Archive for June, 2008

Scribd, the Followup

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

I’ve learned a few things in the last few days.

1) If you submit a CPAN module with unit tests that require a module not in the standard core, you will get over a lot automated emails telling you the tests fail on various platforms. (For the record, this is extremely useful. Seriously, CPANTS rocks.)

2) Amir Sadollah is the real deal, winning this season’s Ultimate Fighter.

3) The wp-cache plugin does a great job of reducing server load.

4) When you taunt their beloved Scribd, the Internet trolls will come out of their myspaces caves and fill your blog with various forms of droll.

The feedback on Scribd was pretty interesting. There were too many comments to respond to individually, so I thought I’d recap a few things in a separate post.

First, about half the comments or so were able to see the big picture and agreed that Scribd was a bad idea. DRM-controlled text files is not something the web wants nor needs.

The other half seemed to either fully or partially disagree.

Those who partially disagreed either acknowledge “but yeah, it still sucks” or seemed to think one detail won the argument.

If you’ve dealt with geeks, you’ve probably had arguments before were the forest is lost for the trees. E.g., Paris Hilton is a vapid waste of space, and with her MTV reality show, constant media coverage by outlets that attempt to pass drivel for news, horrible songs and the rest, it would really would be for the best of society if we feed her into a wood chipper. The response by these idiots would be “PARIS HILTONS REALITY SHOW WUZ ON FOX, NOT MTV!!! EPCI FAIL!!!!!!!!1!!!! PARIS RULES!!!!!!!!!!”

Which was the spirt of a whole series of comments.

“YOU IDOIT!!! YOU CLICK THAT BOX BETWEEN THE OTHER BOXES TO COPY AND PAST!!!! YOU ARE FAIL!!!”

“U USED THE WRONG LINK!!! U DON”T DUE THAT IN FULL SCREENZ MODE!!!!!!! EPIC FAILZ!!!!!!!!!!!”

Seriously, it’s like there’s a whole new generation of biff babies run around.

In every app I use there is a set paradigm on how to copy & paste. I select text, Cmd-C, and it’s copied. It works like this with text files, with Firefox & IE for HTML, Preview for PDFs… even Google Spreadsheets, a web app, does an amazing job following this paradigm.

Scribd does not.

Instead, you apparently either need to be told or fish around in their app for a while and become a power-user to figure it out? You have to click an icon, then you can select text to copy?

There’s one app that I know of that works like that: the Microsoft command prompt.

They mimic the UI of Microsoft’s command prompt (circa 1990?)

I hardly call that progress.

If that’s not Web -0.5, I don’t what is.

Which leads into another batch of comments — that some how it’s my fault for Scribd having a bad UI. That I should have known the URL provided to me restricted functionality & instead should have visited another URL. That it’s my fault they cut off functionality in one mode but not another.

(And so much for their ever doc having a unique URL slogan, eh?)

Listen, kiddies, it’s not the responsibilities of your users to become power users. It’s your job, as app developers, to make the damn thing usable. Stop blaming others for your faults.

The other batch that baffled my mind where people who advocated Scribd where that it didn’t require a non-standard PDF plugin. How’s that again? Scribd is better because instead it requires a non-standard flash plugin? Listen a non-standard plugin is a non-standard plugin. It’s like saying “PDFs suck because it kicks you in the left nut, Scribd rules because it kicks you in the right nut!”

Nobody cases if they get kicked in the left or the right nut. A kick in the nuts is a kick in the nuts.

Add to the fact you can view PDFs on the rapidly growing iPhone, but not Flash, means that all of the documents posted on Scribd is now blocked off from one of the fastest growing drives.

Which is always going to be case with proprietary formats.

Which is why they’re a bad idea.

Which is why Scribd is a bad idea.

In a way, I have to admit I’m somewhat surprised by Scribd’s popularity. But then again, I’m surprised by Paris Hilton popularity.

Which perhaps is fitting, as they both have another thing in common: they’re both a waste of space.

Die, Scribd. Die.

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Have you seen Scribd.com? If you haven’t consider yourself lucky. You can try to avoid it, but every once in a while, for reasons I can’t really understand, an idiot will post a link to a document there.

For instance, the other day on Hacker News, someone posted an interesting link to a paper on scalable distributed B-trees. The PDF is here, but the article links to Scribd, scribd.

Take a moment and notice the difference between the two. Now tell me the point of what scribd did in its conversion.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

So is it just me or is scribd.com the worst thing to happen to the Internet since MIME-based email?

Insofar as I can tell all it does is strip me of basic functionality. I can’t save it like the PDF. I can’t print the whole thing. Fuck, I can’t even copy and paste! And it introduces confusing functionality (TWO scrollbars on the left!? WTF?).

All for what?

So some engineers could do some flash-based masturbation & feel web 2.0?

Scribd.com developers: you are not Web 2.0. You are not 1.0. You are web -0.5. You are what we people did when they had bullshit internal doc apps, before HTML, before PDF, before we all realized that text files are often the best format.

So what do they think the point of their existence is?

Scribd is a Silicon Valley startup creating technology that makes it easy to share documents online. You can think of Scribd as a big online library where everyone can publish original content, including you!

Part of the idea behind Scribd is that everyone has a lot of documents sitting around on their computers that only they can read. With Scribd we hope to unlock this information by putting it on the web.

Bullshit. I call bullshit.

They’re not unlocking anything. If anything they are locking things up by placing it in their own jackass format.

Please, scribd, tell us all what exactly was wrong with text? Or PDFs?

Why exactly are we supposed to embrace your closed-source, proprietary standard? One, because it is so jacked up, makes it invisible to all search engines, including Google?

Now please stop pissing off the Internet & go bankrupt already.

UPDATE: I’ve posted a followup.

Cubs Game!

Friday, June 6th, 2008

The suites are P.I.M.P.

This is Stupid

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

As most of you know, despite bearing four children who worth with computers, my mom doesn’t really ride the cutting edge of technology. To give you a hint, she still sometimes searches for old emails that have a link for websites she wants to return to. She uses IM, but only because it’s already setup for her.

Last night mom IM’ed me, mentioning it was raining pretty bad back in the Midwest, and wondered what the weather would be like that weekend. You can’t really say “google it” to mom, and since my My Yahoo includes the weather for hometown, I simply got the Yahoo weather page for Joliet & sent it to her.

In a very mom way, mom replied she already knew it was raining & didn’t need the computer to tell her that. I replied it had the forecast. She replied that she was wondering what it was in Rochester, MN, where she’s traveling this weekend for a conference. (Something she had told me on several previous phone calls. Bad son, I know.)

I tell her Yahoo can find the weather for any city, and all she has to do is search for it. After trying, she says it doesn’t work. So I re-open my browser, and search yahoo for “rochester, mn weather”, it shows up as expected, and I send her another link. In mom fashion, she thanks me.

A bit later, a thought popped into my question. Was it mom? Or was it Yahoo?

I returned to yahoo.com and repeated my search.

As expected and as before, I got the weather. Good.

But what if I click through & try to search for weather on Yahoo! weather?

Yep, that’s right. I was too quick to blame mom.

Using defaults, if you search for weather on the Yahoo homepage it works.

Do the same on Yahoo! weather — i.e., search for weather on Yahoo! weather — and it doesn’t.

And that, my friends, is stupid.

5.12 Earthquake

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Many have written about how difficult it is for humans to understand numbers without everyday meaning. We can put into context 10, 100, even 1,000, but things get hard us for when we hit numbers without reference points in our daily lives.

Before it was Innumeracy was a book, Ronald Reagan noted the phenomenon manifesting in response to speeches. He could talk about how a particular piece of legislation had saved $7.4 million and people would hardly respond. But if he talked about how a bill saved $324,000 the crowed would applaud enthusiastically.

Sadly, the same is true with human tragedy.

From early reports of 10,000 dead, eventually rising to 50,000, then 60,560, now 69,016… It’s hard to put something like the earthquake in China into perspective because (thankfully) it’s so foreign to us. We lack context. Most of us will live our entire lives and it will be a complete shock to us if more than one person close to us dies on a single day.

For tragedies like the earthquake, we lack context. Try as we might, all we can really understand is that a lot of people died.

Maybe then, instead of trying to understand the whole, we try to understand what we can. The stories of individuals.

Without gore, and in bitter-sweet fashion, an Chinese artist named Coco Wang managed to depict just a handful of stories.

I suggest you read them all.

For me, more than the countless news articles, more than the tv coverage, these ten stories brought home the tragedy. That behind each one is a shattered family, irreparably changed. That in the midst of pain were beacons of love, bravery, selflessness, and kindness. Things that give us that rare opportunity to take pride in calling ourselves “human.”

Kenndy said “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures, and we are all mortal.”

Take a moment to reflect on the individual stories, to send them your thoughts, your help, and most importantly your prayers.

Ouch

Sunday, June 1st, 2008