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Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Introducing node-node:node.node

Naming is hard to do well, almost as hard as designing good software in the first place. Take for instance the term ‘node’ which depending on the context can mean

  1. A fundamental unit of the DOM (Document Object Model) used in creating rich HTML5 applications.
  2. A basic unit of the Semantic Web–a thing you can say stuff about. Some nodes are even unlabeled, and hence ‘blank nodes’.
  3. In operations, a node means, roughly, a machine on the network. E.g. “sixteen-node cluster”
  4. A software library for event-driven, asynchronous development with JavaScript.

I find myself at the forefront of a growing chorus of software architects and API designers that are fed up with this overloading of a perfectly good term. So I’m happy today to announce node-node:node.node.

The system is still in pre-alpha, but it solves all of the most pressing problems that software developers routinely run in to. In this framework, every node represents a node, for the ultimate in scalable distributed document storage. In addition, every node additionally serves as a node, which provides just enough context to make open-world assumption metadata assertions at node-node-level granularity. Using the power of Node, every node modeled as a node has instant access to other node-node:nodes. The network really is the computer. You may never write a program the old way again. Follow my progress on Sourceforge, the latest and most cutting-edge social code-sharing site. -m

Comments Off Permalink Filed under annoyance, everythingismiscellaneous, intentional web, software, web20

Friday, March 1st, 2013


The valley is buzzing about Marissa’s edict putting the kibosh on Yahoos working from home. I don’t have any first-hand information, but apparently this applies somewhat even to one-day-a-week telecommuters. Some are saying Marissa’s making a mistake, but I don’t think so. She’s too smart for that. There’s no better way to get extra hours of work out of a motivated A-lister than letting them skip the commute, and I work regularly with several full-time telecommuters. It works out just fine.

This is a sign that Y is still infested with slackers. From what I’ve seen, a B-or-C-lister will ruthlessly take advantage of a WFH policy. If that dries up, they’ll move on.

If I’m right, the policy will indeed go into effect at Yahoo starting this summer, and after a respectable amount of time has passed (and the slackers leave) it will loosen up again. And Yahoo will be much stronger for it. Agree? -m

Comments Off Permalink Filed under annoyance, trends, yahoo

Monday, December 31st, 2012

New Year’s Resolution

Holding steady at 1440 x 900.

Relevant. -m

Comments Off Permalink Filed under announcement, annoyance

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Balisage Bound

I’m en route to Balisage 2012, though beset by multiple delays. The first leg of my flight was more than two hours delayed, which made the 90 minute transfer window…problematic. My rebooked flight, the next day (today, that is) is also delayed. Then through customs. Maybe all I’ll get out of Tuesday is Demo Jam. But I will make it.

I’m speaking on Thursday about exploring large XML datasets. Looking forward to it!


Comments Off Permalink Filed under announcement, annoyance, xml

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

facebook Challenge results

Andromeda took the facebook Challenge, and found 52 separate requests in 24 hours that would have gone to the facebook mothership. Watch her blog for more updates. How about you?

If you look through these logs, pay particular attention to the referer field. This tells you on which site you were browsing when the data set out on its voyage toward facebook.

Comments Off Permalink Filed under annoyance, lifehacks, trends

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Take the facebook Challenge

Worried about how much data facebook is collecting on you, even on 3rd party sites, even if you’re signed out? Try this for 24 hours:

  1. Find a file named ‘hosts’ on your computer. On Mac/Linux systems, it’s under /etc/. On Windows, it used to be under System32 somewhere, but who knows now. Stash a backup copy somewhere.
  2. Add the following on a new line:
  3. Configure a web server running on your local machine.
This will forcibly redirect all calls to facebook to local. At the end of 24 hours, take a look at your web server’s access log. Every line in there is something that would have gone to facebook. Every ‘like’ button, every little banner, all those things track your movements across the web, whether you are signed in to facebook or not. You’ll marvel at how many blank rectangles appear on sites you visit.
Bonus points: At the end of the 24 hours, don’t restore your hosts file.
Please post your facebook-free experiences here.

2 Comments Permalink Filed under annoyance

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Yahoo Mail’s inexplicable, inexcusable lack of https support

Dear Yahoo,

What’s the deal? Shortly after FireSheep was announced on Oct 24, 2010, you should have had an emergency security all-hands meeting. You should have had an edict passed down from the “Paranoids” group to get secure or else. Maybe these things happened–I have no way of knowing.

But it is clear that it’s been 6 weeks and security hasn’t changed. It’s simply not possible to read Yahoo mail over https–try it and you get redirected straight back to an insecure channel. As such, anyone accessing Yahoo mail on a public network, say a coffee shop or a workplace, is vulnerable to having their private information read, forwarded, compromised, or deleted.

Wait, did I say 6 weeks?–SSL had apparently been rolled out for mail more than 2 years ago, but pulled back due to problems. Talk about failure to execute.

I feel like I missed an announcement. What’s the deal, Y? Show me that you care about your users. No excuses.



Comments Off Permalink Filed under annoyance, yahoo

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Geek Thoughts: verbing facebook

Facebook (v): to deliberately create an impenetrable computer user interface for purposes of manipulating users.

More collected Geek Thoughts at

Comments Off Permalink Filed under annoyance, commercialism, geekthoughts, software

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

The challenge of an XProc GUI

I’ve been thinking lately about what a sleek UI for creating XProc would look like. There’s plenty of big-picture inspiration to go around, from Yahoo Pipes to Mac OSX Automator, but neither of these are as XML-focused as something working with XProc would be.

XML, or to be really specific, XML Namespaces, comes with its own set of challenges. Making an interface that’s usable is no small task, particularly when your target audience includes the 99.9% of people that don’t completely understand namespaces. Take for example a simple step, like p:delete.

In brief, that step takes an XSLTMatchPattern, following the same rules as @match in XSLT, which ends up selecting various nodes from the document, then returns a document without any of those nodes. An XSLTMatchPattern has a few limitations, but it is a very general-purpose selection mechanism. In particular, it could reference an arbitrary number of XML Namespace prefix mappings. Behind a short string like a:b lies a much longer namespace URI mapping to each prefix.

What would an intuitive user interface look like to allow entry of these kinds of expressions? How can a user keep track of unbound prefixes and attach them properly? A data-driven approach could help, say offering a menu of existing element, attribute, or namespace names taken from a pool of existing content. But by itself this falls short in 1) richer selectors, like xhtml:p[@class = “invalid”] and 2) doesn’t help in the general case, when the nodes you’re manipulating might have come from the pipeline, not your original content. (Imagine one step in the pipeline translates your XML to XHTML followed by a delete step that cleans out some unwanted nodes).

So yeah, this seems like a Really Hard Problem, but one that’s worth taking a crack at. If this sounds like the kind of thing you’d enjoy working on, my team is hiring–drop me a note.


6 Comments Permalink Filed under annoyance, xml

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Kindle for Mac scores low on usability

Here’s my first experience with Amazon’s new Kindle client for Mac: After digging up my password and logging in, I was presented with a bunch of books. I picked the last one I’d been reading. It downloaded slowly, without a progress bar, then dumped me on some page in the middle. Apparently my farthest-read location, but I honestly don’t remember.

A cute little graphic on the screen said I could use my scroll wheel. I’m on a laptop, so I tried the two-finger drag–the equivalent gesture sans mouse… and flipped some dozens of pages in half a second. Now, hopelessly lost I searched for a ‘back’ button to no avail.  Perversely, there is a prominent ‘back’ button, but disabled. Mocking me.

This feels rushed. I wonder what could be pushing Amazon to release something so unfinished? -m

Comments Off Permalink Filed under amazon, annoyance, apple

Friday, March 5th, 2010

A Hyperlink Offering revisited

The xml-dev mailing list has been discussing XLink 1.1, which after a long quiet period popped up as a “Proposed Recommendation”, which means that a largely procedural vote is is all that stands between the document becoming a full W3C Recommendation. (The previous two revisions of the document date to 2008 and 2006, respectively)

In 2005 I called continued development of XLink a “reanimated spectre”. But even earlier, in 2002 I wrote one of the rare fiction pieces on, A Hyperlink Offering, which using the format of a Carrollian dialog between Tortoise and Achilles, explained a few of the problems with the XLink specification. It ended with this:

What if the W3C pushed for Working Groups to use a future XLink, just not XLink 1.0?

Indeed, this version has minor improvements. In particular, “simple” links are simpler now–you can drop an xlink:href attribute where you please and it’s now legit. The spec used to REQUIRE additional xlink:type=”simple” attributes all over the place. But it’s still awkward to use for multi-ended links, and now even farther away from the mainstream hyperlinking aspects of HTML5, which for all of its faults, embodies the grossly predominant description of linking on the web.

So in many ways, my longstanding disappointment with XLink is that it only ever became a tiny sliver of what it could have been. Dashed visions of Xanadu dance through my head. -m

Comments Off Permalink Filed under annoyance, intentional web, xml

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

There is no honor in namespaces

As heard from my friend and Mark Logic contractor Ryan Grimm. -m

1 person had his say Permalink Filed under annoyance, xml

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Writing tools to avoid: WhiteSmoke

I was lured in by a slick promotion, and decided to give a new writing tool a try. WhiteSmoke seems like it’s primarily aimed at folks for whom English is not a first language, but quotes likeInnovative technology for native and non-native English speakersmake it seem like it could help. When I wrote an article for that summarized recent mailing list activity, I liked to compile readability statistics on the messages. Maybe is neither affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its contents. This is a safe-cache copy of the original web site.