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Curacao in Open Source News?!

There's this little island in the Caribean called Curacao. I happen to know a lot about it because that's where I was born and grew up. Now I live in the United States, but continue to keep up with what's going on in there.

This is from an article about an Open Source Conference that happened, where else? Yes, right there in Curacao.


When I agreed to speak at this island's first-ever free/open source conference last Wednesday, I was warned that Linux and open source were not well-known here. This was not true, but most of Curacao's Linux and open source software users thought they were alone…


Wikipedia and copyrights

If you haven't heard about Wikipedia, you should check it out. It's a grass roots encyclopedia. It has a huge number of articles, contributed in general by anyone who feels like writing an article, presumably because they know something about it. Here's the Wikipedia definition of Wikipedia.

It's quite an amazing thing, amazing because of how it has grown, how it was built, who built it and what it was built on.

One often mentioned question is how accurate is Wikipedia anyway?. It's an important question in that Wikipedia is developing quite a reputation, not only among Technorati, but also among civilians. I am waiting for the first time that a Wikipedia definition is cited in the New York Times. It may have already happened.

I was looking for a random snippet of information today (you'll see how random in a second!) Anyway, I Googled it, which produced quite a list of hits, including a Wikipedia definition and a "" definition (which I had not heard of before.)

Guess what: they are copies of each other! Just check the two links!

The question is, what direction was the copying done? Impossible to tell, but I was actually surprised to randomly stumble onto something like that. I don't want to make this into a big conspiracy theory - there may be a perfectly innocent explanation…

Is BlogBridge a ‘next generation’ Feed Reader?

In response to a query from Andrew Watt and Danny Ayers about what they called next-generation infromation aggregators, I wrote this, and I thought I'd share it here too.

Dear Andrew and Danny,

Still in early beta, but certainly not secret is BlogBridge,, an app I've been working on, that I've been describing as a next generation blog aggregator.

In fact I am moving away from the term 'blog' as being too limited, and I think embracing the term 'feed'. Why? Because I kind of suspect that one of the early values of something like BlogBridge to people outside the hard-core blog fanatics (I am one) will be as an alternative way to email to receive notifications (like from UPS), mailing list updates (like from yahoo.groups) , and online web site content updates (like NYT.) These are or will soon be using RSS and possibly are of more direct benefit to someone who is not signed up to the blog phenomenon.

Why do I call BlogBridge 'next gen'? The focus of the app is to actively help the user deal with information overload. In features that are working now or are planned for the first release, BlogBridge does things like:

1) allow the user to indicate which are their favorite feeds (via a Tivo like thumbs up feature.) This information is used to generate a composite 1-5 star rating.

2) takes advantage of services like Technorati to figure out how 'authoratitive' a certain feed is (based on the number of inlinks) and factors that into the 1-5 star rating

3) Lets the user easily temporarily filter out or permanently unsubscribe from feeds which fall below a certain star rating

4) Analyzes the feeds the user is looking at, and locates links to new feeds that the user didn't know about and 'suggests' them if they are highly rated.

5) The user can set up a set of 'keywords' which are then highlighted in the articles, as well as summarized at a feed level so you can easily find those feeds which are talking about stuff you are interested in.

6) A user's thumbs-up rating can be uploaded to a companion BlogBridge Service. Eventually this will form the basis of a collaborative filtering capability.

7) Allows a user to share their particular set of favorite blogs with other users. This will allow me for example to subscribe to a set of blogs that mimic what Danny Ayers is following on the subject of RSS.

And there are other ideas floating around. The central theme is dealing with information overload and saving time for the user who is interested in following a hundred or more feeds.

As an aside, this is an open source project. It is a client side app (other than the service which of course is a server side.) And it is cross platform, written in Java, and runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux (as well as others I am sure, I just haven't tested them.)

I hope this is useful and of course would love to be included in your book. Any follow up questions are welcome and you can of course also download and play with the current beta.

Podcasting less important than “IT Conversations”

I was working out, listening an IT Conversations interview with Joel Spolsky. It was interesting and passed the time.

It's wonderful that Doug Kaye interviewed Joel Spolsky, and it's wonderful that Joel was fun to listen to, it was wonderful that this MP3 was available on the internet, and that I had iPodder to automatically download it to me iPod, and of course, my iPod is wonderful.

But I realized this: I had been doing this "by hand" before Podcasting or iPodder existed. The far bigger deal then and now is that IT Conversations are making these great recordings and making them available to me. Podcasting is just a neat new distribution medium.

For all the talk and excitement around podcasting, there should have been at least as much devoted to sites like IT Conversation, which as far as I know is the only one of its kind.

[OOPSLA] Where Wikis come from

I was lucky enough to meet and spend some time with Ward Cunninghamat OOPSLA this year. I also heard him present in a big hall. If you are a Wiki fan then you know that Ward is the one who invented the concept.

What seems to be a little less well known is how the idea evolved, where it came from. I am sure it's written up somewhere. but I thought I'd write down my own idiosynchratic understanding of the story.

Ward was involved in the early days of the Design Patterns movement, which seems to have it's own roots in the OOPSLA conference. So here's the story.

At some gathering it was noted that there ought to be a central repository of all the patterns that had been invented to date and a way for new ones to be added.

Ward kindly voluteered to build and maintain this repository. This was in the early days of the Web, and it seemed like the logical medium to do this in. So Ward set out to create a web site to be the repository. It still exists!

The problem was that no one really knew HTML at the time. So they would send Ward emails with ideas for Patterns to be added to the repository and Ward would then be editing those emails into HTML and then posting the pages. This didn 't scale too well.

Because the agreed upon form of a Pattern description was fairly consistent, Ward decided to write a script to process the text he received automatically into HTML. In fact he added some helpful formalisms like a '" for a bullet and so on. He asked people to follow this to make his life of adding the new pages to the repository easier. See where this is headed*?

Ward was able to run his script and process the properly formatted Pattern descriptions and turn them into HTML pages. This saved a lot of time maintaining the web site with all the patterns.

It occurred to Ward that he could automate this even further if he had a page on his site where someone could submit their nicely formatted text. The site would then automatically run the script, generate the html and store it in the right place.

And so proto-wiki
was born. Of course this Wiki-markup is only one of the three (IMHO) seminal features of Wikis. The other two are: the total lack of access control and the ability to refer to something before it exists.More on those later.

So that's the story, as I heard it. I thought it might be of interest to you.

Red Sox Moon

In honor of the Red Sox , the moon will turn red tonight. It will start melting into the dark sky around 9.15. Between 10.23 and 11.44, it will be some shade of red, like Curt Schilling 's sock.

After that, with the Red Sox hopefully having achieved their mission, the moon will regain its composure and return to light up the sky, just as these players have lightened up our Fall.

Take a look: about due South, about 45 degrees up.

(from Ben Gomes-Casseres)

You have an MP3 and I have an IPod

You have an MP3 and I have an IPod. I want to listen to that MP3 while driving, walking, or working out. Anything that will facilitate and make it more convenient for me to achieve that is valuable. End of story.

Before anyone coined the term Podcasting , and before there were enclosures in RSS, this real-life problem existed and was seeking a solution. Substitute any portable player for IPod, substitute any digital media type for MP3, and you can see that this is a far broader problem than is being argued about and discussed.

The technical approach will not make people want my mp3 any less or more. And people who don't have a need to consume their digital media while disconnected from the net won't care. And certainly there may be more efficient approaches for getting the media from here to there (BitTorrent).

But I don't see how anyone can argue Podcasting is not a great step forward.

[OOPSLA] Watching the World Series in a mirror

Just got to Vancouver for OOPSLA. Just checked into my hotel room, and am doing email while watching baseball. Because of the way the room is set up, I am able to watch the game through a mirror.

You know what's weird? Runners seem to be running from home to third to second to first. Left field is right field. The world is upside down! Well actually leftside right.

Watching baseball through a mirror. Funny.