• Sneak Peak: Twitter's Demise

    If you followed anything even remotely close to ‘tech news’ earlier this year, there is little doubt that you witnessed the public backlash against Facebook’s privacy policy.  There’s a good chance you were even a voice in the outcry.  It wasn’t just the newest privacy policy that forced Mark Zuckerberg to issue an open letter that sort of showed the company was listening.  There’s been a trend developing where privacy once valued became information abused in the name of a more open world.

    But everyone knows the Facebook tragicomedy by heart at this point, so what’s the point?  Well, it looks like our last refuge may be starting a slow (and I do mean slow) creep towards the same attitude.  Of course, Twitter was built with somewhat different purposes in mind that, in my opinion, have given it a level of staying power and cultural significance that MySpace and Facebook can only dream of.  Rather than the hollow purposes of seeing which kids from elementary school are still single, stalking people who you have no personal relationship with, and touting pictures of drunken lunacy, Twitter encourages the spouting of short ideas and thoughts.

    It serves as a constant barometer of the public opinion, as well as a very effective means of personal networking, advertising, and sometimes strange conversations.  I can tell you that I have no interest in what Ashton Kutcher has picked out of his nose on a minute-by-minute basis, but I do find the once a day musings of Conan O’Brien hysterical.  I’ve made the conscientious decision to pay attention to one and not the other.  Choice is a beautiful thing, but it goes deeper than that.  I’ve been able to build for myself an all-killer, no-filler feed that puts my finger on the pulse of what’s going on (that’s important to me).  Emotional teenage girls need not apply; Invitations to groups begging for phone numbers because an electronic device made its way into an aquatic device: gone. The service allows the person to keep their own individuality while still getting the effect of being in the middle of a public commons.

    There was a catch though, I had to go and find what interested me.  While seemingly unfortunate, it actually meant that the things popping up in my feed were things that I was genuinely interested in with almost no outside influence.  There has been a shift in the last week, however, where the user based inertia is being joined by Twitter’s own thoughts about what people *may *be interested in.  Introducing the “Who to Follow” feature.

    Remember way back in the last paragraph how I placed emphasis on the word “may” in the sentiment ‘may be interested in’?  My apologies, I should have said “This is who you will be interested in”.  Now, I’m sure someone who I’m following may be interested in Jimmy Fallon and Jim Gaffigan.  Besides the fact that I haven’t heard much out of either of them in the last 5 years, I just don’t care.  This is what I presume to be an attempt to begin answering the seemingly eternal question of how Twitter plans to make money.

    If the idea of ‘promoted tweets’ didn’t seem like a simplistic cop-out to you, then let me predict how the next phase of paying back those venture capitalists looks.  Now that we’re told who to follow, I figure a somewhat conservative 30% will follow at least one of the suggestions at some point (or 70% if my decision to lose all faith in humanity turns out to be a good one).  Do the math, at around 190 million users a month, you’re making nearly 60 million new connections based on external pressure.  How far of a jump is it to say that “For $.10 a user, we will plant you in their who to follow feed for a month”?  To reach the official XBox Twitter’s 13,000 followers, it would cost a measly $1300.  That’s a hell of an ad campaign to an already targeted audience.  Nervous yet?

  • A Quick Fix to Being Unable To Update WordPress

    With WordPress’ 3.0.1 release, I figured I may as well update as I had just updated myself to 3.0 this week.

    Much to my chagrin , I was confronted with an error when trying to use the built in updater that WP offers. I was presented with this message when entering my login information:

    Error: There was an error connecting to the server, Please verify the settings are correct.

    Huh? I know my settings are correct. I typed it again, slowly. Still nothing. I SSH’d to my server and began digging a bit. I saw that I had changed permissions on my web directory (who remembers why?). This didn’t hamper my 2.8->3.0 upgrade as I had done it manually, but here I was.

    Thankfully, a quick permissions change got me back to the latest and greatest in no time.

    skye@skyebook: sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /my/blog/directory/
  • Updated to WordPress 3.0

    Yes I did… And it wasn’t nearly as painless as it could’ve been (or should have been, considering my luck). I’m more surprised at how long I had waited, considering the fact that I’ve been using WP3 along with BuddyPress quite heavily in preparation for the big web changes going on over at jMonkeyEngine.

    I’ve also been recently using the domain I set up a few weeks back, devstreak.net. Don’t read too much into the name though, I thought of it while drinking bottom of the pot coffee at work when I found myself in the need of a quick domain.. True inspiration!

    Did you really just read my rambling?

  • The Virtues of Solid Documentation

    I remember vividly my first programming class in college.  I remember the LAN parties and frustrated students blaming the professor for their inability to understand pointers, but most of all I remember losing points on homework for not including comments  (I also lost points for including ‘return 0;’ in my main functions).

    Needless to say, I became a comment machine.  I needed those points… it’s not like my exam grades were going to drag up my GPA!  If I didn’t lose points for trying too hard and being a jerk at that point, I should have.  I recall wasting about 30 lines on a nursery rhyme in one instance, but it was all in good fun.

    Fast forward some years and I’ve made the better part of a full jump from C++ to Java.  Comments, as well as verbosity in naming conventions, would seem to be king.  This very cool thing we know as JavaDoc has seemingly turned every programmer into a technical writer virtually overnight.  Along with the usual language ineptitude that is so prevalent among the technically inclined, there does also seem to be the occasional developer with a clue about writing form (or at least how to construct a complete sentence).

    Its fascinating what a relatively small investment in time can do for code.  By simply writing comments, IDE’s suddenly spring to life with documentation just by hovering over method calls!  In-source documentation isn’t everything though, and eventually we all must embark upon the daunting task of compiling some sort of human digestible document about our efforts.

    This time its for Betaville, and thank goodness its not me taking the lead (Disclaimer: I absolutely love writing, but I’m cramming 22 hours of Betaville into a day over the past year or so; I’m running out of space).  I have, however, had the opportunity to contribute a nice chunk of writing to the effort.  Its an impressive document to see come together, and I felt some familiarity with the wording as I read over (and wrote additions to) it in some places.  It finally hit me that much of what is written has been derived from JavaDoc already in the code base!  It was exciting to think that the comments being written throughout the application over all this time finally mean something to more than three people, but the real bonus is how much time this head start has likely saved.  Its a nice feeling, to say the least.

    Now with a bit of a prompt, I’ve embarked on writing better database documentation for the project.  This is kind of an awkward area as the database should, by nature, be fairly self-explanatory if one is already familiar with the application it is supporting.  To this extent, I haven’t seen much in the way of documentation with the exception of what the WordPress team puts out.  It seems acceptable, but doesn’t provide much more information than a UML-styled chart would provide.  Hopefully I can improve on this a bit in my own efforts, but I suppose we’ll find out about that at a later date.

    It is funny though, as I reminisce about that first semester of college I find myself very much in need to gather some people and play the PC Halo demo over LAN once more.  Ah, simple times.

  • 5 Kitchen Habits Befitting a Hanging

    I have a bit of an obsession with the kitchen being kept just right.  You can laugh and show me pictures of my desk and bedroom all you want, but the kitchen is serenity and I demand perfection.  Over the years I’ve developed a particular intolerance for a few habits, so here we go.

    1. Empty Ice Trays in the Freezer – Who is doing this?  We have 7 ice trays for four people, how is it at all possible that they are all empty.  Perhaps more importantly I should ask why exactly do we have so many ice trays?

    2. Shopping Bags as Garbage Bags – First, don’t flame me for not having recyclable bags made of hemp or something.  Now, who’s the lazy one who can’t change a full garbage bag?  You’ve certainly got a lot of nerve hanging it on a drawer 18 inches from the waste basket, and don’t tell me its a bear bag.

    3. Jelly in the Cream Cheese Container – This is particularly infuriating.  I’m an exclusive consumer of cream cheese rather than butter with my bagels and I’m not looking to try anything new.  Cream cheese and jelly together looks terrible;  special mention for the moron who gets a bunch of poppy seeds in there too.  Ditto for that winner who gets jam in the peanut butter jar.

    4. Salad Dressing Left Out of the Fridge – Hey guess what?!  The label says “Refrigerate After Opening” for a reason.  No worries though, if the turned ranch dressing doesn’t kill you then I will.

    5. Dirty Frying Pans on the Stove Top – This needs no introduction, just stop doing it.  If you aren’t going to clean your dishes, then please don’t leave a pan full of olive oil used for God-knows-what sitting around.

    There you have it.  Rest assured there are many, many other things which provoke me to violence but this will have to do for now.  Do me a favor and never let me see you doing this and we’ll be cool.