April 28, 2003

What is Ross Reading?

Occassionally I'll get an email asking me what blogs I read on a regular basis. To be honest, it varies based on the amount of time I have available. I am interested in everything in my blogroll - so there's a quick indication right off the bat.

I also have my Newzcrawler feeds backed up onto a public directory here on byte.org - you can point your aggregator at the most recent .ocs file in my feeds directory and synchronize what I'm reading with what you're reading.

If you know of any other bloggers that maintain their own blogroll directories, let me know. I'm not OPML capable, but any other pointers would be appreciated.

Posted by ross at 11:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2003

Article Archive Goofiness

Article archives are under construction. One of those five minute tweaks gone awry. Deal with it. I'm going golfing.

But while I'm gone send me lots of email with ideas regarding how I can break out specific categories from the RDF feed and turn them into their own feeds so that aggregators aren't inundated with inanities and irrelevancies like this one. Thomas will love you forever if you can help me figure this out.

Posted by ross at 11:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another one...

Kevin Murphy is blogging now too...he's been quiet about this one. Wonder if Orlowski knows.

Kev chose blogger as well...

Posted by ross at 09:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 26, 2003

SARs Reporting Discrepancies

There's not a lot of agreement with the WHO travel warning for Toronto - at least not in Toronto. Not being a medical professional means that I can only guess who is doing the right thing here. And of course, the standard rules apply - I can't trust the media's take on this important story, the local politicians are weasels and the national politicians are all liars1.

So I turned to the one place I knew I could get the right answers.

No, not the street corner - that stopped working a long time ago. The internet (now there's a source of perenially impeachable facts).

I figured that the best way to determine whether this he-said/she-said was rooted in biology or politics was to take a look at the number of cases of SARS reported by each country.

Off to the WHO.

China: 4500+ US: 41 UK: 6 Canada: 142 Maybe yes, maybe no?

These numbers were very clear on two points, 1) China has a serious problem on their hands and 2) these aren't the same numbers that the Canadian news media is reporting.

Off to the Health Canada Website. Canada: 345 cases???? The CDC...US: 254 cases??? UKPHLS...6 cases in the entire UK...

I stopped poking around when I got to the UK numbers because it appears that the only numbers that are out of whack are the ones that matter.

What's with that?

I don't have any answers except to note that some of the resources (none of those above) I checked during my research indicated that there were 101 different ways to report a SARs case. Its seems that WHO counts differently than the CDC or Health Canada. Disturbingly, the difference is enough that the numbers are two-fold wrong for Canada and six-fold wrong for the United States.

I sincerely hope that my neighbors to the south are watching their own CDC numbers and not those of the WHO. I'm convinced that if Canada was paying attention to the WHO that we would have lost control of this disease a long time ago. Like I mentioned in my last SARsblog, 'tis definitely better to be safe than quarantined.

1I pay attention to far too many people that grew up in the sixties. What did you expect - warmth, trust and respect for the man? Not this cat.

Posted by ross at 07:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

People Pics from Rio

People Pics from RioGoodness! As promised, here are a few shots of the various ICANNers in attendance at the recent ICANN meeting in Rio.

If anyone is wondering, Alan wasn't able to fit her in his suitcase. And not for lack of effort.

[Thumbnailed]|[Not So Thumbnailed]

Posted by ross at 01:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More ICANNosphere Bloggers...

Both Heather Carle and Esther Dyson started blogging this month.

And they both chose Blogger...

Now if I could just find a few more good xSP bloggers I would be a happy chap.

Posted by ross at 12:14 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Blogging is Too Difficult

I've come to the conclusion that blogging is too difficult. And, unless something drastically changes, its never going to be more than a content management system for nerds and technophiles (like me) that want to use overly complicated software to keep track of their online diary.

Don't get me wrong, the tools are all great - MovableType, Radio, w.Bloggar, Newzcrawler...etc.

But they're *hard*.

For instance, the way that bloggers look at templates is a bit screwed. Typical users think of templates as pre-packaged goodness that will make whatever it is they are working on, look better. Blog templates are slightly different. They are pre-packaged, but in a different way. Its almost as if everyone that has every designed a blog tool or a blog template has decided, "Well, this should do them to start, but they really should know HTML to do anything fancier." - Like changing the background color, adding a logo or changing the font.

Adding outbound links or pictures to blog entries are just as poorly tended to. Both require users to get under the hood and explicitly do this, that and the other thing before the link or picture will show up on the web.


Everything that the old Userweb suffered from (remember "home pages") has been carried over into the new Userweb. Yuck. I still need to upload "pages" to "servers" by wrestling with "FTP", or worse, some poorly designed abstraction that is supposed to do it automatically for me, but requires me to know all sorts of things that I don't. Cascading Style-Sheets? Ummm...

exumel arpeecee? Hunh?

Like Winer said, "Pfui."

This is all very wrong. A Big design gap. Toolmakers need to stop building tools for me and start building them for my dad. And the challenge doesn't stop there. We also need to figure out better ways of explaining our metaphors and primitives.

The term "trackback" is probably the best example of this. No one really knows how and why this concept matters. I'm sure it has great utility otherwise it probably wouldn't have emerged as a feature. Problem is, we've done a shitty job of explaining what its true value is - why it matters to those that should be using it.

Until and unless the features get more appropriate for everyday users and the real value proposition is dragged out of the technical mud, the blogoshere is destined to become a curious footnote in the development of the web.

Posted by ross at 11:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 25, 2003

Grokster, StreamCast Prevail - RIAA Unbowed

"This is not the end, but it sends a very strong message to the technology community that the court understands the risk to innovation."

- Fred von Lohmann, on Grokster/Streamcast Decision,
April 25, 2003

News of this ruling is popping up every. CNET is running the most concise overview of the ruling.
Posted by ross at 06:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Food for Think: Steve Jobs v. Dave Winer

Steve Jobs: Think Different.

Dave Winer: Think.

Posted by ross at 05:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rethinking the Network Economy

"For economic incentives to work appropriately, property rights must protect the rights of capital assets....At present...severe economic damage [is being done] to the property rights of owners of copyrights in sound recordings and musical compositions...under present and emerging conditions, the industry simply has no out...Unless something meaningful is done to respond to the problem, the industry itself is at risk.

- Alan Greenspan, on "Audiotaping",
October 25, 1983

[Alan Greenspan, Testimony on the Home Recording Act before the Senate Judiciary's
Subcommittee on Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks, October 25, 1983]

Just finished up a new (for me) book entitled "Rethinking the Network Economy: The True Forces that Drive the Digital Marketplace". Excellent work by Stan Liebowitz that completely confirms a lot of my views on some otherwise commonly accepted constructs like "Customer Lock-in", "First Mover Advantage" and "Network Effects".

The quote above is but one glimpse into the cynical but insightful perspective of the author. What else would you expect from a book that starts of with an explanation that "I shorted Yahoo! in April of 1996....I was way too early on the short side...[and]...I threw in the towel in April of 1998. I took my losses and vowed to expose what I saw as insanity in the business press....That was when I conceived of writing this book...Not necessarily the best of motivations, but not the worst either."

I've always believed that the internet was special and that it would change the way things worked - but that it didn't change the way that the earth spun on its axis and certainly not the fundamental underpinnings of economics, business and technical innovation. It makes all of these things "better", but it can't put the constants of our universe on hold while we search for a better way of doing things.

Some of my favorite passages stem from examinations of the outright silliness and hubris of the business sector over the last few years. "We're from the internet, don't worry, everything will be okay." Of course, all of this is easy to say in retrospect - but still leaves us with a good read.

Posted by ross at 08:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

FCC Ruling On UNE-P Not All Bad

I've posted another screed over at The Farm. From my perspective, I don't think the FCC got it right, but they didn't get it all wrong either. And its certainly not all bad for small ISPs. At some point, I'd love to do, or read, a compare and contrast between the Canadian and US regulatory differences - I suspect that these decisions are leading us towards two distinctly different results in two very similar countries.
Posted by ross at 07:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Some of you have written asking about life in the hotzone. To be quite honest, I hear more about it on the news than anywhere else in my life. It was scary for a bit - especially with people breaking their quarantines. Our Prime Minister set a great example for the rest of the country by quarantining himself in the Dominican Republic for 12 days.

Favorite SARS quote: "The mayor of Toronto looks like he is going to cry every time someone asks him about [SARS]." - Craig Oliver, CTV News

Let's put it this way - everyone that works in or near a hospital is taking precautions to prevent spreading this terrible disease. On the other hand, I didn't see one face mask at any of the Toronto Maple Leaf playoff games.

I learned today that Canada's health agencies report probable and likely cases of communicable diseases lumped together as one number. This is causing some to view the Canadian outbreak as being worse than it actually is.

At this stage, over-reacting and eliminating the spread of this disease sounds better than the alternatives - as long as hysteria and politics stay out of the picture.

On the bright side of the Toronto travel ban, as Mike Bullard points out, maybe the Toronto Blue Jays might start winning some games - by forfeit.

Posted by ross at 12:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2003

Give me options or give me death

Paolo agrees with Dave - I still don't get it.

Both of them are saying exactly the same thing. "This *thing* should work exactly *this* way because that's what makes the most sense based on my experiences" - which completely misses on of the coolest points about aggregation.

Good aggregation allows users to round up large quantities of content and deal with that content on the users own terms.

Personally, I aggregate in many different ways. My blogroll is set to aggregate publishing pings, my sidebar aggregates three very different feeds and publishes out the headlines by source (I don't want "Sidewalk Chalk" chocolate in my "World Tour" peanut butter). Newzcrawler keeps track of tens of feeds for me and stores them in nice little folders that I can deal with on a number of levels - chronologically, by source or by keyword.

There's a lot more to aggregation in my life than what happens inside of Newzcrawler (or Radio is Paolo's) and the flexibility is what I value most.

More choices, not less, provide strong value to customers. Honing in on one specific mechanism that organizes things this way or that way simply means that you are comfortable making a bet that your users will see things the same way.

I guess I just don't see it the same way.

Posted by ross at 07:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 23, 2003

Attention RSS Aggregator Developers: User Choice Is A Good Thing

Dave says "Aggregators should not organize news by where items came from, just present the new stuff in reverse chronologic order."

I say, "Sure, but what about letting me choose?"

I prefer to use Newzcrawler in a subject oriented manner, and a source oriented manner depending on what my need-of-the-moment is. Chronological orientation is useful as well and one of the things I miss about the Radio aggregator.

Each orientation has its merits. Subject matter orientation enables my research, source orientation gives me a better sense of "relative quality that can be expected based on past experience" and chronological is a good way to spend a lazy Sunday morning getting caught up.

Problem is, most software developers are intent on telling me what the right orientation is instead of providing me with the flexibility to do what I want.

Posted by ross at 11:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Googlediving: How to Visit Google's Last Result

Bret asks how one can navigate to the last Google listing for any particular search.

The answer is simple, but not automated. Hacking the URL is the only way to do it.

First, you have to get yourself a hackable URL. Do a search for whatever you want, and scroll down to the bottom and click on any of the result pages in the Google results navigation (you know, the one that looks like this "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOGLE"). The resultant page has a slightly different URL than the page you were just on - a URL that you can mess with fairly easily.

In this slightly different URL, you should find a key that says "start=x" where X is a positive whole number. This number will always be less than the number of non-similar entries on a given subject and (I would guess) be equally divisible by the number of entries per page that you have chosen to display - the default is ten.

Changing this number in your browser address bar will allow you to "quickly" jump to specific results pages. For instance, changing it to 100 in a result set of 200 entries, will get you halfway into the results...(yes, obviously ;)

The trick lies in guessing where the last page is. Bret noted that there were 950,000+ entries for ICANN, so presumably changing this number to 949,990 would do the trick, but natch - that just brings up an empty result set.

I decided to see if this was just a big number problem and dumped 999 in. Again, nothing. Scaling back to 500 got me something again - so I split the difference and went up to 750. No results again. I dropped back to 700, got results and then decided to increment by 10 until nothing.

In this case, the magic number is 720 - there are 727 unique entries in the GoogleDB for "ICANN" - the last of which being the Webopedia "Who's Who" bio's that start with "C" - includes Vint Cerf, ICANN's current chairman.

Personally, I can't wait to see what name the community gives to this particular activity. I vote for "Googlediving" - it needs a better last page.

Posted by ross at 07:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2003

Debugging MT Templates

Apologies to anyone that may have been reading out the RSS feed last night - or even to those of you that happened to visit while I was blasting the main page with bogus posts.

MT has been behaving badly since I imported my old Radio posts. Sporadically, the server would return a 500 error when I posted a new article. And of course, there was not pattern to the behaviour. I couldn't figure out why for the longest time - it didn't seem to be a code problem, data integrity seemed to be fine, no fatal flaws in any of the templates - everything seemed to be working A1.

Last night in going through the category archive templates with a fine tooth comb I noticed this:

<MTEntries last="90">
Aha! It should have read:
<MTEntries lastn="90">
"MTEntries" is a container tag representing a list of entries/posts from your blog. "lastn=" is a modifier to MTEntries that simply displays the last n entries to the blog.

In the absence of a properly formatted "lastn=" MT was simply trying to publish archive pages that included all entries for that particularly category. And each time that it got to the "Random Bytes" category, MT choked on trying to create a page that consisted of 100's of entries.

Silly me.

I would love to see better template debugging tools. There really is no way, except trial and error, to find culprits such as this one.

Posted by ross at 08:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2003

Radio Users Score Big With New Metric

Mark proposes that we should start scoring Winer abuses.

Joey claims a lazy-eight.

What do Radio users get?

I propose a +1 for each month remaining in your subscription, -1 for each month that you used MT while you waited for your subscription to run out.

Now the big question is, will this be enough to get Dave to run-up my WinerQ with some "abuse" or do I need to go further...


Posted by ross at 10:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 16, 2003

Quality of Spam is Increasing

Like most, I get a lot of spam. Most of it is just bad marketers trying to pass of bad copy and make a quick buck.

But not all of it.

In the past few weeks, I've received a number of messages pushing wares using copy that has actually piqued my interest. The "Marines Most Wanted" playing cards, collectible coin sets, and oh yeah, the naked personal assistant.

Each of these messages has been high quality, well priced and actually compelling. Spam is starting to look more like junk mail than anything else.

Of course, neither has ever convinced me to spend a nickle and both end up in my trash. I simply point this out so that you can share in my smug satisfaction when you delete that next well-written, well-packaged, HTML-enabled, flashy-spam, confident in the knowledge that some schmuck paid good money to have it produced.

Glossy spam makes a better *plonk* sound than the garden variety off-the-cuff crap.

Posted by ross at 04:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 15, 2003

Better than Rio

It was close to 28 degrees celsius here today.

It was a chilly 25 degrees in Rio.

Posted by ross at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

One Good Reason to Deregulate Canada's Air Industry

Brett asks "Why idoes it costs more to fly from LA to Montreal than it does to fly from LA to Rio de Janeiro?"

Answer: Because Canada only has one airline and they recently filed for bankruptcy protection.

Sheesh, even Aeroflot is still in the air.

Posted by ross at 09:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Run to the Hills: Rap is the New Rock

I wear khaki pants to the office. I drive a minivan. The last time I was in a record store, yes I said "record store", I bought Mark Knopfler and Neil Young's latest releases. I BLOG. For the most part, I'm a geek that acts like he's grown old before his time.

And I don't listen to rap. I hate it.

Until I saw "8 Mile" on the plane during a recent trip to Brazil. There was something in the music that I actually liked. A lot.

Its odd - hated it through high-school, couldn't stand it in university and nothing has really jumped out at me in the meantime. To be honest, I found a lot of it really annoying. But not this. This is excellent, its angry - and insightful. Its the rock album that I've been waiting to hear since "Powerslave", the last real rock album that made sense and stood out - at least in my mind.

I can't believe I just said that. Eminem is the new Iron Maiden.

And this is a great album.

Posted by ross at 09:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Novell Cozies up to Open Source?

I continue to be amazed that Novell keeps getting mentioned in any publications at all. I'm also amazed at the fact that they are still search for something to effectively replaced NetWare. Second chances are hard to come by for sure, but its rare that a company looking for a second chance lasts as long as Novell has in search of one
Posted by ross at 04:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Still timing out...

Hmmm...so even after the upgrade, MT still continue to time-out when I post via XML-RPC using whatever blog client I happen to be using. This has to be server side because I don't see it on other MT installations or with other clients on this installation. Odd. Update: Increasing w.bloggar's timeout to 60 seconds seems to have licked the problem. First "post successful" response I've seen in weeks!
Posted by ross at 11:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Upgraded to MT 2.63

Joe was kind enough to put a new engine under the hood of byte.org. This is just a test post. Let me know if you encounter anything weird with the application over the next few days.
Posted by ross at 11:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2003

Celebrity Irreverence and National Irrelevance

The only thing stranger than a Canadian winning the Masters is the American women's team claiming top seat at the World Curling Championships. I'll guarantee that there are a bunch of people in Winnipeg wondering if its too late to get Debbie back on the cold side of the border. Strange, but well deserved in both cases.

Speaking of Canada as a tourist destination, I wonder if Bush gave Jean a decent excuse when he cancelled an upcoming trip to Canada this past weekend. If he didn't, here's a few that might fit the bill...

  1. The Secret Service won't let me go.
  2. I didn't know he was going to die.
  3. Canada didn't give me enough notice.
  4. Mexico said it wasn't important anyways.
  5. I've already been to Canada.
  6. I sent Clinton to talk to him instead.

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that Chretien would pick these fibs out as lame ducks a mile away - he's already used them all (or at least as much as I needed to paraphrase in order to properly deliver the joke).

Posted by ross at 11:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2003

Low-bandwidth Video Conferencing Hack

Not only is this a neat hack, but I can definitely see it have some real utility for users hanging off the end of a low capacity pipe. I present to you the hasciicam!
Posted by ross at 09:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 09, 2003

nic.nz gets spamcopped...

Hmm. It looks like we're not the only domain company thats been spamcopped recently...

Businessweek picked up our end of the story this week as well.

I've said it before, I'll say it again - SpamCop is being irresponsible. Sooner or later someone is going to pick a fight with SpamCop that they won't be able to win.

Posted by ross at 09:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Towards a simplified Basic Reference Model

At IETF-49 Rich Shockey and I had an epiphany about the OSI Reference Model. The idea we had was that the original OSI model had largely been supplanted by a slightly modified de facto stack that included two additional layers for a total of nine. We felt that there was a much easier rationalization of these nine layers that would be of tremendous benefit to the community. Shortly after the meeting, I uploaded a diagram that illustrates the the basic idea pretty succinctly.

For some reason, it hasn't caught on like wildfire, but it should be shared nonetheless.

Posted by ross at 11:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 08, 2003


Karl blogged a Response to Ross Rader as a counter to some of my earlier remarks about whois privacy. I still don't see how or why the whois database is going to be a fertile source of leads for stalkers and child molesters - statistically, the average shopping mall is in much worse shape without any of the technical complications aspects of domain names or whois.

Regardless, of this small point of disagreement, the fact is that no one is making a case why this information should be in the public domain in the first place. Are the interests of those that purport to have a need for this data more important than those that own the data in the first place?

The only place within the blogosphere where the answer might be "yes" is within ICANN circles. Until and unless users have control over their own data, the fundamental abuses that we currently see can not be corrected.

In the meantime, I'd like to see something simpler and more appropriate for what we need. Every website in the universe hangs off of the end of an IP address. In some cases, these IP addresses source back to the content provider, in others they source back to a hosting provider. In all cases, they source back to someone that can a) resolve technical issues, b) take action on legal claims/obligations/inquiries/complaints and c) be reasonably held to exercise some level of control over all TCP/IP transactions to and from that domain.

Isn't this the person that everyone is looking for when they do a whois query? Perhaps this is the information that whois queries should start returning (or to be more precise, perhaps this is the information that we should start feeding those that query domain name registry/registrar whois databases.)

I've got some more thoughts on the subject that need to be aired, but I'm a bit blogged out this past week - today's no different, except it was a while ago that Karl sent me a note encouraging some two way dialogue on the subject - guilt motivates, the rest can wait ;)

Posted by ross at 08:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Don't look down...

...things are falling off the bottom. Okay, so its been a slow week. Gibson drives a Jetta. I got stuck with a minivan - would have bought a Jetta if I was allowed.
Posted by ross at 05:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2003


Doc may well have stopped complaining, but I feel no similar compunction.

Newzcrawler is really starting to piss me off.

From time to time, it simply decides that a good chunk of my subscriptions are really unnecessary and simply drops them. Agh.

Please fix this. Soon. Please.


Posted by ross at 10:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack