Upon further reflection

Disclaimer: the thoughts expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of others who participated in the conversation that inspired this post.

Here are some more thoughts about Echo:

  1. The success or failure of software is measured by the number of people who benefit from its use.
  2. Today’s weblog software is providing a lot of benefit to a lot of people. As that number grows, the fraction that cares about the backend details will diminish to rounding error.
  3. Many (most?) of the Roadmap signers are people who specifically care about the backend details, i.e. programmers. The best programmers have a keen sense of what is useful to people, but most don’t. [We tend focus on how much work we will have to do, or what is possible, whether or not it is useful, or our own personal notion of source code beauty. I.e. things that are invisible to 99.99% of the world.]
  4. As best I can tell, “today’s backend provides no value” is not among the reasons why Echo appeared.
  5. There is definitely an element of “today’s backend is not providing enough value, a better backend is needed”. That gets us into cost/benefit analysis.
  6. Immediate benefit: Echo is a release valve. People who feel that they haven’t had a voice now have a voice. For a while, there will be less grumbling and subsequently less bad PR. The grumbling will return when it becomes apparent that lots of people have voices and their voices want different things. But maybe this time it will be more effectively managed.
  7. Potential benefit: Echo delivers. A spec is published, tools are built, the world changes for the better.
  8. Cost: “Let’s hold off on implementing our feed/application/tool. There are too many competing specs. Everyone’s going to be doing Echo anyway. Let’s wait for Echo.”

So what can we conclude? Programmer grumbling is unfortunate but it is no match for the roar of happy users. If Echo does not deliver something substantially better than what came before, we will have a net loss. Will Echo deliver? I sure hope so.

Be careful what you wish for

A couple of weeks ago many a New Englander could be heard moaning about the incessant, unspringlike cold and rain. We got what we wished for, several straight days of 90F!

I’m making iced coffee. You start by brewing a pot of strong coffee and cooling it to room temp. Putting the hot coffee directly in the fridge seems like a bad idea. It would probably warm everything around it and drive up my electricity bill. How about…

Make sense? A saucepot’s job is to suck heat away from a source, it’s just that now we’ve turned things upside-down. I guess a water bath would be even better, but I don’t want to risk shattering the glass.

Comments and comments on comments

Weblogs like this one proliferate their content through RSS syndication. Frustrated in their attempts to get RSS to work the way they think it should, a group of folks is embarking on a journey to better syndication. I haven’t formed a strong opinion really. Certainly I salute their existence and enthusiasm. But I hope that they don’t forget some important lessons about the dangers of having too many cooks. The best comment I’ve seen comes, not surprisingly, from Dave Sifry: “[let’s] get to what’s really important – sophisticated interoperability and new features that users will love” (emphasis added).

Shifting ownerships

Two posts today about property:

Philip Greenspun: “Look around you at stuff that you believe to be public property. Very likely it will soon be given away to America’s largest corporations and consequently their stock will go up even if they don’t innovate.”

Brad Choate: “So long…and good riddance. United States Patent No. 4,558,302 expires today. Better known as the LZW patent. This is the technology behind the common GIF file.”

If this kind of stuff gets your goat up, take a look at the Reclaim the Public Domain petition.

More programmer nerdism

hackdiary: “Using an RDF representation of Wordnet, the lexical database of English, we attach keywords to photographs to indicate what they objects they depict. With simple inference logic, we create improved search engines over this data. For example, using the hypernym information in Wordnet to extrapolate from keywords, a search for buildings can find hotels, churches, houses and other related photographs. We can automatically build a Yahoo-like hierarchical web site of photographs organised by the meaning of their keywords.” Okay, this is really cool.