Archive for the 'everythingismiscellaneous' Category

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

It’s the Data, Stupid: Evernote wins

My quest for a backup brain is (almost) at an end. Evernote flat out rocks. It runs as a great Mac app (on that other OS too, in case through some disaster I ever need it). It has a nice web interface, including a web clipper. It’s on the iPhone. Anything I put in there is immediately at my fingertips.

It only needs one more thing, one of several actually: ability to sync notes to the filesystem OR an API (which is reportedly on the way). Even a way to backup all notes would be a good start.

Check it out. -m

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Palin as VP pick

I think it’s really cool that Palin could be the next vice president of the US. I thought a VP had to be a resident of the US, though. Wait, what to you mean “not that one”…? -m

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Milorad Cavic is a cool guy

He won an olympic silver medal in the much-publicized race where the gold winner came in 0.01 second faster. And he blogs. He writes:

On winning a SILVER medal: I am completely happy, and still in complete disbelief that I was able to achieve this feat! I’m not joking… It’s a tough loss, but I’m on cloud nine. I congratulated Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman. I’m just glad the race was fun to watch for everyone. It was a pleasure for me, really.

What a fantastic attitude. I wish I had my head on that straight soemtimes. Milorad, if you are ever in the South Bay, I will buy you a beer, or a 1000-calorie energy drink, or whatever. -m

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Two miles barefoot

Without the bike commute, I’m back to barefoot running for exercise. I can now do a stretch of 2 miles on asphalt with no problems (other than sore calves). Why barefoot? Because it feels better, and it’s ultimately easier on the joints. The human biomechanical system does excellent work if you let it, and is easily capable of soft landings via shock-absorption in the knees, ankles, and musculature. In contrast, when one wears shoes, it’s too easy to slam the feet down and let the padding (attempt to) take care of impact management.

If you want to get started, go slowly. For a month I only walked, starting out with very short distances. I’m at the point now when I see a new texture of carpet, hardwood, or other floors, I’m tempted to kick my shoes off and sample.

Alas, I don’t think I’ll be ready for the Nike+ Human Race 10k coming up on August 31. (And I wonder how many runners in a shoe-company-sponosred race will be barefoot) :-) -m

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

The rare benefit of easily-mockable names

From the observing-the-human-condition department.

Seems I have a hard to pronounce name. For the record my first name has a long I; it’s MY-ka, not MEE-ka. When someone gets it wrong, I don’t hold anything against them. Afterall, how to pronounce any given name is pretty arbitrary.

But there are a few names that are easily mockable. Either a letter of two off from a word with a less favorable meaning, or a shared name with an infamous person–a few notable examples being a popular figure in the XML world and one of the current U.S. presidential candidates. I find that in these infrequent cases, an easily-mockable name can be a useful thing, since it allows me to immediately flip the bozo bit on any commentator/blogger/reporter who chooses to engage with the mockery. Without such low-hanging invective, sometimes it’s harder to tell when somebody is an idiot.

If you want to constructively criticize someone, go for it. But make sure to use founded, fact-based arguments that can stand on their own without resorting to childish attacks. Go forth and na-na-na-boo-boo no more. -m

Monday, July 28th, 2008

eRDF 1.1 Proposal Discussion

The W3C RDFa specification is now in Candidate Recommendation phase, with an explicit call for implementations (of which there are several). Momentum for RDFa is steadily building. What about eRDF, which favors the existing HTML syntax over new attributes?

There’s still a place for a simpler syntactic approach to embedding RDF in HTML, as evidenced by projects like Yahoo! SearchMonkey. And eRDF is still the only game in town when it comes to annotating RDF within HTML-without-the-X.

One thing the RDFa folks did was define src as a subject-bearing node, rather than an object. At first I didn’t like this inversion, but the more I worked with it, the more it made sense. When you have an image, which can’t have children in (X)HTML, it’s very often useful to use the src URL as the subject, with a predicate of perhaps cc:license.

So I propose one single change to eRDF 1.1. Well, actually several changes, since one thing leads to another. The first is to specify that you are using a different version of eRDF. A new profile string of:

"http://purl.org/NET/erdf11/profile"

The next is changing the meaning of a src value to be a subject, not an object. Perhaps swapping the subject and object. Many existing uses of eRDF involving src already involve properties with readily available inverses. For example:

<!-- eRDF 1.0 -->
<img class="foaf.depiction" src="http://example.org/picture" />

<!-- eRDF 1.1 -->
<img src="http://example.org/picture" class="foaf.depicts" />

With the inherent limitations of existing syntax, the use case of having a full image URL and a license URL won’t happen. But XHTML2 as well as a HTML5 proposal suggest that adding href to many attributes might come to pass. In which case this possibility opens:

<img src="http://example.org/picture" class="cc.license"
href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/" />

Comments? -m

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Website Optimization is on the shelves

Andy King’s Website Optimization is now in print from O’Reilly. This book covers it all: performance, SEO, conversion rates, analytics, you name it. If you run a web site, you’ll find this useful. I tech edited and contributed a small portion, about the growing trend of metadata as site advantage. Go check it out. -m

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Grand Theft Oregon Trail

That’s my game idea. Unfortunately I won’t have time to develop the idea, so somebody else go for it–just mention my name in the credits ;)

My 7-year-old has just discovered Oregon Trail, or more accurately Westward Trail, a respectable online clone.

-m

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Yahoo! now indexes RDFa

I haven’t seen an announcement about this, but try the following query on Yahoo Search: [searchmonkeyid:com.yahoo.rdf.rdfa] (link). It shows documents containing RDFa, with Digg at the top. Since this is a Searchmonkey ID, it’s also usable in Searchmonkey to actually extract the metadata and use it to customize search results.

Does your site use RDFa yet? -m

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

dvorak difficulty: passwords

Day 3 and the first real difficulty: I can’t type most of my passwords except by muscle memory.

Overall, though, I’m enjoying the challenge, even if my postings are conspicuously short. :-) -m

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Review: The Instant Productivity Toolkit

I hoped for something fresh, but this from Len Merson is only warmed-over GTD. Avoid–go for the original. -m

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Going dvorak

I taught Anita some Python this weekend, and was peppered with questions like “where is the key for the two little lines?” “You mean a quote mark?” “Yeah.”

I’m going through much the same now. Moments ago I changed my keyboard layout to dvorak. Why? I type alot. Variety helps keep carpal tunnel at bay. And a few mental flexibility exercises definitely won’t hurt. (I’ll keep using qwerty at work.) Some observations:

  • “the” is really easy to type. It just flows out.
  • OSX has a key mapping that preserves qwerty layout when the cmd key is down–useful for muscle memory on cut, paste, open, close, tab, etc.
  • Expect more typos the next few weeks. :-)
  • ABCD is highly recommended.
  • Pointer fingers go on “u” and “h”. Without the little bumps on the keys, it’s hard to get your hands oriented. Two small pieces of tape help.
  • I’m getting better at this already.

-m

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

14 ways…

When making hash browns xkcd style, there are at least 14 ways it could go badly.

  1. That’s not a potato, it’s a misshapen rock.
  2. Unexpectedly flammable tennis racket.
  3. Sparks landing on gas can.
  4. Food poisoning via undercooked hash browns due to limited flame contact time.
  5. Broken plate fragments.
  6. Dripping, flaming gasoline.
  7. Swing and a miss; balance lost.
  8. Flaming potato fragments in the eye socket.
  9. Diving catch ends badly.
  10. Spontaneous combustion.
  11. Tennis elbow.
  12. Repetitive stress injury.
  13. Fork misfire.
  14. Heat death of the universe.

(17 if that fork is a dangerous crossbreed) -m

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Quote of the day

Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them…

The prescient Vannevar Bush, who foresaw (among other things) the importance of hyperlinks. -m

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Micahpedia

Today happens to mark the 6th anniversary of my blog. To celebrate going into year seven I’m refocusing it, including a new name: Micahpedia.

Blogging is an important skill, a subset of the overall skill of managing your online persona, so it’s worth devoting some attention to. The ego-burst doesn’t hurt either. My concrete goal is to get in the top 10 search results for the query [Micah], though I face some stiff competition including the prophet.

From an SEO perspective, “Push Button Paradise” wasn’t the greatest choice of name. It suffers from the common SEO mistake of being excessively clever and/or cute reflection of what I happened to be working on at the moment, namely XForms. If you see the old name standalone, or in a blogroll, or in an RSS reader, you still don’t have much of an idea what it’s about or who’s behind it. True I get pretty good ranking on the exact phrase, but nobody searches for that…

I will continue SEO tweaks on this site as time goes on and welcome any advice from any of my 7 readers.

In short, Micahpedia is about what I’m reading, writing, thinking about, and working on. I have plenty to say about these things. :-) The best is yet to come. -m

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

Is there an inverse to the Innovator’s Dilemma?

Roughly speaking, the innovator’s dilemma happens when a product progressively gets more and more advanced features, to the point that it misses out (by listening to customers) on an entire new opportunity. At that point, a simpler, competing product can come into play and make large gains.

But what happens when a company is generally aware of the Innovator’s Dilemma and tries to compensate? It seems like second order effects might come into their own. A product widely known for being (and remaining) minimalist is exposed to attacks from deliberate enhancements and related complexificaiton of competitive products. As the market gets more mature, the steadfastly-simple market leader gets left behind. In a sense, it’s a role reversal from what Clayton Christensen describes. But can it work out the same in the end? Please comment. -m

Monday, April 14th, 2008

5 modern books that changed my life

Some books you forget immediately, but some stick with you. Some affect you so profoundly that years later you still think about them. They get under your skin and shape your future. Here’s my list:

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People This got me through years of W3C work, and still affects every human interaction I have.
  2. Gödel, Escher, Bach This book is impossible to describe in one line, but it will make you think. And re-read it. This book directly inspired my Hyperlink Offering article riffing on XLink and my fondness for predicates.
  3. Three Men in a Boat The funniest book I have read. Ever. But I actually read Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog first…
  4. Kicking the Sacred Cow Sometimes you need to think about the impermissible. Or understand why others do. This book inspired my XML Annoyances column.
  5. On Writing Stephen King’s “CV” (aka life history), writing tips, and harrowing description of his real-life near-death experience. This book influenced my choice of house to by–get one with an office…
  6. Calculus Made Easy I was originally given this book by my mentor, Virgil Matheson, when I was probably in the 6th grade. “What one fool can do, so can another,” the author opines. An utterly remarkable book that deflates the aura of complexity normally around higher maths.

OK, I guess that’s 6. Also, I would have to mention another that caused significant changes: XForms Essentials ;)

What’s on your list? -m

P.S. These links are Amazon affiliate links. If you buy some of them you will be helping support my terrible Amazon habit, now at around 50 pages a day.

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Google App Engine dwarfed

Thanks to chromatic for the link. Largely hidden,  largest app clusters of this particular platform can:

Control over a million computers and can deliver over a hundred billion advertisements per day.

However, “don’t be evil” is not a part of this particular platform’s strategy… -m

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Geeking out

I have here a pre-release copy of Cory Doctorow’s novel Little Brother.

With permission.

In plain text.

Being read with the UNIX command less.

On an XO laptop.

And so far it’s awesome. -m

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

The (lowercase) semantic web goes mainstream

So today Yahoo! announced a major facet of what I’ve been working on lately: making the web more meaningful. Lots of fantastic coverage, including TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb (and others, please link in the comments), and supportive responses and blog posts across the board. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this good about being a Yahoo.

So what exactly is it?

A few months ago I went through the pages on this very blog and added hAtom markup. As a result of this change…well, nothing happened. I had a good experience learning about exactly what is involved in retrofitting an existing site with microformats, but I didn’t get any tangible benefit. With the “SearchMonkey” platform, any site using microformats, or RDFa or eRDF, is exposed to developers who can enhance search results. An enhanced result won’t directly make my my site rank higher in search, it it most certainly make it prone to more clicks, and ultimately more readership, more inlinks, and better organic ranking.

How about some questions and answers:

Q: Is this Tim Berners-Lee‘s vision of the Semantic Web finally getting fulfilled?

A: No.

Q: Does this presuppose everybody rushing to change their sites to include microformats, RDF, etc?

A: No. After all, there is a developer platform. Naturally, developers will have an easier time with sites that use official and community standards for structuring data, but there is no obligation for any site to make changes in order to participate and benefit.

Q: Why would a site want to expose all its precious data in an easily-extractable way?

A: Because within a healthy ecosystem it results in a measurable increase in traffic and customer satisfaction. Data on the public web is already extractable, given enough eyeballs. An openness strategy pays off (of which SearchMonkey is an existence proof).

Q: What about metacrap? We can never trust sites to provide honest metadata.

A: The system does have significant spam deterrents built in, of which I won’t say more. But perhaps more importantly, the plugin nature of the platform uses the power of the community to shape itself. A spammy plugin won’t get installed by users. A site that mixes in fraudulent RDFa metadata with real content will get exposed as fraudulent, and users will abandon ship.

Q: Didn’t ask.com prove that having a better user interface doesn’t help gain search market share?

A: Perhaps. But this isn’t about user interface–it’s about data (which enables a much better interface.)

Q: Won’t (Google|Microsoft|some startup) just immediately clone this idea and take advantage of all the new metadata out there?

A: I’m sure these guys will have some kind of response, and it’s true that a rising tide lifts all boats. But I don’t see anyone else cloning this exactly. The way it’s implemented has a distinctly Yahoo! appeal to it. Nobody has cloned Yahoo! Answers yet, either. In some ways, this is a return to roots, since Yahoo! started off as a human-guided directory. SearchMonkey is similar, except a much broader group of people can now participate. And there are some specific human, technical and financial reasons why as well, but I suggest inviting me out for beers if you want specifics. :-)

Disclaimer: as always, I’m not speaking for my employer. See the standard disclaimer. -m

Update: more Q and A

Q: How is SearchMonkey related to the recently announced Yahoo! Microsearch?

A: In brief, Microsearch is a research project (and a very cool one) with far-reaching goals, while SearchMonkey is targeted as imminently shipping software. I frequently talk to and compare notes with Peter Mika, the lead researcher for Microsearch.

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Dear readers…

You are awesome. Just sayin’. -m

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

microformat search at Yahoo!

Somehow I missed this posting and the underlying news that a Y Research project has a nice public demo of semantic search, driven by RDF, RDFa, and microformats. Still a rough sketch of a full solution, with multiple-second access times. But I particularly like the query for renaissance faire. -m

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Machine tags

Take a look at this URL, and the page behind it. This is a list of all the Flickr photos with the tag “xmlns:dc=http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/“. Although these have been around for a while, I hadn’t been aware of this kind of tagging until recently.

Why “xml” in the namespace declaration? This doesn’t have much to do with XML. How many tags are there in the world that start with “dc:” and are not referring to Dublin Core? At least the tag declaring the namespace provides a good hook for finding things with machine tags. It’s only a small step up to RDFa from here, which is good! -m

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Mac quick tip

I discovered this by accident, but my life has been measurably better since.

You probably already know that you can switch apps quickly with Cmd+tab. But if you reach your pinky up a bit more and hit Cmd+~ you can rotate through the windows of the current app. This turns out to be most useful when, say, your email compose window gets behind the main email client window.

What is the equivalent keystroke on Linux? -m

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

My new year resolution

Holding steady at 1280 x 854 but due for an upgrade soon.

Seriously, if you find yourself setting various goals just because something on the calendar changed, you probably don’t have the long-term motivation needed to see it through, which is why so many new years’ resolutions lie in broken heaps by mid February. If you think something is worth doing (like this for example), then forget the calendar and do it.

-m

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

Thanks, Amazon!

I visited the Amazon home page today to find this:

Amazon suggested purchase: Uranium!

Thanks, Amazon! Now sit back down, you’re scaring me. -m

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

XPath puzzler

While I’ve got your attention, here’s an XPath (1.0) puzzler. I have an RDFa dataset compiled from various and sundry sources. It’s all wrapped up in a single XML file. I run this XPath to see how many meta elements are present: //meta and it returns a node-set of size 762. Now, I want to see how many property elements are present, so I run the query: //meta/@property and it returns a node-set of size 764. How is it that the second node-set can be bigger than the first? -m

Friday, December 7th, 2007

MST3K is back (sort of)

Here’s the best news I’ve had all day: the creators of MST3K are reuniting under a new effort, called Cinematic Titanic, the firstfruits of which are due out this coming Monday.

I’ve been a long time fan of MST3K, watched most of the early episodes on UHF in Minnesota. And for the record, I like Joel better than Mike. :) -m

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Lists in RDFa?

I came away from the XML 2007 conference with lots of new ideas and inspirations. I’ll write some postings about individual technologies in the coming days.

But for now, another RDFa question. If I need to represent a list, what is the best way to do it? Does it differ between ordered and unordered lists? Let’s take some concrete examples, say a shopping list and an (ordered) todo list. How would you do it? -m

P.S. What about multi-level lists?

Friday, November 30th, 2007

4 things I’ve learned writing (mostly) 4 novels

If you want to get anything done, give it to a busy person…

In my life, I’ve started four novels, completed my goals on three, gotten to “The End” on two, and completely flamed out on one.

The first was in 2001. I hadn’t written much since high school. Something clicked in my head that made me realize that writing wasn’t some kind of black art (as one particular teacher had drilled into his credulous students). It was doable. You take pencil and paper and write one word after another. Voilà. I was so taken with this simple idea that every single thing I ever learned about writing went out the window. I had Swifties, danglers, tell-vs-show, you name it. There’s enough material in there for several Bulwer-Lytton contests. By the time I had 70 hand-written pages, the thing collapsed under it’s own weight and the story reached an abrupt, borderline-surrealistic “ending” to abuse the term. I have evidence that I even typed it all in and pressed on for a 2nd draft.

By 2003 my non-fiction book was published–my writing career was under way! Part of the elaborate book proposal dance involved me writing some online articles, including one piece of fiction that was well-received in the tiny circle that was its intended audience. At this stage I adopted electronic writing, and ditched my crashy Windows laptop for a Mac, a vast improvement.

In 2005 I discovered NaNoWriMo, and though I thought it would be a lost cause, I signed up. No way it could be as bad as the previous attempt. I had a new job, and was able to skip a few lunches to write, not to mention intense evenings and weekends. The end goal is 50,000 words during the 30 days of November, that’s 1,666 and two-thirds words per day. All of the prior month I spent outlining, making maps, creating my universe. I used the simplest of tools, my text editor and one file per chapter. I learned that the command wc *.txt could easily give me a combined word count. To my surprise, it worked. I reemerged into daylight with a completed a full story arc loosely based on the earlier story, and ended up with just over 50,000 words. The text itself was very rough, but I read the whole thing out loud in a podcast to edit it. In terms of improvement, it was huge, but still far from publishable.

2006 and another NaNoWriMo rolled around, and I took off on a more ambitious storyline with far fewer notes going into it. The story itself involved the same general characters of the previous two episodes, but with a deeper, more mature feeling to it. In short, I finally wrote a piece of fiction to be proud about afterwards, though when I hit 50,000 words I felt really burned out; hit “save” and left the story arc unfinished.

The pull to dig in to an intensive 2nd draft of the story was immense, but just too many things were going on, including a new arrival in the family and a new set of job responsibilities. I never got more than a few dozen pages into the rewrite. When NaNoWriMo 2007 came upon me, I had a tough choice…do I write something fresh, or try to rework the previous novel? Fresh. A completely new story line, new characters, new setting, new everything. As of a few days ago, I finished the draft, compressing parts of the story as needed to meet both the 50 kiloword goal and the complete story arc. In preparation, I read a number of books, but as far as written outlines, maps, etc. go, almost nothing happened before November 1. I saved enough of the “fun stuff” that a second revision of this story will be a joy. Overall, another improvement year-over-year.

There’s only one kink to the “if you want to get something done…” idea: my slides for the XML Conference talk I have in a few days are still unfinished… -m