Architecture in Helsinki

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Trying to surpass The Snuggleups and a band singing about putting your head in icewater for almost too long is a tough job. Architecture in Helsinki did a pretty good job (although they get -6 points for an obnoxious website).

Speaking of obnoxious, here are some new pictures! Yay!

Mike vs. Tim

The Doug Fir was a pretty impressive club. Think 70s lumberjack meets 70s street pimp with a dash of hippies. It was refreshing. Mostly I enjoyed the backlit floor tiles– they blew my mind.

The weekend on the whole was pretty chaotic. I came to the conclusion that I am not good at multi-tasking different plans with different people on the same day. It’s probably better to do things with 1-2 friends at a time — anything more gets too complicated (for me) and eventually things will get messed up. I think I enjoy quality time more anyway, and that’s hard to do in a semi-large group, especially if they don’t know each other as well as you know them.

So from now on I think I will try to be better about planning things on a per-person basis instead of trying to get everyone in on the same thing. And even then, if I do try to get lots of people together, I will try to do a better job of keeping people informed.

But not all was lost. Great music and great friends at the Doug Fir, good times on the Willamette (I actually crossed the wake this time), and some dinner at Who Song and Larry’s. It was a good weekend despite the chaos. It was a fitting end to an even crazier week.

I’m not good at multi-tasking in Portland.

Gallery 2

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I completed the upgrade to Gallery 2 Beta 3 out of boredom. I think they have done a great job with this app. If you’re used to version 1.x, it will take some getting used to, but there are so many more features and improvements it’s worth it. My primary complaint might be that it’s almost too complicated at times.

Of what I’ve seen, here are some goodies:

  • improved sorting
  • complete module management
  • progress bars during file uploads, etc.
  • fully functional gallery 1.x import scripts
  • rewrite templates (for simple urls)
  • site admin scripts to do everything from resetting cache to rebuilding all thumbs

Gallery 2 is worth a shot.

Bridging the Gap

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There has been some discussion about the direction of Mozilla’s Update Services and where they will be going as Aviary 1.1 approaches.

There are three tiers:

  • Addons (extensions and themes)
  • PFS – Plug-ins and the “finder service” that helps you find correct plug-ins based on mime-types
  • AUS – Critical updates that your app checks for periodically (that red thing on the upper right)

Tonight, I thought about what makes Mozilla and open source unique. What sells it to the community, and makes people like you and me — once aware of the option — gravitate towards open source alternatives? What made Firefox successful?

Building off Kveton’s assessment, community interaction and feedback has led to direct results that are visible in record times. From improvements in nightly builds, minor revisions, update services, etc. — users have gained a sense of ownership and sense of community when working with certain projects or applications. There is less of a gap between developers and the public demand that drives them.

Software engineering in the private sector, driven by corporations, can tend to rely more on focus groups, customer surveys and error reporting tools. Microsoft, based on these sources can work to improve products to ensure market share and customer satisfaction.

So, while I was talking to Thompson in the car about it, I came up with the point that although both sources are legitimate, only one has a sense of ownership and community that is tied directly to and supported by the founding organization. Microsoft, for example, would not alter the IE trunk to correct standards interpretations for years despite mounds of feedback. There was no turnaround there… and it wasn’t the first time.

But I don’t like geting into the MoFo vs. Microsoft game. It’s not really a fair comparison because Microsoft has much larger problems caused by their enourmous user base. Regardless, in projects like Firefox or Thunderbird there is such a close relationship between developers and end-users that the turnaround time for bug fixes and application improvements is remarkable and unprecedented. I have not seen such a connection in the Microsoft community.

Surely, though, it won’t be smooth sailing forever. As time progresses, and the population of MoFo’s end-users increases, they will face some of Microsoft’s problems:

  • Scalable update architechture
  • Progressively difficult regression testing

The community will likely survive its growth, but there are some things we should start doing now to prepare for the future. One of the best ways to help prevent these growing pains is to invest more time and effort towards ensuring that the gap between end-users and developers never widens.

And Mozilla is not without direction. This is already being done by tools like reporter, which was recently added to nightly builds. Sites like Mozillazine, SpreadFirefox and Bugzilla also contribute to opening paths of communication between the developer and their users.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t stop there. We have a responsibility to do more for users than make their applications user friendly. We should give them the option to participate, to feel the sense of ownership and community that makes these apps special. What better than augmenting the update infrastructure with more user-facing forums, an improved rating system, and upgrading critical update options and reliability?

Aviary 1.1 is already moving towards an improved critical update mechanism that is focused on smaller patches, more options, and a “set it and forget it” mentality somewhat similar to the hands-free Windows Update services you’ve seen in Windows XP. Some people might think that’s it — no, it’s just the beginning.

Much like Windows Update, critical updates dealing with security or serious flaws in application architecture will mostly just be blindly installed. “Yeah, yeah, just do it so I’m up to date.” It’ll be like Symantec’s virus definitions. You hardly know they are updating themselves. And that’s great — that is what I’ve been hoping for in Mozilla applications.

Now users don’t have to worry about critical updates or security patches. They don’t have to constantly install new binaries, and as applications mature, critical updates will hopefully taper off. Now they can worry about having fun, playing with new tools and innovations that extend an already great application base.

So give them an easy way to browse, install, update, troubleshoot and discuss extensions or themes. Done properly, a reworked and revamped addons site could provide these venues. It would ensure and improve the sense of ownership and community unique to all Mozilla applications.

Novacaine for the Soul

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So blogging is this huge deal now. Syndication, devblogs, company blogs, people getting fired for blogs, people making money off of blogs, bloggers invading cable news, the slashdot effect (hey, it counts!) …

lots of bullshit has come from my keyboard

I enjoy reading blogs where people lay it all out on the line. I typically see these coming from younger people who are more energetic and maybe a little wreckless. I used to have an “it’s what I think so it’s okay to speak my mind” philosophy. But you know — not everything in your head is for sharing. In fact, most of it is pretty unfit for publication.

I’m not promoting censorship — say whatever the hell you want. Just say it well. Be clear, be understood, be expressive and powerful. It’s the difference between saying, “McDonald’s is a stupid whore!” and making a documentary like Super Size Me! — one thing is just brain vomit while the other is organized and thoughtful.

I’ve learned a few things about blogging:

  • The more you put into it, the more you get out
  • Careful what you say, it doesn’t come back
  • What you write is frozen in time
  • It all adds up, and if you don’t do it you’ll wish you did in a few years
  • More people read your blog than you think

Since I’m obsessed with myself, I went back and read some of my old blogs. Turns out I’ve been blogging since this post, written Febuary 3rd, 2002:

it’s been a while since i’ve had the energy to update my site. given some of the current projects i’ve been working on, it’s understandable that i’ve rekindled my love for making silly little webpages.

what is so interesting about webpages to me is the mixture of logic and creativity involved. there is a curious balance between the two when a person makes a website. any webpage represents the symbiotic relationship between the two hemispheres of our brain. in some cases, logic wins, and a page will be 100% functional while looking like shit. in others, pages can be beautiful, but lack functionality, or any semblance of structure.

i figured that i’d take a crack at it. granted, i don’t run an ebiz, or anything like that. but it doesn’t hurt to try new things and see what happens.

Safe to say, I’ve written some pretty terrible shit over the years. A lot of what I read tonight I wasn’t very proud of, but that’s life. You mess up, you get better, repeat. Some of it was surprisingly good — mostly the things I didn’t write in haste or anger.

So here I find myself, blogging in the middle of the night again, breaking myself into pieces small enough to fill this little window of time. To be continued, I guess.

I’m blogging this.

Toilet Seat Terror

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We live in a society full of fear. We over-regulate nuclear power, have airbags on everything but our pee-holes, have to wear helmets to sleep safely and can’t play with anything that has a corner. George Carlin was right — we are definitely a paranoid bunch not willing to take a chance.

picture of a stupid toilet seat cover purse

And so George would agree that our fear of germs is pretty ridiculous as well. We can get food poisoning, chicken flu, bacterial infections, colds, viruses, STDs. We can even get AIDs from kissing! Holy shit, doctor — you’re a fricking moron!

So it’s no surprise that one day I went to the bathroom and as the person in the stall next to me sat down, I heard tissue paper crinkling. It was enough to make Seinfeld have a seisure. What’s with that???

Apparently we can’t even shit in peace. While we are defecating, germs are trying to kill us through the back door! Will we ever be safe?!?!

Not if you live scared. See, I can go to the bathroom, sit down, do my business and not have to use a piece of paper to shield my ass from the grim reapers living on the toilet seat. It saves me the time and humiliation of putting a thin piece of wax paper under my ass. Also, it gives my immune system some practice!

People forget that your skin is your first line of defense. Bacteria isn’t going to seep into your pores and take over your body. You have to somehow eat or suck in this stuff. Now, maybe some of you shit and snack at the same time, but that’s not my style — and I don’t recommend adopting that habit.

Overall, I think toilet seat covers are symbolic of many things we do in this country to make us feel safe — to give us the illusion of safety. It’s a band-aid fix for what pretty much amounts to general sloppiness and poor personal hygeine. In some cases, I guess it makes up for lack of dexterity — but come on, it’s not that hard to aim, is it?

Instead of drinking toilet water, rubbing your genitals on public surfaces and licking toilets, why don’t you just be careful, stay in good health and not worry so much about stuff?

Worrying about germs messes up your immune system, which lets germs kill you. Twice. In your sleep.

Finding your Rob Gordon

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At some point you stop and look back at all the shit you went through and the pure volume of past drama is staggering. To think, I did all that, and not in a shy way…

When you’re in the thick of it, it’s easy to think that you’ll never make it. Yet time and again we all somehow find our way. After time clots our wounds and the scar fades, we finally get a chance to make sense of it all — if it’s even possible.

High Fidelity was an interesting look back at the life of John Cusack’s character, Rob Gordon. It was a unique narrative, taking you through the failed relationships of a used record store owner.

What can we learn from Rob Gordon? Well, for one, we aren’t anywhere near perfect either. We are assholes. We play for our team only, we are selfish, we are liars, we cheat, and sometimes we cut corners. We do it without really thinking. Well, maybe you’re a lot nicer than I am, but you have some Rob Gordon in you — might as well accept it.

So what happens to all of this crust? It is a part of our relationships. It’s the dirt on the windshield, the birdshit on a clean car, the piece of furniture that doesn’t match. And it’s not going anywhere.

But sooner or later we at least realize it’s there. We sit up and say, “Holy shit, I was an asshole!” And like Rob did we look back and think of all the things we could have done differently. Was it our fault? Did I fuck things up? Was she the one but I failed to realize it?

And after hours of recounts and retallying, there is a bucket full of maybes and a handful of what-ifs. They can’t save you from yourself. They can’t change the past. But it’s fun to dream about, and you can at least do some things to save the present and future.

We are left with this delicate balance between the crust of ourselves and the sunny side. I think that once you can at least partially understand yourself — identify your strengths and maintain some level of damage control when it comes to your weaknesses, you are ready to find a person who understands them just as well as you.

For some, it takes a lifetime. But if we are lucky we see things clearer while there is still time to set things straight. Then, when the times comes, we can be ready to give ourselves up and be vulnerable when we should. Of course, until then, things will be a fucking mess. But hey, it’s a damn beautiful mess.

I miss her smell. And the way she tastes. It’s a mystery of human chemistry and I dont understand it. Some people, as far as your senses are concerned, just feel like home.

Diluted

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I stare into my coffee,
watching the cream swirl
as it dissolves into hot blackness.

My coffee is kinder than your eyes,
cutting through my paper heart,
poking holes in my confidence.

I start to fumble words;
enourmous wooden blocks
made of feelings too heavy for
an infant’s hands.

One turn after another,
I spiral down…
like the cream.

Finally I dissolve,
and fade into who you think I am.