As of last week, I’m officially an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation. Here’s the the official announcement of WMF hiring me. I’ve been working there as a contractor for the past couple of months, and it’s been a great experience so far. I’m working with a lot of really smart people that I stand to learn a great deal from. I’m pretty used to being the “open source guy” at the companies I’ve worked at in the past, so it’s going to be an interesting twist to work somewhere where publishing the source code (and most everything else, for that matter) is just a given.
I’m skeptical about Diaspora specifically, because it reminds me a lot of an effort to take RealNetworks down a peg more than a decade ago. In 1999, the Free Expression Project was started to “help people distribute their content to other people without being beholden to any corporation”. A laudable goal, and one that earned them a fawning writeup on CNet News, which claimed that Real was under siege by these folks. The project never seemed to make it much further than a website with a few diagrams, and nothing that came even close to challenging the streaming media hegemony we enjoyed at the time. (I was at Real from 1996-2005)
However, that’s not really the whole story. What the fawning press coverage indicated was that there were a lot of people who wanted Real to be taken down a peg or two. I imagine that the CNet reporter was as skeptical as anyone about the ability of the Free Expression Project to deliver, but he wrote the story anyway because he knew that people would eat it up. He knew that story would generate traffic because people would see his headline, think “Thank GOD!”, and click through to read the story. He was probably right.
It ultimately wasn’t a ragtag band of open source developers that toppled Real’s dominant position, but rather a one-two punch from Microsoft then Macromedia/Adobe. Still, their job was made a lot easier by the prevailing mood. When we tried to rally the open source community a few years later, despite our success in landing deals with hardware vendors (which it appears they are still successful with), we didn’t get a lot of organic contribution. By then, MPlayer, GStreamer, Xine, VLC and other efforts were already underway, and contributors to those projects had little incentive to join forces with us at that point. The developers on those projects thought: “we can do this better, and why would we want to help Real anyway?”
Facebook has a pretty solid network lock-in going for them, so its not as though we’re about to witness a sudden collapse of their market position. However, they’ve got a serious problem with their brand, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Zuckerberg is in complete denial about it, preferring to think about the privacy controversy as a storm that will blow over soon enough. It’d be easy for the Facebook crew to believe that no one is going to be able to pull together all of the elements needed for head-to-head competition. I’m betting that’s not how it plays out. My guess is that someone like Twitter or Google figures out how to add just enough functionality that many more people feel comfortable giving up on Facebook. Moreover, if I were going into competition with Facebook, I think I’d try to turn their strength into a weakness. For example, for many younger people, a network not overrun with parents, grandparents and extended relatives might just be a selling point.
I got curious if there was a pronunciation on Wikipedia of “Eyjafjallajökull”, which of course there was. In the really helpful IPA alphabet, which is: “ˈɛɪjaˌfjatlaˌjœːkʏtl̥”. I got about halfway through deciphering this when I gave up.
So, here’s what I was able to ascertain is the best way to describe it in text. You say: “AY-ya-fyot-lah-yoe-kdl” with a particular emphasis on the “AY-ya” part to distinguish it from all of the other silly fyot-lah-yoe-kdls (mountain glaciers) that they have a million of in Iceland.
According to the New York Times blog, if you’re a native English speaker, your best chance of saying this is to mumble “Hey ya forgot the yogurt”. They’ve also got perhaps better text versions of how to say it.
July 22 – Great User Interfaces in the Terminal Window – This will be similar to my April talk about Urwid at LFNW, but will be a broader overview of the various approaches. When I was hunting for Urwid, I evaluated some of the alternatives, so the idea behind this talk is to step through the advantages/disadvantages of the various approaches.
How do you have an honest conversation with someone where you say “yes, I will need the work you did for free, to be assigned over to me, so that I can make money on it”?
It’s not hard to understand that argument. As anyone who has ever tried to build a community will tell you, contributors don’t grow on trees. It’s a lot of hard work getting a community excited and motivated to work on your project. Having a single-minded focus on the thought process of your contributor community is probably the only way to build a community of any size or consequence. Continue reading “Thoughts on dual licensing and contrib agreements”→
I’ve been working on a project to make building forms really simple. My latest work is “jsonwidget-python” for terminal-based applications (like you would use via SSH or local terminal on Linux and Mac). It’s all very retro, but terminal windows are still very much in use for buzzword-compliant activities like configuring virtual machines for cloud computing, in addition to being the preferred user interface for a lot of people out there (*cough* nerds *cough*).
Here’s a simple screenshot to show what’s going on:
As you may have noticed if you visited blog.robla.net directly, the comment area is handled via Intense Debate. I did that to get myself out of the account management business while still maintaining a modicum of control over my site. Other than then weird blue flaming logo and the name “intense debate” on a blog that I don’t anticipate intense debate on, it’s rather nice.
One new feature that I just enabled is the ability to comment using Facebook or Twitter login. It appears as though if you use it via Facebook, you’ll get the “allow to automatically post to your wall”, which is something that I don’t intend to exploit. If anyone with Facebook Developer-fu knows how to tweak it so it doesn’t ask for that permission, I’d be grateful if you clued me in.
The downside, of course, is that now there is 15 different logos down in the comment area now, not counting the additional 9 or so that pop up when you hover over the little orange RSS icon. Who knows, given the lack of color in the plain-jane theme I’ve recently switched to, maybe that’s a feature.
I’m working on a project that required a bit more from the JSON parser than the stock JSON parser with Python allowed for. After doing some hunting around, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that I’d probably need to write my own.
The habit of insisting that only the right and the left have “ideologies” and that people in the center don’t is one of the absolute most frustrating elements of conventional political discussion in the United States. The fact of the matter is that “centrist” ideological taboos have been the big story of the Obama administration. That starts with the imposition of an arbitrary cap on the size of the stimulus bill, it continues to the utterly merciless and fanatical centrist opposition to the existence of any public option, to the Fed’s refusal to undertake further monetary easing, to the unwillingness to contemplate really stern measures against bailed-out banks and their executives, and on and on and on.
The idea of a “centrist” ideology is easiest to apply to the “left-right” political spectrum in the U.S., but it holds true in other areas as well (e.g. proprietary versus open). While the “correct” answer is often between two extremes, that’s not always the case. People who tend to favor shades of grey are not necessarily more reasonable, just more prone to picking shades of grey.