with 'web' tag

random business idea

provide an online backup service, but part of the startup is sending the user an external hard drive that they use to do a full backup and return to you before they start doing incremental backups over the network. for 40GB of data, it takes 10 days to upload at a fairly typical (but optimistic) 384KB/s.

mailing a hard drive can have much better throughput than pushing data up through adsl connections, but i wonder if the economics work out.

how i helped some spammer

i’ve been reading through old entries on behind the counter, a blog from someone who works weekends at a wal*mart customer service desk. in an old entry, the author links to another blog they started about their experiences dining out.

now that old blog appears to be abandoned — it redirects to another location which just has a captcha form on it, and the page title “confirm that you are a human being... too many artificial requests sorry.”

without giving it much thought, i dutifully typed in the text for the captcha image. and then was presented with another. looking at the source for the page, it looks like i have inadvertently verified that a particular hotmails.com email address is valid on some forum somewhere.


must be something in the air

evan henshaw-plath coins the term coupleware — sites built for two, and brings up wesabe, the financial site i also had in mind when i wrote about services built for two.

services for two

one thing i’ve noticed as we prepare for our wedding is how none of the web-based wedding services seem to have two people in mind. here’s a quote from the help of one online wedding site’s guest list manager:

You can allow your fiance and others access to your online guest list by having them log in to The Knot using your email address and password. Please remind them to log out when they are done, so you'll be able to access your account.

apparently having one list that is accessible by two people would be far too much rocket science.

i wrote our own tool for managing the guest list. it has its own little quirks, but at least when there’s something it doesn’t do, i can fix it. i also hooked up the online rsvp handling to the same database, so for those that choose to rsvp online instead of using the reply card, that information will automatically be linked to our invite list.

and speaking of invitations, the first batch finally went in the mail yesterday. we still have at least one more batch to go, but we really needed to get the out-of-state (and country!) invitations out ages ago now.

wearing your price tag on your sleeve

dropsend is a web-based service for sending large files. carson systems, who created and run the service, are in the process of selling it. they’re blogging the process.

it is sometimes hard to not feel like i am wasting my time (again) in a company where i hold a very small equity stake. (technically, not even that. just options on a very small stake.)

but there are more important things: two months, four days.

web sites are expensive?

reporting about david geffen’s apparent bid for the los angeles times, nikki finke says “He’ll ratchet up the Web site (even though he hates how prohibitively expensive it is to do that).”

prohibitively expensive? i guess there is still a lot of stupid money flowing into web properties. i’m in the wrong line of work.

a strange little side-note: mysql’s website gets more traffic than latimes.com, according to alexa.

hope they don’t uninvite me

the los angeles downtown news took first place, best website (25,000 and above) from the california newspaper publishers association. second place was the palo alto weekly.

i assume this is one of those contests where you only win if you pay to enter. i have to believe there are some weeklies out there in california with websites that are actually interesting.

the landscape pictures for wallpapers blog picked one of my pictures to feature as “wallpaper of the day.” personally, i’ve been using “birds on orange” as my desktop background.

500 of my closest friends

for the first time in a very long time, i shoved all the logs from this site through a web stats package, and have come to learn that this site averages about 500 visits per day.


deadly commet

manipulated image

i guess if someone is going to take the time to take one of my pictures and do something cool with it (original picture) i guess i should link back to it. here’s another version.

too bad about the spelling.

the first draft of history?

the times building at sunset i’ve been poking around in the historical archives (pre-1985) of the los angeles times. here’s an interesting factoid: “los angeles was the first city in the united states to entirely abandon gas for street lighting and replace it by electricity, which was done january 1, 1888.”

and here’s a great blurb from the august 10, 1886 “briefs” column: “officer fonck brought in a man, last night, from los angeles street, who was dead drunk, and so filthy that it caused the officer to lose his four-bit dinner.”

one of the reasons i’ve been digging around is that in this obituary for james pulliam, i noticed that the writer claimed there was some renovation of the central library that was completed in 1987. i thought this was obviously wrong, because the two fires in the central library were in 1986, and the renovation of the library was not completed until 1993. looking at the articles where pulliam is quoted in 1979, they are about a renovation project that was never done. charles luckman, another los angeles architect, had proposed a renovation that would have added two new wings to the library, and had elevators in the central rotunda. the city council killed that plan in september 1979, and plans for the renovation that did happen did not start to gel until a few years later.

the person with the times who first responded to my correction appears to be on vacation for a few days, so maybe they’ll correct the obituary after my latest volley. (or not, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a very big deal.)

this piece in the new york times looks at how people appear on the news are getting out their side of the story, and one thing it astutely points out is that an advantage that organizations like the discovery institute or people like me have is that our content doesn’t disappear inside a pay-for-access archive after a few weeks. for the foreseeable future, you’ll be able to come back to this entry to see what i’ve said. this article is something i linked to in the los angeles times almost five years ago (here). the link doesn’t even offer to sell me the article, it just wants me to contact their archive department who may or may not be able to figure out what the article actually was. as a counter-example, here’s a new york times article where i’m offered an archive copy of the article. and here’s an even older one that is still freely available.

except all the others that have been tried

in an o’reilly network article, matthew b. doar asks, “bug trackers: do they all really suck?”

my answer would be yes, but i love tinkering with them anyway. we’re still using a hacked up version of the bugs.php.net code at bugs.mysql.com, despite periodic threats to move us over to bugzilla. some things that block the migration are that we’ve added various bits of workflow and bitkeeper integration into our bug tracker that someone will have to re-do for bugzilla, and someone will also have to figure out how to integrate it into the login infrastructure (and user database) for our websites.

meanwhile, i hack new features and fields into the existing bugs system whenever the need is strong enough.

i can’t tell if i’m a kingpin or a pauper

10 over 100 is a new website from james hong (of hot or not infamy) and josh blumenstock, an employee at hot or not, where people are encouraged to pledge 10% of their income over $100,000 to charity. the new york times had an article about what inspired it (via evhead).

i signed up, but i’m not sure that it is entirely meaningful. i already donate 10% of what i make to charity, and i make less than $100,000. i guess that makes me part of the “10 over 0” club.

someone asked me recently what i spend money on (after i said something about me being cheap), and the obvious answer of “give it away” didn’t occur to me. oops.

tools for the community or vice versa

this wired article about myspace is interesting, but what really caught my eye was justin’s comment about it: “interesting, MySpace has evolved into "indie music + SNS", like Flickr is "photos + SNS"; also, each of the SNSes seems to have found a niche.”

i was thinking almost the exact same thing this morning, but in relation to yahoo! groups. where the groups concept is “form a group, here’s tools for them to use,” the new model appears to be “here’s a tool, form some groups around their use.”

funny characters are not ☢

sam ruby pulled a good quote on building in support for internationalization in web applications, which i agree is really important.

it is very annoying that i can’t use my flickr recent comments feed because the atom feed is broken due to bad utf-8 handling.

i’m thinking of doing another talk at the mysql conference next year about handling this sort of thing. there’s really no excuse for it. which makes it a little hard to do a 45-minute talk on — it’s so easy to get right!

worked a coin from the cold concrete

“breaking the web wide open!” is a long article by marc canter about new open standards on the internet. i’m named as a “mover and shaker” in the pinging space, which i think says volumes about the limits of that space.

mostly the truth

jakob nielsen’s list of the top ten design mistakes in weblog usability are generally reasonable advice, but i think it is funny that cory at boing boing decided to call out the one i probably pay the least heed to: #3, nondescript posting titles.

it’s not that my titles are nondescript so much as non-sequitors, or inside jokes so inside that i’m the only one who could possibly understand them. some recent highlights:

and then there are all the entries i don’t even title.

at the end of the day, i’m (mostly) writing for me, so i like to think that gives me license to flaunt jakob’s list.

let’s all go to the lobby

in film pitch speak, heyletsgo.com is friendster meets upcoming.org meets evite. social networking built around activity planning. another web 2.0 beta site.

this may be the site for you, if you’re not like me and “the most important information in my daily life is, simply, what are my friends doing?”

it may also be the site for you if you know you want to go to some event and want to find a friend-of-a-friend to go with.

the site, inasmuch as i’ve poked around, seems very well done. but as you might have guessed, i just don’t see myself being a regular user. it models a sort of social dynamic that i just don’t feel any resonance with.

drop me a line if you want an invite.

when leonard got in touch with me to pick my brain a little bit about the blo.gs acquisition experience, i didn’t have an inkling that he would be joining yahoo! along with the rest of the upcoming.org team.


when i look at the hobbled state of blo.gs, i lament, a little bit, my decision to not go to yahoo with the site.

ugh. so much more i could say. but no more angsty bullshit.

the new hybrid map view on the google maps site totally rocks. google deserves every ounce of praise they get for yanking web maps out of the ad-plastered ghetto they had been consigned to before.

this history of suck is a good read — it sounds like it was one of those too-rare confluences of great people and great fun.

high stakes, no prisoners: a winner’s tale of greed and glory in the internet wars by charles h. ferguson is the story of vermeer technologies, the company that created that created frontpage and was acquired by microsoft. it’s a very personal account of the story, and it’s a good read. ferguson is quite a character, and his characterizations of various dotcom celebrities and microsoft insiders are entertaining.

the book was written about six years ago, and some of his predictions have fallen short in the meantime. microsoft hasn’t really claimed a huge percentage of the server market, and the frontpage server extensions certainly haven’t done much to drive iis adoption.

breathing room

drop in bandwidth after sale of blo.gs okay, one more little blo.gs tidbit: the effect of being rid of the service on the bandwidth usage of my server.

the final little spike in outgoing bandwidth (the blue line) is when the final dump of the data was downloaded by the yahoo folks.

the current bandwidth usage is in the 30kbits/sec range. it was generally over 1Mbits/sec before, or at least that’s how it looks from the graphs. (it may have been higher — it appears to get sort of flattened out over time in rrdtool.)

paypal now has a all-in-one payment processing interface, which means you can handle credit cards without even bouncing to the paypal website. i’m amazed this didn’t happen ten years ago — the existing schemes with distinct merchant accounts and gateways has always been dodgy.

you do have to use their express checkout thing (which does bounce to them, and lets users use their paypal account directly) in order to use the direct payment api. it’s $20/month and 2.2-2.9% + 30¢ per credit card transaction or 1.9% + 30¢ per paypal payment.

the best part may be that paypal is a company that seems to know where its towel is. what i’ve often heard from people working with existing providers is that they’re either morons or crooks. (or in the case of verisign, both.)

upcoming.org got some love from its creator, so now you can add private events, among a bunch of other new features. i added a bunch of upcoming events at the los angeles central library.

i had been thinking of building a little event widget for myself, but now i don’t think i’ll need to. at some point i’ll work some magic so my upcoming events show up here, along with my del.icio.us entries.

om malik’s “how yahoo got its mojo back” does a good job of capturing the goodwill that yahoo seems to be generating these days. i bet you can attribute a lot of this to good old-fashioned healthy competition with google.

something i’ve been reflecting on recently is that i’d be a whole lot more excited about this whole social software thing if i weren’t such an unsocial person.

URI::Fetch is a new perl module from ben trott (of movable type renown) that does compression, ETag, and last-modified handling when retrieving web resources. the lazyweb delivers again.

speaking of that, i found i had to do one additional thing to my php code that fetches pages because of a non-existent workaround for server bugs in the version of curl i’m using. so when blo.gs fetches a page to verify a ping and gets a particular compression-related error, it goes back out and requests the page again without compression.

rumor du jour

rumor has it that six apart (makers of movable type blogging software and typepad blogging service) are going to buy live journal (and by live journal, i think they mean danga interactive). it seems like it would be a good fit from what i know of the people involved in both companies and their development platforms. (they’re both perl shops.) and six apart would be getting some of the folks doing the most interesting low-budget, open-source web scalability work that i’ve seen.

rumors that anyone is about to buy blo.gs are completely untrue. unless they aren’t.

2005 prediction?

preshrunk is a new blog dedicated to cool t-shirts you can buy online. i bet we’ll see a whole lot of these blogs focused on little niches like this. (with the existing ones like pvrblog and the gizmodo and weblogs, inc. empires being the pioneers here.) here’s one i thought up over pancakes this morning: a blog dedicated to american animation. anime is well-covered, i think, and i don’t have any interest in anime.

oh, and many of these will be obvious-in-retrospect sorts of ideas. i pointed out the up-swing in online t-shirt retailers back in october.

pingback client

to kill time (see previous entry), i’ve implemented pingback 1.0 client code for when i post. if it works, this entry will ping the spec and ian hickson’s initial announcement of pingback. what are the odds it will work on the first try? answer: not good. it took two tries.

next time i need to kill a few moments, i’ll do the server side.

subscriber counts for los angeles times feeds

i thought i’d do a quick count of how many people are subscribed to each of the scraped the los angeles times news feeds i provide. this is based on unique ip addresses and the bloglines report of subscribers.

  • world news: 1745
  • national politics: 284
  • california politics: 1201
  • commentary: 210
  • company town: 61
  • technology: 428
  • food: 102

michael kinsley, editorial page editor of the los angeles times (or some title similar to that i’m too lazy to look up), writes in his column that blogs are better, because he liked the feedback he got in response to something he had published on a couple of popular blogs.

he attributes some of this to space, but it seems the la times has failed to recognize that they have a website. of course, it is an amazingly lame web site, that offers nothing in the way of social interaction, actively discourages you to read articles by collecting pointless demographic information so it can send you email you don’t want, and hasn’t embraced rss or atom. i read the content of three major newspaper web sites now. the washington post , the new york times, and the la times. to read the la times, i had to write code to scrape some of its pages to create rss feeds.

oh, and the three references to websites in kinsley’s column might have been more useful if they were actually links. 2004, and the los angeles times still hasn’t figured out a way to make a link from one of the articles on their website.

stealing an idea (and four lines of code) from shelley powers, i’ve implemented a very basic live comment preview. i need to read up on this xml http request object thing (which this does not use) to try doing other and more clever things. (christian stocker’s livesearch is a good example of clever xml http request object usage.)

that was easy. i bolted on the basic livesearch here. the integration could (and maybe someday will) be improved, but it was quite easy to get going.

the eff is looking to hire a webmaster.

i find it somewhat subversive that the google zeitgeist special edition - election 2004 (via jeremy zawodny) uses blue for bush, and red for kerry.

web designer needed

i need someone with some web design skills, and hopefully some illustration/cartoonish-design skills, to do a little work for a personal project of mine. it won’t pay a whole lot, but it should be fun and not a whole lot of work (i think).

i’m gradually turning into one of those people who registers a domain name when any sort of business idea pops into their head. each time, thinking “maybe this will be the one that goes somewhere.”

gawker went offline due to network solutions incompetence. i’d have a touch more sympathy if i could fathom a reason why anybody with two neurons firing would be a willing customer of network solutions. a bit of my respect for the gawker media crew has crawled into the corner to die.

everyone has already linked to the long tail already, but just on the off chance you missed it, here’s another link to it. there’s some really amazing insights in the article, and it is definitely not to be missed.

if you look at the interesting internet advertising plays out there right now, i think the most promising are those that try to bridge the tail of the advertising curve and the tail of the publishing curve. things like blogads that make it easy for a small advertiser to publish on a small publisher’s site. marketbanker is similar. google’s adsense runs the risk of lagging behind because it doesn’t allow a direct connection between an advertiser and publisher. there’s no incentive for me to drive potential advertisers on blo.gs to adsense, which i think is an inherent weakness in their architecture of participation.

i have an idea for a business that would sort of sit in this space. too bad i’ve already got a job.

the snap.com terms & conditions includes a linking policy (which i just violated). the snap.com privacy policy (oops, there i go again) says, in part, “We may share certain information about you with carefully selected business partners, including those who may offer services that complement those provided by us or which we believe may be of interest to you.”

update: cory lays the smack down. with regard to the linking policy, at least. i think i forgot to mention the “we can sell your info to spammers” clause of the privacy policy.

another update: the linking policy got dropped. no change to the privacy policy. (links from boing boing and snap. am i cool yet?)

snap is a new idealab! (oh, i guess they’re “Idealab” now — boring) search company. cnet news.com has the details. i guess i’m too much of a google-lean-and-mean sort of search consumer, since snap really didn’t do anything for me.

but it does remind one of the original snap.com, which was nbc’s bid to get into the portal game. i remember it having a rather nice, plain style, something in the spirit of what myway is doing now.

judging from the posts from jeremy zawodny (who needs a web 2.0 category), it looks like web 2.0 is a heck of a conference. i briefly flirted with the idea of attending, but decided it was too rich for my blood.

(but it’s something i’m very ambivalent about. on the one hand, i can see getting really excited about this whole web 2.0 thing. on the other hand, i am becoming increasingly persuaded that i would be more happy doing something that does not involve sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time. but that may just be october talking.)