of the press.

On the other hand, newspaper editors – better than most people – know the power of public words. And that damage control over lose words – however well done and however faultless the associated parties – is just that: control of damage.

The control aspect of newspaper’s fear of blogs is just a way to contain potential damage before anything happens. I don’t fully agree, but I fully understand that aspect of their concern.

The other aspect is more troubling: Newspapers don’t seem to fully understand blogs and their potential strengths and weaknesses. That’s the most perculiar part.

Random Musings

For reasons that I really don’t want to get into here, I’ve been reading on the Web a lot over the past couple of days (more than usual, that is), and I’ve been running across stuff that just triggers reactions.

Here are some of those triggers and the associated reactions:

The Death Tax

While currently a whole series of taxes and regulations covering gifts, inheritance and so on, the Death Tax is, essentially, a tax on a deceased person’s estate. I guess the logic of this tax is that the government takes a cut of it as it sees the estate transfer to heirs as heir income. Since the heirs had nothing before, it’s win-win: Gov’t gets $, heirs get $/property etc.

Repealing this tax has been a Republican goal for some time; under the Bush administration, calls for an overhaul of these regulations have intensified.

Opponents of this overhaul – primarily Democrats – have argued that a repeal of these regulations will primarily benefit the rich – who actually have large holdings to pass on – and hurt the poor, who will suffer because of the decreased taxes garnered by these regulations.

So it’s a rich vs. poor, R vs. D issue, generally.

I’m not rich (nor are my relatives), and – were I a voter – I’d be seriously inclined to Democrats, for the most part.

But I think the Death Tax sucks.

Forget the amount of any given inheritance: An estate is made up of cash or holdings that – at the time of acquisition – were taxed.

Why tax them again? You are penalizing people for dying?

The Not Me Generation

I think it was the writer Tom Wolfe (The Right Stuff, Bonfire of the Vanities) who dubbed the 1980s as the Me Decade (Me Generation?).

Today, it seems more like the NOT Me generation.

Lawsuits filed – and any news magazine’s interviews – seem to indicate that people just don’t think there are any accidents (thanks Sigmund!) and – especially – that whatever, it’s not their fault. I’m not even going to link to any of the following, but all are true:

  • Sue McDonald’s because I’m fat.
  • Sue McDonald’s because I spilled coffee (coffee – not iced coffee) in my lap
  • Sue Ford Motor Co. because a tire blew, and when a stranger “helped” my daughter change the flat, this stranger killed her.
  • Sue a resort because a big ocean wave knocked me over and I’m paralyzed. The warning signs were posted, but didn’t really spell out the dangers.

While some of these types of lawsuits seem valid, and – sometimes – even the frivolous ones force changes that, in retrospect, are good, many (most?) of these lawsuits are a crock.

The sad part is most of these lawsuits are filed after something horrible happened: death, disfigurement, irreversible damage. That’s never good.

But that doesn’t make it Company A/B/C’s fault. Or the government’s fault. And so on.

Gee, I got fired. It must be because I’m single/married/pregnant/gay/black/not black/whatever.

Maybe you were just incompetent. Hmm??


Yes, Iraq allegedly had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD); apparently, they don’t.

Oops, too late. We already invaded. Our bad.

North Korea says they have nukes; North Korea says they are deliberately renouncing their previous commitment to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Bush has already put the country into his “axis of evil” (like Bush or not, that’s a great phrase), along with the likes of Iraq.

Last I heard, there were no U.S. troops storming into North Korea.

Ah, if only North Korea had extensive oil reserves…

Gay Marriage

OK, there has been so much flip-flopping on this issue that it seems like a political pancake breakfast. For example, Bush (during the 2000 election run) held that this is a state issue; now he wants to make it a federal case, literally. Like Bush or not, John Kerry – his likely 2004 opponent – has waffled even more. I’m still not sure what he opposes/supports. Bush, even with his head stuck in the Bible, seems a little more understandable on this issue (he’s flipped; now he has flopped to a specific stand, so you can at least agree/not with him intelligently).

Full Disclosure: I’m straight and – to the best of my knowledge – not married; if I did marry, odds are pretty damn good it’d be a woman. As such an individual, I have nothing to gain or lose by however this whole Gay Marriage debate shakes down.

My stance on this issue is pretty simple:

  • I’m not for or against Gay marriage. I don’t care. It’s like asking if I’m against orange vs. yellow sunrises. Ditto for heterosexual marriage. Which means, to me, it (gay marriage) is fine, and what’s all the fuss? I don’t even know why this is an issue. (Uh, yes I do, but – for my sensibilities – it’s a non-issue).
  • Marriage/civil union/whatever is a government-sanctioned contract. Like a Social Security number, it gives you certain rights from a contractual point of view. It means way more to most people (including me), but – in our current government structure – that’s all it is or should be.

But I have questions that the whole debate issue brings up:

  • Define “marriage” – I was raised Roman Catholic (but I got over this), so that probably colors my perceptions, but the term marriage always had a religious overtone. Yet a marriage license – a government document – was always required. So I guess, from this, the legal term for a bound couple is “marriage,” correct? Then what about…
  • Define “civil unions” – I think this is what Kerry supports instead of marriage (I think Bush opposes any union between same sexes). If the marriage license is what is issued by government, what is the difference between a marriage and a civil union? If the only difference is religious, what the [bleep] is the government doing in the religion biz?
  • Define the legal ramifications – What are the legal differences – if any between a marriage and civil union. Health care, child visitation rights, Social Security benefits and so on. And which union – if any – is transferable between states? I.e., a man marries/civil unions another man where it’s legal; if they move to a state where such marriages/unions are not currently legal, which state’s/federal law wins?
  • Wedded Bliss – Everyone can pull up the stats or their own examples, but – if marriage between two same-sex partners is bad and heterosexual marriage is “ideal” (Bush), that means the marriage of Lisa-Marie Presley and Michael Jackson was good (and so on..pick Britney Spear’s XX-hour marriage; Dennis Rodman’s I was too drunk to remember marriage [to Carmen Electra in Vegas] and so on). Comments?
  • Religious Wedded Bliss – Explicit or implicit, the Bush push against Gay Marriage can be seen as a pro-Bible/religious push. Fine; I don’t agree, but I see his/his supporters’ point. So, let’s say I’m a gay child molester, guilty (by my own admission) and in jail. I get a minister’s license on the Internet or out of the Rolling Stones classifieds. I marry couples (the good, the bad, the ugly). Or I – the guilty, jail-bound, gay, child-molesting bastard – marries a woman (heterosexual marriage). Are these unions ideal?
  • Blue Laws – This occurred to me as I was writing this entry. Let’s say some state allows man+man marriages but still has sodomy laws on the books – federal, state or local laws. What happens? Two men marrying (legally) can’t have sex (legally)? Doesn’t anyone else think this is an interesting question?

Slavery Reparations

I had an exceptional Social Studies teacher in 7th & 8th grade (Social Studies is what we called history, U.S. History, geography when I was not yet in long-pants).

He said a number of memorable things – some that would make John Ashcroft cringe, and in a guilty way – but one of the things my teacher said was that the entire black/white history of America – from Plymouth Rock to current date – would be historically viewed as the worst blot on American History. And this was during/around the whole Vietnam War and Watergate debacles (though these then-current events didn’t have the historical weight, for better or for worse).

I believed him.

I still do.

I think we have to get past that, however.

There are still lawsuits peculating through the courts (see the Not Me Generation, above) that attempt to give the descendents of slaves monetary damages.

I think this is ridiculous, but – of course – I wasn’t there. Or, I was not a child of slaves. Or grandchild of slaves.

Either are the plaintiffs in these cases (from what I’ve read; I’m certain I can be corrected. But do the math, OK?).

Slavery was horrible – I can’t even imagine what it was like.

Neither can today’s distant descendants of slaves.

This does not make slavery any less worse, just more distant for anyone.

I (white or not) didn’t enslave you (non-white or not). Unless there is a direct connection between my relatives (doubtful, didn’t come to U.S. until after 1900) as masters and your relatives as slaves, we don’t have much of an issue beyond preseving history, which I’m all for.

Actually, the cases I’ve read about say the descendants of slaves are suing the U.S. Government. While I’m sure there is more to it than I can see – because it all seems silly to me – it’s still a long haul (again, to me). I guess I have the following politically-incorrect questions:

  • The U.S. stopped slavery in the mid-1860s. We fought a civil war partially about this. Which government are you sueing: The pre-Civil War U.S; current U.S.; government that did not recoginize the split of the Confederate States (and where therefor at least in part responsible for the slavery during that period)?
  • What are your plans – past, current or future – to sue the governments/successor governments in Africa and the Caribbean for these governments’ involvement with the slave trade?
  • What are your plans – past, current or future – to sue the shipping companys who transported the slaves, the companies that traded same, the persons/companies that purchased slaves?
  • Define “descendants of slaves” – 1) What proof is one required to supply to say one is a descendant of a slave; 2) What qualified percentage of slave blood qualifies one – in this debate – as a legal descendant of slaves (1/2, 1/8 etc bloodline)? For example, I think (*not certain*) one has to be a qualified half-blood Indian [of one tribe] to claim this and live on a reservation as “Indian” for tribe and U.S. tax purposes.

If there is some connection, tenuous or solid, between government/me and former slave descendant, what does this mean roughly 140 years after the event happened? I’m serious, dammit! I don’t know.

If this is the case, at what point – distance or circumstance – do the sins of one generation not reflect on a future generation? That’s a toughie.

Spam Spam Spam Spam


There has been a lot of discussion on the Web and in print about spam lately (the e-mail nuisance, not the yummy meat-like product) – this will be a little more of the same.

Like any other complicated subject, spam is not a simple binary issue – you can slice and dice it any number of ways.

This slice and dice will look at the two sources of spam:

  • Hacks – Viruses, scams (419 etc), phishing and so on. Some benign.
  • Sales – Advertising; trying to get someone to buy something or visit site.

Now, we’re never going to be free of the hacks – like Hillary commenting on Everest, the hacks will continue simply because they are possible. And once one hole is patched, another will open. We might get better at filtering out this mail and so on, but it’s probably always going to be around. Get over it.

The second arena is a little more problematic: It’s not as simple to say this type of spam can be stopped from ever being sent (let’s ignore filtering etc.) or whatever.

The sales spam is pretty much like telemarking: Usually unsolicited messages that reach you, wanting you to buy some product or service.

I’ve always said that I personally don’t know anyone who has ever purchased something as the result of a cold telemarking call, yet the calls keep coming. This means that telemarketing is profitable: Somewhere somebody is buying stuff.

And telemarketing is expensive – it usually involves a real person on the other end of the line.

Spam, on the other hand, is cheap. Just as easy to send to a million folks as three.

So, even if virtually all folks stop buying as a result of spam, we seem to be fated to continue getting sales spam because it’s economically prudent – if you get a 0.00001 response rate but sell one $10 product for a $5 spam cost…well, you’re ahead. You’ll keep on doing it.

That’s scary.

This isn’t any new information I’ve uncovered, obviously. But it’s frightening when you break it down in such a simple manner as this and see the results. Ouch.

The really sad part of this is that it shows that spam pays: So, we can expect to see both types of spam in other Net media, such as IM and RSS. The latter is particularly frightening. But why not? Once the crackers figure out the method, the sales spammer will exploit these, uh, exploits.

Brave new world…

Automation Via Tools

The Writing Life
Annie Dillard

A short (~100 pgs) book about the craft of writing.

Written in Dillard’s signature style – introspective, non-linear, metaphysical – it’s an interesting take on the life of a writer: Why we do what we do; how it happens; what are the results?

While not as satisifying as her other books (such as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek), it’s still a difficult but rewarding read.

All books

Tools that automate are really the single most powerful reason to use tools.

While automated tools can be part of an app, I’m going to concentrate on those tools that may be in some way divorced from a given application.

Basically, automation tools are a way of spending some time up front to make a repetitive task unnecessary or greatly simplified. A very simple example of this would be a ping tool that periodically pings a remote server to make sure it’s running. Sure, a developer can do this via the command line or through a browser, but does this developer want to do this every five minutes 24×7?

Of course not – and that’s where a tool comes in. Add a few more hours of work, and this tool may be able to do the following:

  • Ping remote server every X minutes
  • Log result (up/down/latency)
  • Fire off e-mail(s) if down for more than Y minutes
  • Hook into another tool that will graph the results for easy viewing for the suits; perhaps set to e-mail out every morning or whatever.

All these tasks can be done manually, and putting together this tool will take some time and effort, so why bother?

Because – once the initial work is done – the tool just keeps on running, never getting sick, taking a vacation or a new job and so on.

In the long run, tool creation generally pays off (there are always the inefficient and/or unnecessary tools). Do it once, and then every time it’s used it saves some seconds of work. All those small seconds added together suddenly start to pile up.

Anyone reading this blog (and if you are, seek professional help) knows all this, but I’m using these tool entries to help clarify my view of the subject, so bear with me.

Some other simple examples of automated tools are the following:

  • Backups
  • Auto-updates of a site (change the feature of the day on a static site by pushing the change to the remote server)
  • E-mailing: This tool is called whenever some other tool detects an event that should trigger an e-mail. By having a single tool (with params) handling this, each tool does not have to re-invent the wheel.
  • Trigger future events: Think of Outlook reminders. Schedule an event in the future, go away for the week and all the tasks occur as you scheduled them automagically.
  • Parsers – Example: Pull down the product list of a vendor daily and parse out the necessary data to put in the database. Parsers are a huge subset of tools (log analysis is basically parsing, for example)

There are hundreds more, but this should give one an idea.

One of the unseen benefits of tools is the way that they can become more than tools (dumb, automatic servants) – they may become decision drivers.

Take the example, listed in my previous entry, of log analysis. Pretty basic stuff, but – as noted there – if the log runs against list of current/potential clients and so on, some patterns may well develop. This comparison tool may drive – actually create – a list of clients to call based on business logic embedded in the comparison tool. Results such as these are powerful and only possible in a medium such as the Web.

And if you take the time to create the tools necessary to potentially uncover these patterns…

More on Tools – Phase I to Phase II

The Pianist
Roman Polanski

Well, this is not your feel-good movie of the year, that’s for certain.

While a certain amount of gravity and declaration of seriousness goes with a Holocaust story such as this, this movie earns the accolades it did receive. One of the better movies I’ve seen in the last few years; Brody is impressive and the history lesson compelling.

My one nit to pick is the message – in reviews and on the Blockbuster box – that it was the protagonist’s (a famous pianist) love of music that helped get him through this terrible time. I just didn’t get that from the movie – yes, he loved music, and his celebrity as a musician got him some breaks, but this movie is – to me – simply a tale of survival in horrific times.

All movies

OK, we’ve moved beyond Phase I of the Web – presence.

I’ve been telling people for years to reserve that domain name, it’s cheap and you can always do something with it later, but please get the name.

Others have apparently gotten and heeded the same advice; you can pretty much hit a Web site for any given company/organization with only a couple of URL guesses ( or and so on).

That’s Phase I – presence.

Phase II is the “now what do we do?” phase.

Or, what do we do with what we have done phase.

And this is where tools play a key role.

To illustrate, let’s use an example of a corporate Web site. Half-dozen pages. The site was launched because the sales team insisted that clients/journalists kept clamoring for a Web site with contact info and an easy way to request ad rates, media kits and so on.

Now we are in the phase where we can – we should – mine the data that is associated with this Phase I presence site. For example, we (the Royal we) should do the following:

  • Keep track of site page views (not raw hits; that’s sooo Phase I) and set up tools to track trends (page view by day of week, by day/week following press release/trade show/product introduction…)
  • Check referrers. Where is traffic coming from and – more importantly – run this list against known/potential clients/vendors and so on. Is the target audience actually hitting the site or just random Google results?
  • What pages are erroring? Why? (bad ad server, missing images, 404, what?) Fix immediately
  • What pages get the most views; what trends can one see? The index page will probably get the most view, but is the press page or new products page most popular? From there, who is hitting those pages? Current clients? Potential clients? Competitors? The data is there, mine it

This is just a small example of what one can do; the data is there, the trick is to see what it tells you. Tools help uncover the patterns embedded in the data.

Leverage tools to add value to a site, in ways that can then be analyzed via the list above:

  • Play what-if: Example: Furniture site that shows it’s newest product on the index page. What if this page rotated randomly through the three most recent introductions, or random viewing of one of two pictures of the new intro? Does this increase traffic?
  • Take suggestions from departments and add pet pages: Measure their successes; does the “contact us” page add value?
  • Add Featured Product: Does this continual update of given page increase the page view?
  • Try something new: Add a Flash intro to one section. Do page views/time on page go up/down/stay same? If change (+ or -), why?

And so on.

Tools can help add some of the new functionality; tools can help identity the results.

All the preceding examples are very low-tech ways to use tools to either change the user experience and/or to measure user change via log analysis. This is the tip of the tool iceberg, obviously, but it gets the point across.

COMING UP: Automation Via Tools

Tools for Tools


This film – a cross between All That Jazz (another Fosse creation) and Moulin Rouge – was highly entertaining but, untimately, not memorable.

As a modern musical, with rapid, MTV-style edits and a blur between thought and reality, it is extremely well done and fun, but the story itself is weak. But, hey, it’s a musical, no War and Peace, right?

All movies

As I have mentioned more than once, I’ve been concentrating more on tools than, say, full applications recently (both in a Web-centric manner).

The difference? Well, let’s use the example of a photo gallery.

  • Application: The actual set of pages, databases and so on that allow an admin to post pictures with captions, edit same and so on and the front end that allows a user to view the posted images.
  • Tools: Tools either support the application (usually the back end) or provide some additional functionality that is not part of the original application’s scope or part of the application at all.

A back-end support tool, for the gallery example, would be a tool (process) that auto-resizes photos, so the admin doesn’t have to open Photoshop before uploading pic – the tool, embedded in the app, does all the work silently. While technically part of the app, it’s really a separate process that is not a necessary feature of the application (storing data in a database for later retrieval is necessary, so that process is actually part of the app).

Another back-end tool example would be a spell checker: This is not necessary to post a caption; it’s a helper app to get the correct spelling that caption text. It’s a helper tool.

The line between tools and applications is fuzzy in back-end processes, because a back-end app is, essentially, a collection of tools. In large part, the difference between a tool and the application proper is just a matter of project scope: Anything out of scope added later that’s not really required to meet the earlier scope can be considered a tool, but that’s semantics.

An example of additional functionality would be a “random picture” process: A process that displays either a random picture on each page load or a “Picture of the Day.” This type of functionality is not really part of the application, because – once initial params are set – they don’t require any admin intervention. Another such tool would be a referrer log processor/listing.

Again, this is fuzzy, because a random pic display is often part of an application scope for a gallery. I guess a good rule of thumb would be to say that a tool is something that has little to no impact on the user experience, but helps the admin: While auto-resized (to fixed thumbnail and full sizes) pics will create a more uniform experience to the user, it has little overall impact. Does the user care that the images were auto-resized? No. Does the admin? Yes.

And that’s the crux: Tools just mechanize what can be done in an automatic manner, to free up admin time for more human-centric tasks, such as picking out the images to add/taking new pics and so on.

Tools, to me, have been interesting lately for the following reasons:

  • I’ve built hundreds of applications, for fun and profit. It’s not as challenging to build apps now.
  • I’ve done a lot of tool work, but mainly support for apps – usually, as part of an application scope. Tools for tools’ sake is newer to me than app work: Thus, it’s harder and I can learn more. I like both parts of that last sentence.
  • Tools, for the most part, come down to scripting. And while my Web scripting skills (HTML, PHP, ColdFusion etc) are high, my tool scripting skills are not honed as well: Shell scripts, Perl scripts, PHP for FTP processes and so on. Again, I can learn and have fun doing so.

And – ultimately – you start to get a different picture of user/computer interaction when you have a deeper understanding of both apps and tools. I’m just beginning to see that now, and it’s interesting.

Much like the difference between looking at a Web scripting vs. database architecture and looking at at the same time.

Frustrating at times, but interesting. And brings up some interesting dilemmas and questions.

More on that as I begin to understand the questions, much less the answers…

Truth in Advertising

While has published an obit for Webmonkey, the Webmonkey site itself does not reflect the news. This is somewhat odd to me.

I expected Webmonkey to reflect news of the site’s new direction (no new items, maybe a promise to keep the archives available [with caveats] ). While this news may still be coming, why isn’t it there yet?

Wired and Webmonkey both have the same parent, TerraLycos – and this parent site still lists both properties. So it’s not like the Wired article (titled, mind you, “Webmonkey, RIP: 1996 – 2004”) got it wrong. It’s a sister site.

The TerraLycos site still shows Webmonkey as a property, with the following description:

One of the first sites written by Web developers for Web developers, Webmonkey is the comprehensive source of information for professional and amateur Web enthusiasts, offering daily articles and technical updates, as well as an archive of more than 200 features and tutorials. [emphasis added]

Webmonkey description on TerraLycos site

That’s one of the problems with the Web – dead, non-updated links and text. This is just a case in point.

New Functionality

I’ve added a new section to this blog – reviews.

As do other bloggers, I’ve been putting in reviews of books and movies that I’ve read/viewed as boxed items as part of a blog entry. The review section gathers all these reviews together in one location, one page each for each category (books, movies, whatever…).

This section differs from my next most-recent addition, the Top 10 section: Top 10 is just a listing of items in various categories – little detail and encompassing books/movies/memorable first/last lines I’ve been exposed to over the course of my life.

The review section, on the other hand, is a short capsule review of a book/movie that I’ve just finished or am in the course of experiencing. In other words, you won’t see a review of The Brothers Karamazov (one of my all-time favorites) unless I re-read the book. You may see a reference to it a Top 10 list, however.

Any questions?

The Reviews section is build very much like the Top 10 section: Basically, entry forms/database hosted on a local machine and then pushed as static HTML to this host (which doesn’t have database support).

Specifically, the Review pages are generated in the following manner:

  • Local PHP-coded pages allow the addition of a new review or edit of existing entry. Information stored in a mySQL database (two tables, items and item types)
  • A picture can be associated with a given review. Dupes are blocked; successful uploads are resized with ImageMagick and immediately copied to local and remote hosts. No blobs; the photo is stored in the file system and a pointer (file name/extension) stored in database.
  • For edits, there is the option to toggle the suppression/display of a given review (all deletes are soft-deletes, not true “delete from table where…”)
  • Whenever desired, a generation page will create a Review Index page and detail page for each review category in static HTML and push same to local and remote hosts (again, all PHP against mySQL database). Logic is present to only generate category pages for categories with active items; each category page shows only active reviews.
  • Once I’m comfortable with code and have stopped tweaking, I’ll set a CRON entry for the regeneration page and have it run nightly, so the site is always fresh. Remember – there is the deactivate option, so reviews that are drafts can be worked on without inclusion on this site.

Worth doing; hopefully, someone will find these reviews worth reading.

Random Thoughts

The DaVinci Code
Dan Brown

Dan Brown’s book about murders, codes and Christianity is not great literature, but it is a great read. An excellent beach or weekend read.

While the ending is a little disappointing – but it’s really the only way it could end – the facts, theories and conspiracies he weaves within the plot are well done and give one pause. And makes one dig out old art books to re-examine some classic paintings. Mind candy, very nicely done.

All books

Just some random thoughts – musings, if you will – about a variety of subjects:

The comparison of Google to Netscape (one such article): While there are valid reasons to make this comparison – especially in lignt of Wall Street’s breathless anticipation of Google rumored IPO – I see more reasons to shrug off this comparison. Remember, Netscape was the sole player in a nascent market (the ‘Net) when it was the high flyer. Google has grown to be the current best in one area (search) of a now firmly entrenched market (admittedly, this is a especially turbulent market). Netscape was narrowly focused (blindered?); Google has shown it does not wish to rest on its search laurel; it is diversifying its portfolio. Really, Google is closer to Microsoft than Netscape.

Syndication Wars: Yes, these have flared up again, and I’m not going to link to any of the fights. So there. The whole RSS vs. [anything else; currently Atom] debate is fueling the rush of packets back and forth across the Internet. I’m reminded of the quotation attributed to Henry Kissinger, that campus politics are so fiece because the stakes are so small.

Linux vs. Apple on Desktop: I’ve read many articles recently saying that 2004 could be the year of the Linux desktop; articles are now starting to mention that this growth will be particularily hard for Apple to swallow. It’s interesting. I just don’t know.

SCO vs. the World: As just about any day’s reads on Groklaw will attest, SCO’s case(s) is looking weaker and weaker with each passing day. While I always thought the whole reason for SCO’s gambit (yeah, there’s a game plan, sue IBM, that’ll be easy) was to get bought out, it will be interesting in retrospect to view this mess of suits/countersuits. We’re too close to it today.

Microsoft Loses Swastika: According to several reports (such as Wired’s), a swastika symbol found in MS Office 2003’s symbol set is creating a PR problem for MS. And MS is all apologetic about it. Why? Yes, the swastika was the symbol of Nazi Germany, and the Nazis were not most folks’ favorite gang. Yet, the symbol itself predates the Third Reich, and – even if it didn’t – it is a symbol that has use for historical purposes (a report on the Nazis, for example). Why the political correctness?