Joel Spolsky is dead wrong for once

“Unix culture values code which is useful to other programmers, while Windows culture values code which is useful to non-programmers.” Uh, Joel, what about and Google? Linux core, custom applications. Possibly the most useful and broadly usable computer programs out there.
Joel Spolsky is usually insightful, smart, and lucid. His most recent essay, critiquing a book by Eric Raymond on The Art of Unix Programming, is dead wrong and confused.
To be fair, Spolsky is writing about Eric Raymond, who epitomizes the ubergeek arrogance of a class of unix infrastructure hackers. But Spolsky attributes this attitude to all Unix-platform developers, leaving out the user experience brilliance at Amazon, Google, and many other elegant and popular web-based applications.
Spolsky’s essay equates Unix infrastructure development with Windows end-user applications. Apples and oranges.

RSS music feeds

Seb writes about RSS feeds from AudioScrobbler playlists. What a wonderful idea!

Using a RSS-to-HTML device like feedroll, letting others know what you’ve been listening to recently on your weblog becomes a snap.
…All of Audioscrobbler’s data is published under the Creative Commons licence, and so are the user feeds. Which enables clever people to build crawlers (“Musicrati”?) and devise algorithms that exploit the distributed database and add value, for instance by matching participants’ listening profiles (

IM at work

what better place to catch up on blogging than a flight delay at DFW?
Flemming Funch writes about a study that contradicts some popular stereotypes about the use of IM at work.

  • Although a common impression of IM is that it’s used primarily for simple questions and quick clarifications, we found that was true only about 28 percent of the time.
  • Despite the perception that IM is commonly used for social purposes in the workplace, we found that was rarely the case. Only 13 percent of the conversations we monitored included any personal topics whatsoever, and only 6.4 percent were exclusively personal.
  • Concerns that IM might distract people from their work proved to be unfounded. The majority of the workplace IM conversations we observed, 62 percent, focused entirely on work-related matters.

Socialtext is a distributed team, we use IM a lot, and this certainly reflects my experience. There’s worry about the misuse of informal communications tools like IM and blogs at work, but these aren’t well-founded. People probably engage in the same amount of off-topic, relational conversation about sports, recipes, kids in electronic conversation as they do in analog conversation.

Statesman Covers Evoting Controversy

Scientists, Democrats distrust new electronic voting machines

By Scott Shepard, Sunday, December 7, 2003, Austin American-Statesman Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Computer voting machines have been touted as a solution to the problems of the 2000 presidential election, but some election officials and computer scientists are concerned that the machines, especially those with touch screens, might be inaccurate and, worse, susceptible to sabotage.

Great that the Statesman has the story. The only local folks they quoted were at Hart Intercivic.

Newest favorite RSS tool

Bloglines, a web-based RSS reader, recommended by Chip.
What I like about it most is the way that it helps you manage and avoid weblog subscription cruft, with:
* an easy “unsubscribe” link that you can use to sign off from blogs you really don’t want to be reading.
* ability to synch the list of blogs you read, as maintained in bloglines, with your blogroll.
One of my hesitancies about using RSS instead of web browsing to read blogs is that RSS subscriptions gather, unread, in your reader, like magazines in the corner. If you browse, and return to a favorite blog that you haven’t read in a while, it’s a delicious treat. If you subscribe, and see 52 unread posts, it’s a guilty burden.
The Bloglines pruning functions seem like they’ll help manage the joy/guilt ratio.

Zephoria: Friendster short-circuits small-talk

via David Weinberger, Zephoria has an insightful post about why profile-based conversation is wierd:

Reacting to a profile is just 10x more socially odd than small talk. And unfortunately, the profile itself takes away one’s ability to engage with the standard “what do we have in common” questions. Thus, the lurker gets that far and then they have to find something meaningful to say without the ice breaker. Given this, it’s such a miracle that profile-based dating ever works.

More than that, even Friendster degree-of-separation introductions lack the artfulness of a good party introduction, where the host can meet two people, spark a conversation about a topic they have in common, and slide away.
Blog-browsing and commenting feels like a more natural way of making an introduction. Not only do you know that someone is interested “politics”, you have an idea of how.

EULA funhouse

Ed Felten has a seemingly sensible suggestion for a consumer guide to End User License Areements, those pages of legalese that you click through to download software.
People comment with typical apologetics for the status quo. EULAs aren’t enforceable in court; buyers who know enough don’t believe them; sellers don’t believe them; and well-meaning lawyers insist that they are needed anyway, since everyone else uses them.
EULAs are a funhouse conversation between buyers and sellers, where nobody believes what they are saying, but everyone is compelled to recite these ritual untruths.


Didn’t get my act together to travel, which worked out well.
Attended a lovely Thanksgiving dinner party with fantastic food and interesting conversation, hung out with a friend in from out of town, can see the bottom of my email inbox, have a stocked fridge and an uncluttered house, caught up by phone with lots of family and friends, had a chance to give thoughtful responses to several book recommendations.
I’m imagining the sheer overwhelmedness of coming back from a weekend away to a messy house, an empty fridge, a thousand emails, and a dozen little stacked up unfulfilled obligations.
Worked out quite nicely.