Sad Ducati

July 30th, 2007

This could possibly be the saddest picture I have ever seen.

Sad Ducati

The picture comes from MotoLiam, who as a mechanic on Alex Hofmann’s MotoGP machine. The full story of the picture is on his blog entry.


Laguna Seca MotoGP Videos

July 30th, 2007

We were at Laguna Seca for the MotoGP race last weekend. We had a great time. I think staying in an RV right beside the track and getting Flag Room passes is the way to go. Staying at the track gets rid of all the problems people have getting to and leaving the race. The flag room was a great oasis where we could sit in the shade and have some drinks and food. Two years ago we didn’t have the flag room and trying to find ways to hide from the sun was not too fun.

We’re seriously thinking of going back to Laguna Seca for next years USGP, and maybe even to Qatar to see the race in March!

I found this great video of the race highlights of the weekend. It captures some of the stuff we saw and some of the things we weren’t able to see:

2007 Laguna Seca MotoGP

Also, here is a video that shows some of the excitement of the event:

And this is a short, low quality video, but I though it captured the speed and noise of being there pretty well:


Rumours of Our Death

July 17th, 2007

I’m pretty excited that Michele (that’s my wife for those of you who don’t know me), is directing a play. The play is “Rumours of Our Death”. It’s a quirky, hilarious play by a Canadian playwright named George F. Walker. When I first read the play I was chuckling quite a bit, and I got a chance to see some of the rehearsals last weekend and on stage it’s even funnier. The cast is doing a great job. I’m really enjoying watching Michele go through the process of turning the words on the page into something real. I’m really proud of her.

So, if you in the Hollywood area on a Saturday from August 11th to September 15th, go see it.

Here is the official Rumours of Our Death in Hollywood web site. Buy tickets now!


Los Angeles Geek Dinner

July 14th, 2007

I have decided to go to a Los Angeles Geek Dinner on Tuesday. I’ve been thinking about going to one for a while – I think what finally persuaded me to go was that it was being held at Galanga Thai. I’m always into trying out a new Thai restaurant, and this one is within walking distance of our place.

Although I’ve lived in L.A. for almost 7 years, I have no connections at all in the tech world here – I’ve never worked for an L.A. company. Since I’ve been in L.A. I’ve worked for companies in Detroit, San Francisco and Austin. It should be interesting to meet some L.A. geeks.


Are You a User

June 5th, 2007

Here is some food for thought from a O’Reilly Radar post: “there are only two industries that refer to their customers as users: high tech and illegal drugs”.


Bloglines vs. Google Reader

June 1st, 2007

Update: Looks like I wrote this a little too quickly, I just found out there is a “oldest first” sort! Cool. I’m gonna switch to Google Reader and see how it goes.

I read a lot of blogs, so having a good feed reader is important to me. I’ve been using Bloglines for many years. I have noticed, however, that they do not seem to be upgrading Bloglines very often. I can’t remember the last time any significant features were added to it. I also know that Google Reading has become the most popular reader, capturing around 50% of the market.

I try Google Reader every now and then, but I have been sticking with Bloglines. I’m always disappointed because I’m a big fan of a lot of other Google product. I use GMail as my main email, I use Google docs all the time. Oh yeah, and I even use their search. They just announced that Google Reader is going to take advantage of Google Gears to have the ability to read feeds offline. This seems like a great feature that I would love to have, but I have not made the switch for a few reasons:

  1. Google Reader does not let you order you feeds from oldest to newest. In Bloglines I order my feeds so that the oldest one is at the top. This makes sense to me – I want to read the entries in the order they were written in. Sometimes bloggers refers to a post they did in the past, and it gets confusing if you haven’t read the old post before you read the new post.
  2. You can’t reorder the folders. I keep my feeds in about a dozen different folders, and like to keep the folders I find most important near the top. Google Reader always orders them alphabetically.
  3. Screen real estate is not used effectively. Bloglines divides the screen into two frames. The right frame shows you posts, and the frame stretches right from the top of the browser window to the bottom. Google reader displays the entries in a smaller frame which is only about 75% of the height of the browser window.

Out of the three #1 is the deal breaker. If they allowed you to order the entries in reverse chronological order, I’d probably make the switch. The other two problems are pretty nit-picky and probably wouldn’t keep me from using it. But I really want that offline reading ability. So, if anyone from the Google Reader team reads this, please fix these problems, and I’ll switch.


Mahalo: Human Powered Search?

May 30th, 2007

Jason Calacanis, who’s blog I’ve been reading for a while now, has been developing a new project, but has been pretty quiet about it. Today he revealed Mahalo – a “human-powered search engine”. This is a well funded company (they have gone through two rounds of funding already), Calacanis has said that they can survive for four years with no revenue.

I took it out for a quick test spin, and the results do seem OK. I would think if you are searching for a popular topic and want some general overviews of things, it would be a good place to start. Is it going to replace Google for my everyday searching? No way. The main reason is they don’t have enough topics covered yet. They currently have about 4,000 topics covered, and they plan to have 10,000 by the end of the year, and 25,000 by the end of 2008. Even when they do get more topics, there are just too many searches I do for very specific topics for it to replace a regular search engine.

I don’t understand why they call themselves “human-powered search”. This is a directory plain and simple. Mahalo is doing what Yahoo! Directory and dmoz have done in the past. I think, however Mahalo seems to be adding some nice features on top of the basic list of links that most directories offer. The categorized links are a nice idea. They also include videos and pictures on the page. But it’s still a directory.

People also have been comparing this to Wikipedia, but I don’t really think they are similar. Wikipedia is a content-based destination site, Mahalo just contains pointers to content. Wikipedia pages get a lot of links right now because people often link to the content pages. Mahalo isn’t going to get the same type of links that Wikipedia gets. Mahalo won’t be challenging Wikipedia for search engine rankings any time soon.

Right now when a topic isn’t covered, Mahaolo provides search results from Google. This is better than a “sorry, we didn’t find anything”, but I think this could be more useful. I would personally love to see any not found result automatically redirect to Google. This way I would be much more willing to search using Mahalo, knowing that if it didn’t know anything about the topic, I would see my regular Google search results. I always have 100 results displayed on Google, and I like to see the result right up on top of the page. Right now as it is, when Mahalo doesn’t find anything the Google results are buried below teh fold so I have to scroll down, and then I only see ten results. Maybe this could be an option for power users. I could also see a nice Greasemonkey script being written to do this.

The only other complaint I have is that there aren’t very informative descriptions for each link. Right now you just get a site name and title for each link. I would prefer to see a one or two sentence description along with the link. This would give me a better idea of what to expect before I click on the link.

I’m sure as time goes on more functionality will be added to the site. Knowing Jason Calacanis, there should be some neat social elements to the site. There is a submit link function right now, which is pretty standard for a directory. there is also a message board feature for each topic, which seems like it will be very similar to Wikipedia’s discussion pages.


Any Problem in Computer Science Can be Solved with Another Layer of Indirection

May 26th, 2007

Any problem in computer science can be solved with another layer of indirection.

This is a saying that I’ve heard a lot in my career as a software developer. But, I’ve come to realize that it can also be a source of a lot of problems. Just because you can add a layer of indirection, doesn’t mean you should. Lately I’ve been saying “any code can be complicated with another layer of indirection.”

Over-engineering can be a big problem in software development. Sure – you can add a layer to abstract away the database; you can use dependency injection to make sure all your components are pluggable; you can make an interface for a class, just in case there will be a second implementation at some point. But, you have to stop and weigh the consequences of these decisions. Every decision you make is a trade off. You gain something, but you also lose something. In the case of over-engineering you lose simplicity. The code becomes more complex and harder to read, so it becomes harder to understand, maintain and debug. Do you really need that extra layer in your software?

I did a quick Google search and found that there was more to the original quote. David Wheeler actually said:

Any problem in computer science can be solved with another layer of indirection. But that usually will create another problem.

That second sentence is something I have never heard quoted before, but from now on whenever I hear someone say the first part, I will point out the second part of the quote as well.


Why You Can’t Compete Against Passion

May 23rd, 2007

At New Iron Group, we’ve recently been putting together a web site and thinking about long term marketing and things like that. One thing we keep coming back to is that we are passionate about software development. We really like writing software, in particular, software that solves real world problems.

Why is this important? When you’re doing something passionately, your going to produce great results. If your competitor isn’t passionate about it, you will always win in the end.

It doesn’t matter what field you are in. Whether you are produce a better widget or you trying to send a man to the moon, passion will get you there. Here are a couple of good quotes on the subject:

Quentin Tarantino about being a passionate filmaker

Here’s the thing: they can write a mean letter, they can write a mean memo, but these guys don’t have any real fight in them. If you’re an artist, as opposed to a careerist, and your movie is more important to you than a career in this town, they can never beat you. You have a loaded gun, and you know you’ve got what it takes to put it in their faces and blow their heads off. It’s about never taking the gun out. It’s about never touching the gun, never raising it, never pulling the trigger, never blowing their heads off. It’s about not going there — but knowing you can. So, if you have to flash it, it means something.

Bob Lefsetz on trying to compete agaisnt passion in the music industry

I’m positively stunned at the blowback from business regulars about that chap giving his music away for free. Oldsters can’t understand the economics!

I’ll clue you in, THERE ARE NONE!

This is your worst nightmare. People who can follow their dream on sweat equity. Who with their computer and the money from their day job or mommy and daddy can compete with you. It’s like the North Vietnamese, all our military might couldn’t defeat individuals who would fight to the death. Same deal in Iraq.

It’s an eye-opener. That your model is IRRELEVANT!

YOU need to pay the mortgage. YOU need to go on vacation to the Caribbean. But the new musicians? They’re willing to sleep on the floor and eat ramen. Hell, they’re in their twenties, they’re not on the corporate track, they’ve got different ambitions!


Follow Up On Vocus Email

May 23rd, 2007

Yesterday I talked about how PR Company Vocus botched their own PR. Here is some more about the backlash and how they are handling it.

It turns out I got this email because I am a customer of PRWeb (I have done press releases through them before), and Vocus bought PRWeb last year. When Vocus sent out this email, they used PRWeb’s customer list. Most PRWeb’s customers had no idea that they had been purchased by Vocus, so this email was completely out of the blue.

Things would have been much different if they had started this email saying “Dear PRWeb user, as you may know PRWeb was purchased by Vocus and here is something we though you might find interesting as a PRWeb user”. If they did this I wouldn’t have thought “Who is Vocus and why are they sending me an email?”

The next thing Vocus should do is take this opportunity to start a conversation with bloggers. They should post comments on blogs that mentioned this email. They should send emails to bloggers. They should start saying “Hey, we screwed up, we’re sorry. Help us do better in the future”. They need to realize that there is a conversation going on about them whether they want it or not. They can’t control the conversation, but they should at least participate in it.

Also, as part of that conversation, they should start a blog themselves. Connecting with bloggers is much easier when you have a blog yourself. There is no better way to get a blogger to talk about then by sending them some link love :)

As I was writing this I just saw this posting that is a statement from Bill Wagner, CMO at Vocus. He apologizes and explains how the email ended up in so many mailboxes of unsuspecting bloggers. That’s a good start. But unfortunately, it had to be issued on Jiyan Wei’s personal blog (and even though the blog has an “author” page, I can’t find the name of the employee. Update: After reading my post he added his name to his author page. Isn’t this conversation thing great :) ). He also sent a similar note to Susan Getgood, one of the bloggers quoted in the whitepaper that was being promoted in the email. Again, it’s good that they are reaching out to bloggers.

Hopefully Vocus will be able to use this as a learning experience, and start to have a more effective conversation . I recommend they read the Hughtrain Manifesto.

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