Thursday, February 23, 2006

Malcolm Gladwell Blog

I've written about Malcolm Gladwell articles and books for some time now so I was thrilled to find out he has started a blog. There are only a few posts so far but this is pretty indicitive:
Adam Gopnik just emailed me to tell me that, for some strange reason, a debate that he and I did for the Washington Monthly on the Canadian health care system six years ago has now been resurrected on various blogs. I just took a look. Here's one of my favorite comments: "Very like their roles at The New Yorker, Gopnik is the voice of bourgeois sense, and Gladwell of extravagant, contrarian sensibility." (I'm not sure Adam would be as happy with that descriptor as I am). In our debate, Adam vigorously defended the Canadian system, and I attacked it. But wait! That was six years ago! I've now changed my mind. I now agree with virtually everything Adam said and disagree with virtually everything I said. In fact, I shudder when I read what I said back then.
I'm subscribed!

O'Reilly ETech 2006

As I wrote on my job blog, I'm going to be at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in about a week. The theme is "The Attention Economy" which is a fancy way of saying people are busy - the goal is for technology to manage the distractions so you don't miss the important stuff. I'm not a huge fan of conference themes but there seems to be a big variation in the content of the sessions so it doesn't seem like it's a problem. The biggest conundrum will be deciding what sessions to go - hopefully ITConversatons will have the same excellent coverage they had last year.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Free iTunes Pilot

NBC is providing the pilot episode of Conviction (a new Law & Order spinoff about the lives of young prosecutors) for free download from the iTunes Music Store. Since finding (or the lack thereof) an audience for new shows is usually what kills them off, this strikes me as a fairly smart move. Now if they just don't schedule it opposite Lost or one of the other umpteen million Law & Order spinnoffs they should be fine!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Dean Karnazes @ REI Saratoga

My wife and I attended a presentation last thursday by Dean Karnazes. Dean is an ultra-marathoner - and he does mean Ultra: he has run up to 350 miles non-stop. Here is the REI Blurb for the event:
Imagine running 226.2 miles nonstop… Or enduring bone-chilling cold on a marathon to the South Pole… Or running across Death Valley in 120-degree heat to the summit of Mt. Whitney (135 miles in 27 hours, 22 minutes)… In tonight’s presentation, Bay Area ultrarunning legend Dean Karnazes will share his amazing story, with highlights from his book, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner.
Interestingly he doesn't focus on running quickly (he said he's only an average marathoner) but running far. He described falling asleep running after 3 days without sleep and continuing to run until he wakes up in the middle of the road. He talked about running through Death Valley in a 100 mile race where you need to run on the white lines or your shoes melt and his peanut butter sandwich getting toasted as someone hands it to him from a support vehicle. A lot of the crowd were long distance runners so they had a lot of questions about running technique (he doesn't stretch - just like me!), what he eats (mostly salmon unless he's running when he eats pizza) and his gear. Dean is now sponsored by The North Face and they designed a running shoe according to his specifications that is pretty amazing. It's a laceless shoe that instead has a rachet knob on the back of the shoe to tighten it - when you want to remove it, there is a quick release. The shoe also has insoles that you heat in the oven and then step into to provide a better fit. And to prevent heel-lift, the inside heel of the shoe has a "lizard skin" type material so it's slick as you slide the shoe on but it grips when you pull your foot out. The presentation was very entertaining - I think Dean is so far beyond what other people can do that what seems normal to him is extrodinary (or crazy) to us. For example, it transpired during the Q&A session that when he did the 262 mile run (it was a 200 mile / 12 person relay race but Dean did it himself, tacked another 62 miles onto it and actually beat some of the teams) it was actually raining for several days of the run. The other extrodinary thing was how much he has to eat during these runs - for the 262 mile event, he said he ate 28,000 calories but that he burned about 38,000 calories and ended up losing 5 miles. Dean has many more entertaining stories so if you have an opportunity to hear him speak, it will be well worth it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

OPML Reading Lists for Optimized Feed Sync

Greg Reinacker posts about how efficiently he can sync the new version of FeedDemon because it uses the NewsGator API. So instead of checking his 150 feeds individually it just asks the NewsGator API what is new and then downloads what has been updated. This is definitely a step in the right direction - it would be even better if it was based on a more open standard than the Newsgator API. My previous post on Syndicating Ping State using OPML Reading Lists would allow this to be used by all services and aggregators. In a nutshell, the user subscribes to an OPML Reading List from a service (like NewsGator Online or Bloglines) which has not only your subscriptions but an HTTP etag for each subscription. As in Greg's example, when you want to update your feeds, you get the OPML file and compare the etag for each subscription with the etag that the aggregator has. If the etags don't match then something changed and the aggregator needs to get it. This isn't a slam against Newsgator or Greg - they set out to build something that would work today. I just think it would be great if we could make this kind of efficient pinging / subscription sharing work generically.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

My Job Blog

I finally got around to setting up my Adobe Work blog. I'll be posting about collaboration related technology there as it relates to Adobe but I'll continue to post here about whatever interests me. In neither case do my views represent those of my employer blah blah blah - you get the idea.

"Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" Podcast

The fine folks over at NPR have set up a podcast for Wait Wait Don't Tell Me - the NPR Quiz show. I visited a live taping of the show last year but I don't find myself near a radio when it is on and streaming from the web is kind of a pain. I was considering getting a Griffin Radio Shark so I could create my own Podcasts of Car Talk and Wait Wait but it's kind of a rube goldberg solution to my problem so maybe I won't.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

OPML Taggregators is a social bookmarking site that I've written about before. It allows you to tag links so that you can categorize them more easily (i.e. you'll actually do it!) than the traditional bookmarks feature in browsers. As different people tag things you can build up a model of link popularity and metadata based on statistics rather than a more brittle taxonomy. For a long time, I've wanted to do the same thing with subscriptions - the issue has always been packaging the result in some form that would be useful. Danny Ayers recently wrote a script that converts the links that he has tagged with a specific tag as an OPML Reading List. It would be really nice if did this itself by determining that something is an RSS / Atom subscription (like they do for mp3 / mpeg files) so that you could get a reading list that was all of the subscriptions tagged with "opml" and "reading list". It's a little more difficult than that because mp3 / mpeg files have distinct mime types whereas RSS files typcially do not. However, it wouldn't be too hard for the service to parse the content you tag to determine if it is RSS (Yahoo! My Web already caches the content you link to). Yahoo! could even serve the RSS from their servers so that it takes more load off of the individual RSS publishers - this is pretty much the FeedBurner model - and maybe even just aggregate the content together. There are some server based aggregators (Rojo as I recall) that will support tagging of feeds but 1) I use a desktop aggregator and want it in a form I can use and 2) I already use for tagging and don't want to create a different set of tags for this. Of course has an API so it wouldn't be too hard for other services to re-use your existing tags if they wanted to.

Monday, February 06, 2006


There seem to be a million and one Web 2.0 / AJAX Calendar sites lately these days so it was encouraging that my initial impressions of (terrible name aside - February only has 28 boxes!) was good enough to start putting personal calendar details in it. The a-ha feature of 30boxes is natural language processing / a ton of heuristics for understanding descriptions of events so you can just type "meeting February 12 from 4 to 5 pm" will enter it in the calendar and send an email to the person. I'm not sure I'd want to type in all my appointments this way though. Maybe a style "Add to my calendar" bookmarklet that allowed you to highlight text about an event or an email plugin would be a better way to exploit this. I was more interested in the slick way that 30boxes integrates with other Web 2.0 services - you can integrate with Flickr photos (highlights when photos were taken in the calendar), display your events, Yahoo Weather for the current week (historical weather would be nice) and integrate any RSS feed (so you can see when it was published). Since most of these are Yahoo! services, I won't be hugely surprised if this service gets acquired by them. Of course, you can subscribe to your calendar as an iCal file from a calendar aggregator like Apple iCal or Mozilla Sunbird. They are apparently working on an API so you should be able to publish events into the calendar which might make application integration as I mentioned above considerably easier.

Coolest Crash Dialog ever

I've been using the Adium Instant Messaging Client lately - it's a mac only universal client based on the GAIM engine so it can interoperate with AIM, Yahoo, MSN as well as Jabber based servers like GTalk and many corporate IM servers. It also offers Off The Record (OTR) messaging to allow end-to-end encrypted conversations using insecure IM services like AIM. The other day it crashed - it's been pretty rock solid up to this point so I'm not too concerned. The crash dialog above is the coolest I've seen - it helps to know that the mascot for Adium is a duck.