The tyranny of Keep New

A while back I wrote about how the tyranny of tabbed browsing leaves you with a load of interesting links left open in tabs that you haven’t got time to write a post about but can’t close because you so want to post about them. I have since alleviated that problem. Instead, the tyrant in my life is Bloglines’ “Keep New” function. I’m subscribed to about 120 feeds in Bloglines, and when I find something that I want to write something about, I tick “Keep New” so it stays unread. Repeat for a few months and I now permanently have twelve things that are in need of exposition. The difference, I suppose, is that since I built the linklog, these are not quick dash-off-a-note-and-snarky-comment items, but things deserving of a real discusrive post, which they just aren’t going to get. Not unless I get a lot less busy, anyway. So, here goes.

  • i’ll replace you with machines – I’ve been reading Delimiter for a while without actually realising that it was Scott Andrew. Amazing. Anyway, Scott bemoans his lack of that essential something that keeps his weblog running, especially the technical DHTML/JS/etc bits of it. What is the something? I know how he feels: it’s partly time, partly inclination, partly lack of inspiration. “Yeah, there’s plenty of stuff out there that hasn’t been built yet, and I have no desire to build most of it. Why, yes, we could implement a [insert like-to-have feature here] in JavaScript. I know it can be done, you know it can be done — so do we really have to build it? Next!” I’ve seen quite a few things that I had an idea about in the past but never wrote up: I wish I’d carried on with Renditioner, which was an HTML/CSS/JS-based presentation package like Eric Meyer’s excellent S5. (I foundered on it because I was, and remain, convinced that it all needs to be in one file: this is what prompted my investigations into inline images in web pages and caused me to give up because it doesn’t work in IE.) Eric’s work is superlative, and I’m sure Renditioner would have been a lot more crufty, don’t get me wrong here.
  • Miguel the Iguana notes a CyberSource study on Linux vs Windows TCO (caveat Acrobat), which I’d love to distribute at work if I thought it’d make any difference, which it won’t.
  • Bill Mill’s game is cool. Score points for how perspicacious you were with linking to something. It’s an amusing conceit which underlies a serious point, that is a huge and useful data store for what people are linking to, in a much more direct way than services like blogdex. It’s also changed the way linklogs work—I’ll probably be shifting mine over to it as part of the Grand Site Redesign—and it’s got a great API. Moreover, the API isn’t a separate bolt-on; using means that you are using the API directly, because it’s RESTish. I love that. Our CRM product at work, InterAction from Interface Software, is another excellent example of that, and at some point I will write up a description of its superb web API so that other people can write stuff that works like it.
  • Another example of how is changing how people work is that Jeremy Z wants his own personal to archive his links from emails and his browser and so on. I remain convinced that a trivial Firefox extension that indexes your browser history and makes it searchable is a very good thing to do: not like Slogger, which archives it all (I don’t need a separate copy of it, that’s what the damned web is for), but something which indexes it so that it can be searched later.
  • Greatest Dilbert cartoon ever. Don’t know how long that link will last, but the exchange is between Alice and the PHB, obviously in the context of a performance review: the PHB declares that Alice’s biggest defect is inability to handle criticism, which gets Alice’s goat, because she can’t argue with that statement without proving it true. Similar scenes occur in performance reviews right up and down the country, every single day, and Adams lampoons them perfectly here. (He goes on to, ahem, hammer the point home in the last panel, where the PHB also complains that Alice argues with people who are much smarter than her, heh.) Remind me someday, in the future, to tell you about the ridiculous performance review scheme at work.
  • Dunstan has been busy coming up with cool new CSS techniques for Mozilla Europe. Likely to be of more use to real designers than to me, I’m still really glad that it is still possible to innovate in ways like this. One of my fears about the rise of WYSIWYG tools is that, if we abtract away from the complexity of CSS, then this will suddenly stop being possible: you’ll only be able to organise pages in ways that your tool makers thought of, and they won’t think of things lke this. (Oh, this tehcnique might be in the new version of the tool, as long as you think that \$99 is worth paying for it. Unless you’re using Nvu or something.) Schwuk has written about the tool/IDE debate (following on from the much-linked paper on The IDE Divide and what it is), commenting that “they’re just electric screwdrivers to me – they do the job faster, but you don’t need them” and summing up my own thoughts on the matter perfectly.
  • Seth Nickell vies in my head for Greatest Usability Guy, along with Tog and Matthew Thomas (his new place doesn’t have as much usability stuff). Nickell is a lot less acerbic than Thomas, but they’re both excellent: Nickell’s Improving Usability essay is recommended.
  • Still on usability, Drew McLellan wrote about Supermarket Usability and questioned the very idea that the user comes first, given that supermarkets unashamedly put their own interests before those of consumers (Daniel Davies has more on how supermarkets outsource their costs to the customer and similar tricks) and yet still make a whole shitload of money.
  • Steven Garrity wants the Google search box in Firefox to interact with Google Suggest. I’ll bet money that the Google people will cut that off if someone implements it, which is a real shame…
  • Sparkes notes in a comment that the Ubuntu Guide is “stolen from GPL and FDL sources with no accreditation“. I’ve had a poke around and can’t find many examples of direct plagiarism, but sparkes’ point about the licence (that the Guide can only be reproduced in full) is well taken, and I should not have linked to it.
  • In another comment here Rob Annable said “we should all get off our lazy aRSSes and go visit some sites“, meaning that the rise of the agggregator means that we’re missing something essential. He’s not wrong, but…well, I want to mainline information. That’s what’s important to me. The method of delivery is a serious long way behind in second place. This is probably one of the reasons why I haven’t got the new design done yet (although that’s more properly a rearchitecting, and I’ll bang a new look on top as a fringe benefit).
  • Schwuk has been reading ebooks. Both he and Rory do this the same as I: having ebooks on your mobile device is marvellous because you can read for five minutes while you’re standing in a queue, or sitting outside the shop waiting for your wife, or on the bog, or having a cigarette in the car park. I do these things a lot (well, I do the last two a lot and the other two sometimes). Fortunately (and thanks to the kindness of Jono) I now have a Zaurus again, so I don’t have to go through the rather convoluted process of putting them on my phone for reading there any more.
  • Finally, Matt has written up the beginnings of some thoughts on marketing Open Source software with a look at Jaguar’s approach. Look for more on this from LugRadio in the new year…
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