Category Archives: Personal

Arcane Thoughts: Go Wildcats

By now many of you are aware of the devastating tornadoes to hit the state of Alabama, mostly in the Enterprise area. I reside in Alabama, currently near Birmingham but Enterprise is my home town. I graduated from Enterprise High, and my niece is currently a senior there, and was in the school today when the tornado hit. She got hit by some debris when the ceiling partially collapsed, but wasn’t injured thank goodness.

Somewhere between 8 and 15 others weren’t so lucky, and lost their lives (as I write this there are conflicting numbers and it’s unknown if they were students or not). What you can learn from this though, is to be prepared. Weather radios are not expensive, every home should have one (I do!). They will alert you to a variety of severe weather conditions, especially during the night when you might be asleep or not listening to the radio / TV.

Have a designated spot in the house to go when severe weather strikes. For us it’s a spot in our basement. We all know it, and are prepared for it. If you have kids, grab their bicycle helmets and put them on them. Our local meteorologist James Spann mentioned that a good number of the kids who are killed in storm events suffer head trauma, and the helmet could save their lives.

What can you do now? Well those folks in Enterprise are going to need a lot of help. If you can, donate blood, I understand there is a shortage now. Money is good too, and can help with the rebuilding.  This is going to be a tough time, but I know that as time goes buy they will rebuild and bounce back. Enterprise High, Home of the Wildcats.

Go Wildcats!

Arcane Thoughts: The Fourth Estate

Over the weekend I’ve been continuing to think about what I wrote Friday. In looking over other opinions on the web, I see a lot of folks who seem to want to blur the distinction between bloggers and journalists. This is dangerous. Let me say this once, and clearly so everyone can understand.

BLOGGERS ARE NOT JOURNALISTS.

Journalists are paid for their words. It’s their job. What they say reflects not only on them but upon the organization for which they work. When you go to the website of a major newspaper, often you don’t even know or care who it is that wrote the story you read. The paper as a whole carries a reputation, a credibility.

That’s why there are so many standards when it comes to journalistic ethics, and rightly so. An organization is responsible for all of the people who write for it, and one bad apple can spoil it for everyone. Remember Jayson Blair? He made up or outright stole stories that went to the New York Times. The entire paper’s credibility suffered. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jayson_Blair)

On the other hand, I as a blogger stand alone. My words are just that, mine. My blog is not affiliated with anyone else’s, and if I say something outrageous only I will suffer. Likewise, if I do something wrong such as libel someone, only I will be responsible for the consequences, not my coworkers and not my company.

Nor do I get paid for my words. Granted I hope to recoup my time investment some day, perhaps through notoriety, writing magazine or book articles, or public speaking engagements. But for now, my only reward is the satisfaction that comes from (hopefully) helping others with my blog entries. Thus, bloggers should be held to a totally different standard.

Of course we muddy the waters some with the corporate bloggers, those companies who have one or more individuals blogging, and that blog represents the company. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of a corporate blog. It’s a great way to communicate with your customer base. But just as no two companies are the same, it’s impossible to set one standard for all corporate bloggers. What would be appropriate for Billy Bob’s Beer and Bait might be totally inappropriate for Fred’s Fine Wines. Each company needs to decide for itself what standards it’s corporate bloggers need to uphold.

There’s also the rare coincidence where you have a journalist who blogs, someone like Mike Cassidy (http://www.mercextra.com/blogs/cassidy/). In those cases, unless it is clear the blog is a personal one, and not professional, as far as I’m concerned the blog entry is no different from an article that appears in the printed paper. The person is acting as a journalist, and thus should be held to the journalistic standard.

Finally, I have seen a few instances where a blogger claimed some sort of legal protection, claiming to be a journalist. Most notable is Josh Wolf, who took some video of an anarchist protest and now refuses to turn over his raw footage to a grand jury. He’s now in jail for contempt of court. Let me say up front I admire Josh Wolf, it takes a lot of guts to be willing to go to jail for something you believe in. That said though, I have to disagree with his conclusions.

I said it before, but let me reiterate in case you weren’t paying attention:

BLOGGERS ARE NOT JOURNALISTS.

When Mr. Wolf took the video, he was not representing any news organization, nor at the time did he sell it to a news outlet, he instead posted it on his personal blog. He was a private citizen, using his first amendment rights to express a viewpoint. He happened to choose a blog to do it on, but he could just have easily stood on the street corner and played it on his portable TV. From the standpoint of his personal, first amendment rights there is no difference.

My blog is merely a medium for expressing my thoughts and creations. You could read these words on printed paper, say a magazine, or on the bathroom wall. I could yell them at you from a soapbox, or you could read them right here on your computer screen. No matter what the medium, the result is the same. I’m a private citizen, expressing my views, not a journalist.

Those are my arcane thoughts, feel free to leave yours…

Arcane Thoughts: Do you trust me?

I’ve been watching an interesting debate between Scoble and Joel on the recent giveaway of Vista loaded laptops to bloggers. (No, I didn’t get one, dang it.) First, let me see if I can summarize their opinions, with apologies to both gentleman if I over simplify.

Scoble’s most recent posting on the subject can be found at http://scobleizer.com/2007/01/02/why-bash-microsoft-and-not-nokia/. His basic position is that it’s acceptable for bloggers to accept items from companies as long as there is full disclosure.

Joel in his posting at http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2006/12/28.html has the position that by accepting any item we destroy any credibility and lose trust with our readers.

As a relatively new blogger, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few days thinking about both viewpoints. And while an admirer of his work I have come to a conclusion.

Joel is wrong.

Trust and credibility are something a blogger builds with his readership over time. Scoble is a perfect example of this. Microsoft paid his salary for many years, yet he still managed to gain an enormous amount of respect in the blogging community. Why?

Simply put, Scoble’s posts about the company he worked for rang true. Readers trusted him when he wrote something good about Microsoft, because he also wrote when Microsoft did bad things. Additionally, his experiences were reflected in the user community, who could hold his feet to the fire through comments. Finally, and most importantly, Scoble quickly and openly admits when he is wrong, publicly correcting his mistakes.

For a blogger who is willing to accept hardware / software, whether to review or not, his credibility will be born out over time. A blogger who only writes love letters about the things he accepts will soon be found out for the untrustworthy individual they are.

On the other hand, bloggers who are willing to be honest, provide full disclosure, and write negatively when justified, as well as positively (like Scoble did with Microsoft), those bloggers will gain that high level of trust and credibility regardless of whether they accepted freebies or not.

Those are my arcane thoughts, feel free to leave yours…

Happy Holidays

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever your preferred religious observance is at this time of year. Hope you enjoy the festive holiday theme I’ve put on the blog. The old one will return after the holidays. Speaking of returning after the holidays…

Like everyone else in the blogosphere I’ll be taking a few days off to spend time with family and friends. Before I go, I’ll leave you with a link to another wonderful cartoon from George Sfarnas. Merry Christmas!

http://beingfive.blogspot.com/2006/12/curious-georgie.html

Arcane Thoughts: Time Got It Right

In its person of the year, Time Magazine named YOU, the savvy internet user as person of the year. Since the announcement a lot of the pundits and powers that be have been decrying the decision. They instead point to the political players and world leaders as better choices, saying Time weaseled out. Well I’m here to say Time got it right.

This isn’t the first occurrence of Time awarding a group of people the “Person of the Year” award. Back in 1950 Time awarded “G.I. Joe”, or the American Soldier the award. Most akin to this award is 1966 when they gave the title to what they call “Young People”, people under 25 years of age.

Over the last year I’ve seen the growth of what the web refers to as “Social Networking” or “Web 2.0” explode. Words like blog, podcast, and videocast have become common everyday language. Bloggers have risen to the point where they are almost considered journalists. News breaks first in the blogosphere before it hits the traditional media. Your average individual is creating podcasts and / or videocasts using minimal equipment.

The new social networking phenomenon has created it’s own slate of niche superstars. Just look at the popularity of ZeFrank (http://www.zefrank.com/theshow). In the Microsoft .Net arena, Carl Franklin’s Dot Net Rocks show (http://www.dotnetrocks.com) has made him a superstar in the programming world.

Meanwhile, stars from the “old” media have found new homes on the web. Take Leo Laporte for example, formerly of TechTV (before those idiots at G4 bought ‘em out and ruined a great channel) has a new home on the web, http://www.twit.tv. Each week Leo heads a huge list of informative podcasts. And let’s not forget his former co-host Patrick Norton, who now co-hosts a biweekly videocast at DL.TV (http://dl.tv) with Robert Heron. Another TechTV alumnus is Kevin Rose, who has used the whole Social Networking concept to create Digg (http://www.digg.com). Digg has turned Kevin into a rich (or at least well off) man by allowing people to recommend blog posts.

I meet people everyday who just a year ago were clueless as the existence of blogs and podcasts but today are using RSS aggregators like old pros. I can’t tell you why 2006 was special, maybe the world is finally broadband enabled enough, maybe it was just timing. Certainly the popularity of portable media devices such as the iPod, combined with powerful, low cost computers have a great deal to do with it.

Regardless, 2006 was definitely the year the Web and Social Networking took off, and it was YOU, the internet user who made it possible. You have given up your spare time to produce creative content to share, for little or no monetary return. Thanks! Now give yourself a pat on the back.

You can read the entire Time article at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1569514,00.html.

Think I got it wrong? Say so, and why! Agree? Leave a comment and stroke my ego.

Elbow Room

On the 6th Doncha posted a WordPress blog (http://wordpress.com/blog/2006/12/06/running-out-of-space/) saying you could upgrade your WordPress account, and get up to 10 gig of storage space. The main question was, what could you do with all that space?

As a developer I’d love to have a space to place my projects. Whether it’s a small sample, or a complete application I’m giving out, it’d be nice to be able to host in a place I have control over.

Next, I’ve been experimenting with some software to do videocasts. A videocast is a capture of your screen as you work, with an accompanying audio track. I think it would be great to be able to take my blog to the next level, with extra material.

Finally, I love digital photography. Some of the high quality images though have pretty hefty file sizes. I’d love to have a gallery to display by best works.

That’s what I’d use 10 gig for. Elbow room.

Sad News

Just found out they found the body of missing C-Net editor James Kim, he was deceased. Info on C-Net site http://news.com.com/2100-1028_3-6141498.html.

In similar  sad news, I also learned the Amber Alert I posted earlier about turned out to be a hoax, and that the mother’s boyfriend allegedly beat the supposedly missing boy to death, the car heist was a ruse to cover it up.

At least we can be thankful that Kati Kim and her two young kids are alive and well. Also interesting how much the blogging community came together over this. To be honest I’d never heard of Mr. Kim, but just felt like I should do something to try and help out, make the community aware. I guess that’s what community is all about.

Missing Family Update

Quick update, yesterday they found Kati Kim and their kids near their car where it had run out of gas on some back road. Seems they were trying to take a short cut and got lost. James Kim however is still missing. On Saturday he decided to try and hike out of the woods and get help, and they have not yet found him. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Meanwhile in the Albertville Alabama area we have an amber alert.  Yesterday a lady pulled up a convienience store in her 1994 teal Nissan Altima, with no license plate. It was cold so she left the car running so her five year old son who was in the back would be warm. A pickup pulled up behind the car, and the passanger lept out and jumped in the Nissan and stole it.

If you happen to be in or near the Albertville area and see a teal Nissan Altima on the side of the road, please notify Albertville police at 256-878-1212 or the department of public safety at 334-242-4128, or just dial 911. See the story at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,234188,00.html for more details. 

Happy Birthday Raven

Today is my oldest daughter’s birthday. Happy Birthday Raven!

Rather than doing something technical today I thought I’d give her and you a fun little gift. I’ve found a great internet comic strip by a guy named George Sfarnas called Being Five (http://beingfive.blogspot.com/). It’s about a five year old boy who blogs using voice recognition software. Go take a look, but don’t be drinking milk when you do. You’ll laugh so hard it’ll squirt out your nose!

We interrupt this blog…

Just a quick interruption in the chain on developer tools. I purchase a lot of books every year. A significant amount come from Apress. I tend to like these because they are advanced books, for the most part target to the professional developer. You don’t waste money getting six chapters on how to write “hello world” in every book.

I like buying the print version of books, but doesn’t it always seem like when you need it you’ve left it at home? Recently Apress started doing something really nice. If you owned the print book, you could buy the PDF for 10 dollars (US). This seems like a reasonable price, so I have the convienience of always having the book with me on my laptop.

Unfortunately Apress is only doing the 10 dollar deal for a select few books. The rest they expect you to pay full price for, despite the fact you’ve already bought the print version. So I’m going to do something I’ve never done before: start a crusade.

I recently found out Apress’s head of marketing is a fellow named Paul Carlstroem. What I’d like to get everyone to do is e-mail Paul, and let him know you’d like the 10 dollar deal extended to ALL of their books. If we can get enough people requesting this, I think we could sway him to make a decision that would benefit both Apress and us, the consumers.

Please be polite, I’m sure Paul is a very nice guy, and we want to sway him with logic and reason. More flies with honey and all that.

So please, take a quick moment and e-mail him, paul.carlstroem <at> apress.com (note I’ve tried to mask the e-mail a little, I don’t want the poor guy to get spammed to death). He will return to the office September 1 2006, so if you can get your e-mail done before then we can really make an impact when he returns.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog…