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Scripting News - 2018-12-18T21:16:29Z

- 2018-12-18T16:57:51Z
There's now an RSS feed for comments.

- 2018-12-18T16:58:40Z
A question on the XML-RPC site about servers. How should they handle booleans. After almost 20 years since it first deployed, I have a practical answer. I also have a new implementation, in JavaScript, that can still be changed.

- 2018-12-18T21:16:29Z
New header image, focuses on Donna Reed from It's a Wonderful Life, replaces a picture of a burning log in a fireplace.

- 2018-12-18T18:25:32Z
The thing that I like about Facebook is that it theoretically gives me equal voice to Walt Mossberg. And to his credit, he often read things I wrote on Facebook. OTOH, when he quits FB it merits an article in the NYT. So he lives in a different media world than the rest of us.

- 2018-12-18T15:37:53Z
The Russians took advantage of the idiocy of the American electorate. So did Facebook and CNN, Fox and MSNBC. The NYT, the WP and Vanity Fair. All are making a fortune off it, but they aren't to blame, actually. They're just parasites. The disease is the idiocy.

- 2018-12-18T18:27:11Z
In a courtroom, the pros play an important role. But the jury and the defendant are the principals. Never forget that. If journalism is a civic act, it must involve the people in a similar way. As the principals.

- 2018-12-18T14:47:47Z
I thought this piece about why Python sucks was interesting. I clicked on it because I always thought Python was a good language. Algol-like. And it had an idea similar to the one in Frontier that program structure doesn't require curly braces and semicolons. It's an insight that seems to have escaped most other language designers. Well, it turns out the #1 reason Python sucks for this guy is breakage. I never understood the idea that breakage was okay in "point versions." In practical terms, breakage is never okay. Never. With a little more thought and work, you can move forward compatibly, adding new features in a continuous fashion. I wasn't aware of how bad this was in Python. This is an idea that should be discussed at tech conferences. I even have a motto for it. Discontinuities suck. Disclaimer: Everything I've ever done sucks. The only software that's perfect is the software in your mind.

- 2018-12-18T14:36:57Z
Dear Facebook quitters who are in VC or who are writing books about tech... What happens when Facebook does something good or bad that you need to understand either for business or art? I’m a software dev and tech blogger, and I need my account because they are huge and going to be around for a while and I have to understand what they’re doing because like it or not they’re not going away.

If the US govt were Facebook - 2018-12-18T15:28:15Z

If the US govt were a software company we'd all be quitting them.

Imagine this. I signed up for Obamacare in 2012. It was great.

Call that version 1.0.

Now six years later, I'm still alive, I've paid in many tens of thousands into it, and drawn out much less, even though I have a pre-existing condition or two.

What have they done?

They're removing features not adding them. And threatening to deprecate the whole thing. Every damn year there's some government-made crisis that threatens to put me at risk of needing some urgent and super-expensive health care without insurance. I'm happy to pay, it's worth it, but this really sucks!

I'd quit, except it's the only health insurance I can get.

So I can't.

- 2018-12-18T01:26:28Z
I watched a bit of political news this evening. They say people are overloaded with news about Trump. I don't think that's what's really going on. Instead, Trump being a mobster is "priced-into" his public image. You all are just reporting the same story over and over. That gets boring. It is significant that he's a mob boss. The tragedy is that we can't seem to do anything about it.

- 2018-12-17T20:20:16Z
I was looking forward to Vice, but now that the reviews are in, maybe not.

- 2018-12-17T14:51:16Z
When I was a grad student, Knuth's book on algorithms was our handbook. His "boundary tag method" was the design I used for Frontier's object database.

- 2018-12-17T14:19:34Z
This is a tool I will use a lot for the right margin images. Removing backgrounds is tricky, sometimes impossible, by hand.

- 2018-12-17T14:07:40Z
To see the latest comments, view #scriptingnews on Twitter.

- 2018-12-17T14:20:38Z
Do you think you're going to use the new Twitter connection on Scripting News? Let me know in this braintrust thread.

- 2018-12-16T21:53:17Z
Feeling courageous? Click the symbol next to this post.

- 2018-12-16T16:04:59Z
Doing a bit more work on The Feature today. Also watching Sharp Objects on HBO. Very weird. But it got high ratings, and I generally like HBO stuff better than Netflix. More cerebral, intellectually challenging, surprising. Most of what's on Netflix is drek.

- 2018-12-16T16:09:32Z
Lots of writing about the 50th anniversary of Engelbart's MOAD. I wasn't there, but I knew Engelbart, at first through Ted Nelson's writing, and then in face to face. The reporters misunderstand what he meant by augmentation. It's the same thing we called idea processing with ThinkTank and its successors. Computers, using outlining software, are incredible surfaces for recording your thoughts, seeing them visually, and then manipulate them in ways you couldn't on physical surfaces like paper and whiteboards. Index cards spread out all over the floor kind of approximates it. On a computer screen ideas are on rollerskates and rails. They move fast and precisely and then move again. There are so many more places to move them. This frees the mind up to try out new ideas without losing the train of thought. All the stories about Engelbart miss this. Yes the mouse was incredible. I was not aware he invented the web (did he?). But the thing he was most interested in, the biggest idea he had, apparently has been forgotten, but not by me.

- 2018-12-16T16:52:01Z
Augmentation or idea processing sounds grandiose, but it's fairly mundane. Here's a snapshot of my planning outline for the project I'm working on now. It changes as the project moves forward. The outline structure makes it easy for me to organize my work. My time is better used, I'm more confident that important things are not slipping through the cracks.

Minding my dream - 2018-12-16T16:25:36Z

My subconscious had me dream something really odd last night. Not something I’d mind sharing publicly, but there is no place. I suppose it’s the kind of thing everyone who has lost both parents goes through. Probably something that goes back to before we were even human. But we are not so evolved that there is a proper online place for it. If I wrote a memoir, I could put the story in there. Nothing I’m even remotely ashamed of.

So I'm going to tuck it away here in a corner of my blog.

Here's the dream...

I'm lost and going back home. My glasses are broken. I'm trying to put them back together. (Note in the real world I don't need glasses any longer.) I'm walking along 32nd Ave a block away from my parents' house thinking about getting comfort from my father. Then I realize he's dead. No matter I'll have a nice talk with mom. Then boom, it hits me. She's dead too.

It's a terrible feeling. I get back to the house, but it's all different. There's a swimming pool out back, and a big guest house. It's dark. I can't see well. The glasses have seemingly repaired on their own, but it's a new design. My father's brother, my uncle Sam, is puttering about. He can't hear me. I can hear him but it's mumbling. I feel okay but lost.

I wake up.

I seem to remember doing something like this before. Perhaps it takes a few tries before the knowledge permeates some deeper level?

- 2018-12-15T16:56:28Z
I was looking through an old backup disk and came across a few audio clips from movies I had recorded. I thought maybe it'd be fun to make them podcasts. So here's the first, Neo meets the Oracle in The Matrix. My favorite line is when the Oracle says "I can see why she likes you," and what follows. Sorry the volume is a bit low.

- 2018-12-15T16:13:11Z
Okay I'm going to reveal a little about the new feature. You can get a glimpse of the output by watching #scriptingnews on Twitter. And an upfront caveat, I don't know the final configuration of this feature. I'm just trying ideas out right now. You may see features here that are never released.

- 2018-12-15T14:33:47Z
A new feature is in the works for Scripting News readers. I'm already using it, smoothing off rough edges, thinking about how I want to present it. As far as I know it's a feature that has not been part of a blog yet.

- 2018-12-15T14:33:25Z
Podcasts do keep getting better.

Wondering about journalists - 2018-12-14T16:13:51Z

I wonder if any journalists out there agree it's worth a shot to train a million people in basic journalism in hope that:

  1. They will become better news users. The theory that people who understand how news is created become better news users is analogous to thinking that people who know how to ski get more out of watching ski races.
  2. Some of them will become volunteer news writers, filling in gaps created by the retreating journalism industry.

I made a similar proposal to the Dukakis campaign in 1988. I suggested a national email policy, to introduce email to students at all levels. Email had made me a much better writer. I reasoned it would do the same for young Americans.

Update: Rosental Alves, a professor at the University of Texas reports that the Knight Center has been teaching free courses for journalists, but open to anyone. In 6 years they have reached 164K people from 200 countries, according to Alves.

- 2018-12-13T16:12:45Z
iOS 12 problem. On a phone call, after a few minutes the volume drops until I can't hear the other party. When I call back the volume goes back to normal. Happens with several numbers, so it's on my end not theirs. New iPhone XS. Any help appreciated.

- 2018-12-13T12:58:59Z
Yesterday I asked the braintrust of this blog to help me understand Kubernetes. Turns out I did not understand it. You all are the smartest most generous people I know. Thanks! 💥

- 2018-12-13T13:01:00Z
Baratunde says that a movement is a “group of people working together to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas.” That's a good definition. When I think of a movement I think of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, or the anti-war movement that protested the Vietnam war. I do not think The Correspondent which is a for-profit business deserves to use that term. I certainly do not like them saying that I am a member of such a "movement." As I said in my writeup, "the only movement I would be part of is one that doesn't distinguish between reporters and members, that has a level playing field. I think that's the only way journalism can scale to meet our needs and avoid the kinds of disasters journalism has led us to."

- 2018-12-12T21:24:29Z
What a thrill to see NakedJen in the Likes here. 💥

- 2018-12-12T17:47:02Z
I just got an email from @baratunde about The Correspondent once again saying I'm part of a movement. No. They haven't done anything to justify that. They are a for-profit company. They make it sound like a charity. Tone it down.

- 2018-12-12T20:50:10Z
Response from Baratunde on Twitter.

- 2018-12-12T17:58:02Z
The tech industry used to have rollouts like the one The Correspondent is doing. A new company wants to enter a market with a few well-known products. So they claim, on rollout, to have some new feature, usually hard to explain or obscured, that made their product revolutionary. The old products are old. Legacy. Roadkill. Since the press didn't care much for facts, and wanted to report on wars, they would run with the hype. A few years later the new technology is known not to be revolutionary. And the new company either gained entry or didn't. The incumbent products are still there. An example was "object oriented" in the early 90s. We now fully grok what it is, it's another way of factoring. Useful for sure, sometimes. But not game-changing.

- 2018-12-12T17:14:49Z
So if Michael Cohen committed crimes that result in a 3 year sentence, I guess Trump should go to jail for 3 years too.

- 2018-12-12T16:23:11Z
Trump's hands are truly offensive. I hate the way he puts his hand in the face of people to hold the floor so he can repeat the same horseshit over and over. You could see it as he tried to talk over Nancy Pelosi. He did it with Hillary Clinton. He does it when an interview isn't going the way he likes. It's nasty. Second point. When he threatens a revolt if he's impeached, that itself is cause to be removed from office. The president swears an oath to uphold the Constitution. Impeachment and removal are in the Constitution. Really it has to be the most impeachable offense there is.

- 2018-12-12T15:18:40Z
Braintrust query: I keep reading about Kubernetes and how it's taking over the world, but every piece also says it's very complicated. Why? Heroku set the initial prior art in this area. It's easy to get started with. Here we are many years later, it seems we are going the wrong way. Or am I missing the point. Isn't Kubernetes trying to solve the same problem as Heroku? In any case an open source user-deployable Heroku would be very welcome. Update: Digital Ocean introduced a simplified Kubernetes service yesterday. I had no idea. Also, Dokku was recommended.

- 2018-12-12T14:44:04Z
I'm making a purchase that requires a credit check, and in the process, the lender said I needed to unfreeze my records at the three credit rating services. At first I didn't remember freezing them, but then on a bit of investigation I recalled that when Experian had their breach they offered to do the freeze and also monitor my credit for free. So now I had to figure out how to unfreeze the accounts. The bank gave me phone numbers. But all they can do is send you a credit report. Some are pretty humiliating about it. After much navigation, searching and puzzling I figured out how to turn off two of the three, but Experian, in trying to validate me, asked "security questions" that I answered correctly but they rejected. In the process I learned that apparently I had taken out an auto loan in 2017, a year that I didn't even own a car and most certainly didn't purchase one. So now I have another problem. But I guess it's their system that's fucked up, because if someone used my credit to buy a car, apparently they are making the payments, so wtf. This system is so broken, it's amazing we haven't yet had a total meltdown. Or maybe we have and we're living in its aftermath.

- 2018-12-12T14:35:43Z
I noted early this morning tweets from Phil Windley and Chris Allen about a conference in Switzerland where they have an easy way of explaining a new "self-sovereign" identity system. At some point I want to ask the question about how we can adapt the code we have working with Twitter as an identity system with this new system. It's important that for application developers it be as easy or easier than the currently available systems.

- 2018-12-11T22:44:35Z
President Covfefe hits the wall.

Followup on The Correspondent - 2018-12-11T13:11:51Z

I asked a bunch of questions about The Correspondent yesterday and got answers from the anonymous account of the company, and from one of the founders, Ernst Pfauth, on Twitter. He posted a link to a Medium piece about how their rolodex feature works. Below are the questions and answers.

  • Is the rolodex up and running yet?
    • Yes.
  • Is it a benefit of membership?
    • Yes
  • Do you have to pay to be in the rolodex?
    • You have to be a member to be in there. But when we invite people to join a discussion, we give them a one month membership.
  • What if a "reader" gets an idea for a story?
    • All our correspondent's email addresses are visible on the site.
  • Can readers enlist the expertise of other members?
    • Not Yet. We really want to introduce this asap.
  • Is it a non-profit?
    • No. But it is limited-profit. [What this means isn't clear. They have said it means that the partners will not draw out more than 5 percent of the revenue for themselves, putting all the remaining profit back into the company. At least one commenter in the thread thinks this is not straight.]
  • Will you have a public editor? If so, will be it be a member of the public or a journalist?
    • As far as I can see this one was not answered.

Since being in the rolodex requires membership, I signed up, giving $25. The next page after signing up offered ways to give more money or help them promote membership. They really sell hard. There was a huge iconic image of Jay Rosen on the page. I found this very disturbing. I actually edited the DOM tree to make his image invisible. Then I gave them the money.

I asked a bunch of other questions, trying to understand where their reporters will come from and how they will assure that these reporters care about members more than most American reporters. I got a vague answer about that, from which I concluded their reporters will be like every other reporter, and the idea that they will be engaged with readers is either hype or snake oil, or good intentions, but they don't have any magic that turns reporters into community-minded people.

I am not part of their "movement," even though they accuse me of that in all their communication. I don't like this company. I like them less than the typical journalistic venture that doesn't pretend to give a shit about readers, because they're using our good nature, and desire to believe in something to get money out of us. The limited role of members is, to me, unacceptable. We certainly don't get a chance to participate at the same level as the paid journalists. Consider the answer to the question as to whether members can start new investigations -- you can pitch an idea to a reporter via email. That is a terrible answer.

The only movement I would be part of is one that doesn't distinguish between reporters and members, that has a level playing field. I think that's the only way journalism can scale to meet our needs and avoid the kinds of disasters journalism has led us to.

Since the rolodex is online, I thought I should try to find it, and enter my information. I tried a search, but it led me to the home page, and a pitch to give money. I went to their FAQ page and searched for the word "rolodex" -- there were no matches. I looked for a Members link on their website, if it was there I didn't see it. The rolodex may be online, but apparently it's not available to members yet.

  • Update: The rolodex exists in Dutch but hasn't been localized yet.

Observation: The rolodex is a good idea, but why shouldn't there be a global index available to all reporters and sources, not just those who give money to Pfauf and company? Why would I want to limit my usefulness to just their reporters?

Net-net: They're doing a great job of raising money. They promise to start a very different journalistic enterprise. When I asked Scripting News readers in the Netherlands what they thought of their Dutch effort there was a generally positive response. That's where we are now.

PS: I forgot to ask if there will be RSS feeds.

PPS: I also forgot to ask if there's a paywall.

- 2018-12-10T17:01:46Z
I had a short podcast here earlier, but decided to take it down. I didn't like how it told the story. Not focused enough. Sorry. Will try again. 💥

- 2018-12-10T14:58:56Z
Another academic journalist who I respect endorsed The Correspondent this morning, urging others to contribute money to the cause. I don't understand why. I can see studying them, learning from their mistakes, which they are sure to make, but an up front unconditional endorsement? Maybe they know a lot more than the rest of us? I asked a bunch of questions of TheC. To their credit they are trying to answer them. Still I haven't seen any reporting on this effort that isn't a rewrite of their press release. There are serious questions to ask about this. Who else is asking them?

- 2018-12-10T15:19:37Z
Civil was a recent example of an effort to launch a new model for journalism that received a lot of hype and unconditional endorsements. But the journalists who were supposed to be paid say they aren't being paid. And the investors who were hoping to support journalism and were motivated by greed (investor greed is perfectly appropriate) aren't happy either. Tech is never a panacea. If people are hyping a technology as one, they're selling snake oil, and you should keep your hand on your wallet.

- 2018-12-10T15:03:21Z
As more journalism companies launch tech products, they're starting to behave more like tech companies, and that's not good. The transparency is gone. If you're creating a silo, you have an obligation to say so, esp if your product is primarily journalism. I'm not talking about The Correspondent here, it's too early to say how much lock-in there is in their product. But all of them have the same basic defect imho. The paid professionals are over here and the members of the community are over there. There's a clear line of separation. I understand why this is in the interest of the reporters, but I strongly believe it is against the interest of news. And if the mission of a news org isn't news, what is it?

- 2018-12-10T15:09:18Z
I see the danger we're in, politically and physically (climate change) are a result of the corruption of our news system. Really nothing short of corruption. They see fascism as a good business model. Trump is great click-bait. Some of them even have the honesty to say so directly. So if we're going to dig out of the mess, we're going to have to take control of the news. Not simply be bystanders. And any new journalism venture that isn't structured around that idea is not only not the answer, it's in the way of us formulating the answer. That's why I am not an enthusiastic supporter of The Correspondent. If their intentions are good, and I see no reason to assume they're not, they are not moving fast enough to embrace the change we need to happen merely to survive. Good ideas are not what's needed. Change is what's needed. Radical change.

- 2018-12-10T00:16:38Z
Just got home. Amazing connections on arriving. New concourse at Penn Station, very confusing. Followed one of the paths, was hoping to get on the 1 train uptown, but the concourse took me right to the platform for the A train. WTF. So I went upstairs, and as I was reaching the platform an uptown A pulls in. I get on. A seat is waiting for me. I get off the train, walk to my building and an elevator opens, I get in and it takes me right up to my apartment. From the Acela to my living room, about 10 minutes. Couldn't possibly have happened any faster. Sometimes, rarely, NYC "just works" as we say in the software biz.

- 2018-12-09T14:18:27Z
I saw Can You Ever Forgive Me? last night. It was as reviewed, excellent. Melissa McCarthy is a phenomenal actress, you get total suspension of disbelief, except for a few instants scattered throughout where they remind you she is one of the best comics of our day. The theme is self-knowledge. Running away from yourself until you can't, and that's when life begins. Must-see.

- 2018-12-07T18:28:25Z
Following up on yesterday's project. I now have a new app running on each of my servers. Every minute, they find out how much space is free on the system disk, and the result is written to a file on S3. There's a file for each server. A central app, serverMonitor, reads those files and stores the data in a file it generates that's then displayed by a JS app running in the browser. The net result, now I see an up to date report on disk space on all my servers any time I want. So the problem we had with LO2 earlier this week, hopefully should not happen again. In the process I found out that people are using features I had basically forgotten were in the product. Yikes. 💥

- 2018-12-07T14:21:48Z
Chris Beard at Mozilla wrote a piece that I totally agree with about the problem of Google dominance of the open web. I could have written that piece myself. In fact in a way I did. But Mozilla hasn't listened any better than Google. Maybe if we want to keep the thread of a free web alive, we should listen better, and help each other. That was the original spirit of the web, not the dominance of big companies who don't feel obligated to listen to and work with individuals. To me, Mozilla looks as big as Google looks to them.

- 2018-12-07T15:04:45Z
I think this is the problem everywhere you look, in politics, journalism, tech, education, business -- organizations dominating individuals. That's why AOC is so refreshing. One of us crashed the party. We hope that opens to door for more party-crashing. That, btw, was the great thing about the web when it came along. The tech industry was just as mired in bigco dominance as it is today. But the web paid no respect to their dominance. In come the people. I remember, I was there. I took advantage of the new opportunities.

- 2018-12-07T15:05:29Z
BTW, one of the reasons I find it so easy to remember AOC's initials because it is also the name of a nice French restaurant I like to go to in the West Village.


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