Turning the Telcos Around

There’s an excellent article at TechDirt about the latest threats from the Telcos to charge for a tiered internet. You just have to ask, if you had the choice between two dsl or cable companies and one had Google and the other didn’t, which one would you choose? All it takes is a couple of the top tier internet companies to call the bluff and this whole thing falls apart.

Nobody wants this to turn into a shooting war, but the Telcos have to realize that what they have is of no value without the rest of the internet.

Bad sign for me

Is it bad that when I picked up the mail today, I was excited to see a new netflix dvd had arrived, but rather than opening the package, my first instinct was to reach for the laptop to check the site to see what had been delivered?

I’m going to have to have my laptop surgically removed at some point.

Personal Search Engine: CloudGrove

So, I’ve got a little pet project that I’ve been working on in my spare time. I know there’s been some discussion on the blogs about funny names for Web2.0 projects, and the driving force behind the name for CloudGrove was that it’s become very difficult to find relatively short and usable domain names. Especially if you’re not willing to buy a name off of someone, you’ve got to get pretty creative.

So, what is CloudGrove. It’s my answer to holes in several of the tools that I had been using every day. I enjoy using tools like Delicious, Bloglines, and Google, but I felt that something was missing from this toolset and that it could be approached in a better way.

There’s an incredibly large amount of content that I’m viewing every day from RSS feeds. I currently read ~100 feeds and have found that they produce on average 500 posts / day. There’s also other pieces of content that I find interesting on the web and would like to remember. All of this adds up to quite a bit in a fairly short amount of time.

With that background I set out to create a tool that would sit in the Personal Search Engine / Content space. A tool that would let you define and enter the content that was of interest to you and then give you the best tools for searching, reading, and tagging of the content.

Google is very good at tracking down one web page out of the billions on the internet, but I felt that there is even more that we can do when we narrow the scope to only the content that interests you. Even on the best of days less than 1% of the web is of any interest to you. So lets create tools to let you define what that 1% is and then give you the best tools to work with that portion. Tools that wouldn’t be feasible if you were looking at the web in its entirety.

This project might be productized at some point, but for right now it’s an experiment.

Static blocks in java classes are evil

This is a pet peeve of mine. Developers that place static blocks of code among java classes. While I know that according to the letter of the language this is a completely valid bit of code, I find that it’s usually the result of a developer being lazy. Not looking for the proper place to initialize things. There’s often all sorts of assumptions made in these blocks since there isn’t any error catching being done. Since this bit of code is outside the lifecycle of the application it can have unintended consequences and break things in very funny ways.

New version of MyEclipse

There’s a new version(4.1.1) of MyEclipse out now that fixed a few of the problems with earlier versions. With AJAX becoming all the rage among developers the tools are just starting to catch up. MyEclipse has always been the first plugin that I install on a dev box after Eclipse is installed. Now the javascript development plugins are catching up and becoming quite helpful. And for the low yearly subscription cost, you just can’t get a better tool that covers all aspects of java web development.

Off Limit Words?

The post two below this seems to have had a controversial word in it for the ads that appear on the right hand side of my site. While that post was at the top of the site with the T* word in it, the ads all became house ads. However, now that the post has dropped down a bit, my site seems to have been allowed back into the normal rotation.

Wouldn’t want to be too controversial now would we.

V for Vendetta

Went to see “V for Vendetta” sunday morning and was very pleasantly surprised. I felt the movie was even better than the book. They changed a few aspects of the story and simplified some plot points and toned it down a bit, which all worked together to create a more cohesive story. It’s still a deep movie and you’ve really got to listen to the dialogue to get the full impact of the film, but they didn’t sidestep controversial aspects like the pedophile bishop, but cleaned up the film’s story where the book fell apart a bit at the end.

Definitely worth seeing and with the other movie I saw this weekend, “Goodnight and Good Luck” ,I’m definitely in a bit of a rebelious mood.

SF 106Miles Meeting

Last night was the SF version of the 106Miles meeting. The host for this month was Dave Winer and he gave an interesting talk. He intentionally didn’t prepare a presentation, but just let the discussion flow where it would, letting questions from the crowd direct him.

Some highlights:

    Google’s search isn’t getting any better
    All us young’uns have it easy developing web based products
    Built to flip isn’t all that bad
    Someone needs to make p2p webcasting
    Bittorrents time has come

I thought his discussion of Google not getting any better was interesting, but I wonder if it’s a failure on Google’s part to market their improvements. They’re incredibly secretive about their special sauce for search. Combine that with a number of blind taste test type studies coming out showing the big search engines are reaching parity in terms of quality of results.

Could part of the problem be that we’ve trained users to only enter an average of 1.5 words per search query? This leads to the problem with ambiguity of meaning, search for caterpillar, do you mean insects or heavy machinery?. Dave asked the question “why can’t I search for ‘the game playing at berkeley’ and find out what was going on over there tonight”. Most people have been trained not to formulate their search that way.

Currently what most search engines are used for is Keyword Information Retrieval Systems. They aren’t really knowledge bases capable of answering questions, that would require the search engine to remove any ambiguity in the query. Google has been adding in some features along these lines, like being able to ask “how many quarts in a gallon“. This query returns a definitive answer, however these little features are very hit or miss, Google doesn’t really have a list of what you can ask for and get an answer instead of search results. You just get a little surprise if you stumble on one that works.

The problem again is what if you were looking for a book with the title “How many quarts in a gallon”, search ambiguity because you wouldn’t get what you were expecting. It would seem that the next step is that the search engine needs to be able to obtain a certain level of understanding of the world so that it can formulate questions to further refine the query and get to a definitive answer. Not an easy problem to solve. Maybe this is the killer that Dave thought someone would come up with and knock Google off their throne.

Good source for good books

Was doing some reading on Lucene, which is an amazing open-source search engine, and was pointed at the book “Managing Gigabytes” from the lucene project’s wiki. So, I looked up the book on amazon and was delighted to find a review of the book by Peter Norvig. From there I looked at all of the other books that Peter Norvig has reviewed on amazon. A really good reading list for twisting your brain around.

Was looking to pick up a copy of “On LISP: Advanced Techniques for Common LISP (Textbook Binding)”, but the only purchase options are to buy used and the starting price is $234.

Books that I am picking up:

    Neural Networks for Pattern Recognition by Christopher M. Bishop
    Managing Gigabytes: Compressing and Indexing Documents and Images (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Multimedia and Information Systems) by Ian H. Witten

Being a good manager

You can’t underestimate the importance of consistency when you’re a manager. If the people that you’re managing can’t predict your response, then your entire organization will grind to a halt.

By giving one answer one day and then another answer the next, individuals will have to come to you every time to see what the answer will be today. While someone relishing in their new found power might enjoy this, it is by no means an efficient way to run things.

All Marketers are liars

There’s an excellent presentation by Seth Godin here that he gave at Google.

Some excellent points about creating products that people actually need and selling them to the people that need them. I think that one of the underlying ideas of the presentation was that business really needs some self-restraint and discipline. At the end of the video he get’s into the idea that just because you can release a product doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. I think public companies really have trouble with this sometimes. They are so up against the wall to generate profits that they’re forced to try and sell products to people that don’t really need them. Either through trying to over expand a products market and selling to people that don’t need it or trying to bring out follow up products that don’t really meet a need.

To take a closer look at a lot of the examples that Seth Godin uses, they almost all involve companies that have been able to show this self-restraint. Not releasing products that they don’t need to and making sure that the products that they do release are the right ones. Of course that last bit is the hard part. Being able to determine what the right product is, is a whole lot harder than it looks.

Ipods keep coming back up

After all of the praise and articles, ipods keep finding ways to amaze me. Got home the other day and was cleaning a lot of things out of my jeep and made the mistake of trying to grab the mail as well. With too many things in my hands I managed to drop my ipod, onto a solid concrete garage floor. It landed with a very solid thud. The amazing thing was that it kept going without missing a beat. Not even a scratch on the metal case where it landed.

Those little guys just don’t stop amazing me.