Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

follow up from rob hof

Rob Hof from BusinessWeek posts a correction to his previous comments on Ning in Mea Culpa: Wrong About Ning.

Quote:

I just tried out the service, and lo and behold, it is pretty darn easy for a nonprogrammer like me to create at least simple Web services.
Awesome-- glad you liked it Rob! And thanks for the detailed follow-up!

Categories:
Posted by diego on January 26, 2006 at 6:35 PM

opera mini: awesome

On Tuesday Russ sent me an SMS with a link to get Opera Mini as soon as it came out and I have to say I was massively impressed. This is not really a review but just a small comment -- Russ has more here. Even considering the install was a bit wonky due to the typical hoops we must jump through to install non-carrier-sanctioned stuff on a phone, and that afterwards it ends up being shoved into the "games" section (at least on my RAZR) it's still worth it. Fast and usable, finally a browser for phones that doesn't suck. If you have high-speed data services for your phone and were wondering what to do with all that paid-for bandwidth, check it out.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 26, 2006 at 12:35 PM

blogs and discourse in software and politics

Salon's Scott Rosenberg muses on What journalists can learn from software developers and points to my recent exchange with Mike Arrington as an example. Thanks!

Which reminds me of what I wrote a while back in rethoric, semantics, and Microsoft and some of the stuff (such as the "rules to posting") in my introduction to weblogs.

Political discourse definitely feels a bit shrill these days. Then again, when reading the history about other times of relative upheaval (about, say, the late 1700s/early 1800s period in US history, the Civil War, or World War II) it's striking to see that they weren't all that "nice" back then either, in fact the early days of the republic were pretty vicious in terms of political rethoric and even backstabbing (witness the falling out among some of the Founding Fathers). I think it's just that it was much harder for tempers to flash out of range, since by time involved in sending messages back and forth allowed for some cooling-off period -- and live debates weren't watched by millions of people at once, who also had to respond asynchronously. I wonder if it's just a matter of slowing down a bit then... :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 24, 2006 at 1:47 AM

movable type 3.2: best MT yet

I've been meaning to post this for sometime now, but I keep forgetting: MT 3.2 rocks. The comment/trackback spam management is excellent, and pretty effective at stopping 99% of spam coming in. The new template management was a bit confusing at first, but all's well now (I still haven't converted everything or even all that much, and only this morning I fixed search, which was broken due to misconfiguration). I remember the conversion to 3.2 to be mostly uneventful except for a few minor hiccups. All-in-all, a must-have upgrade. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 23, 2006 at 3:23 PM

a response to dave

Dave, I think I can see why you'd be skeptical (and others too) of what we're doing at Ning. Maybe If I was on the other side of the fence I would feel that way too.

Hopefully by now you can see that we've had none of the "bubbly" behavior that one might expect from people in blue shirts and khakis. In part, that’s probably one of the reasons we were criticized yesterday – we haven’t been out there promoting ourselves, and we may have overdone it (it seems it is possible to do that too -- go figure! :-)).

What we have been doing is focusing on the product and working really hard on improving the experience, talking to users and developers, and building up our community and community resources--something that as you know (having bootstrapped many developer communities yourself) takes time, preparation, and a lot of effort. In the process, we have generally erred on the side of spending our time and efforts talking directly to our users and enhancing the product based on their feedback. Straightforward stuff really, but when you're a small company like we are, this takes up a lot of time and resources.

As to the perception Ning is a bit removed from what people want, both coders and non-coders are finding Ning useful, off the top of my head: to review LA restaurants or even beadstores, giving the thumbs-down to movies in cinecrap, and things that we couldn't have thought of like tech archaics which is a clone of the photosharing app that (as far as we can tell) was used by a class in a German university to keep track/contribute information. There's also technical experimentation on ning, like commentosphere, concern.ning.com, Ning avatars.

Sorry for the extensive linking, I kinda sounded like a brochure there for a second :-) -- I just wanted to point to some of the interesting apps that are in use on the service, there are many more.

We will definitely try to do a better job of keeping the larger community regularly updated on what we are doing and we'll continue talking to both with technical and non-technical users about how we can make ning more useful to them. We will also engage more with the technical community to discuss our APIs and how can we improve them, and how we can better support standard formats and APIs on our end, to improve interoperability for our users. Part of this is also just being more vocal a bit our current support (both in features and libraries) for standards, open APIs and formats, something that's less than obvious today.

So all I'd ask is that you give us the benefit of the doubt. :-)

I must confess though, that I do wear Khakis and blue t-shirts. Mostly in the summer. :)

Finally, thanks for the link and the comments--always appreciated!

Categories: ning
Posted by diego on January 21, 2006 at 4:49 PM

nothing like a trashing to get the day started

Picture this: it's a Friday, early in the morning. The office is quiet, there's a smell of fresh coffee in the air. You're still a bit sleepy, and as you're booting up your brain for the day ahead you end up reading a blog post where the writer, basically, has decided that your company is dead.

The attention-grabbing headline is of course something you eventually get used to, but still there's an element of shock involved. That relaxed beginning of the day you were hoping for?

Oh yeah, that's over.

You know? :-)

That's kinda what happened to me today, with this post from Mike Arrington over at techcrunch, catchy title and all. Since a number of people are echoing it (For example here, here, here, and here) I thought I'd add my own 2c and correct the various factual errors in Mike's post and add my own take to the conversation.

The post makes four main points:

First, You have to know PHP, or at least HTML, to build anything unique on Ning.
Well, with Ning's clone feature you can get a decent level of customization without coding or knowing HTML, and we're getting easier to use all the time. However, the key word here is unique. As far as I know, you have to know PHP, or HTML, or Ruby, or something to create anything unique on the Internet, period. Ning doesn't yet allow non-coders to create unique apps with complete flexibility and any features they want, true, but neither does anyone else, and there's a simple reason for that: it's a really hard problem, and one that most definitely doesn't get solved in three months. We want to get there though, and we'll continue working to that end.

Second, there is no support for the key web service APIs out there that people are really excited about mashing up.
That's not true. Aside from support for Google and Yahoo! Maps, the Amazon API, the Flickr API, the Yahoo Search API, as well as RSS, Atom, OPML, and others, anyone can add support for whatever API they need by either uploading their own PHP files, or write their own PHP API on top of whatever REST, XMLRPC or SOAP service they want. The fact that today we only support PHP is a limitation, to be sure, but a Ruby binding is upcoming, to be followed by others such as Python.
Third, Ning keeps all of the applications under the ning.com roof. This has benefits like free hosting, but application creators don’t get control of the page to add advertising and they cannot get user registration data direclty [sic].
Also not true. Since last December, any user has been able to run an app under their own domain (domain mapping), run their own ads, make source code private, or get additional storage. In the future you'll also be able to complete remove/edit sidebar preferences to make the experience more uniquely your own.
Fourth, Ning did everything wrong in communicating with their users.
"Everything" wrong? Really? It reminds me of something I wrote back when the controversy about stealth mode happened: "Ah, those pesky generalizations." I said back then. Indeed.

Generalizations aside, there's actually a good point hiding in there-- It's true that we haven't been very aggressive in promoting our new features as we rolled them out, and perhaps we could have done a bit more "outreach" but in part we've spent a lot of time working on stability and new features.

Consider: We went 1.0 in December (the beta period lasted a bit less than three months), and removed the "invitation" requirement to be a developer -- now any user can be a developer. We have added new apps, and improved the original ones, both in speed and features. We added new services, such as domain mapping and ad runner. And more. But we didn't make a big deal out of it, mostly because we're working on a sitewide update that would address those issues in a more uniform way.

Finally, Chris Messina in the comments to Mike's post, nails one of the key issues at hand:

[...] I have to ask — in all sincerity, are the current expectations on timeframes for building platforms reasonable? Did you really expect an entire application platform to be built, soup to nuts, in just over three months? You’re familiar with the issues we’ve had trying to build a cross-platform, open source browser on a platform we’re purposely not forking. I can imagine that startups that aren’t G-sized and aren’t just building another also-ran Rails app will need more time to execute.
While we have been working for more than three months, it does takes time to get something new right, and there's a lot of evolution involved, of ideas, of the software, of the infrastructure. When we launched, most people had no idea what we were about. Many still don't. But that's fine--it's the way it goes. Communication with our users is evolving, and we'll do a better job of it every day.

Sometimes we get too wrapped into what we're working on and even forget that there's a world out there (I know I do at least). Mike's post, errors and all, had the effect of jolting my blogging into action. I've been planning for weeks to talk more about what we're doing and some things that I like about the platform-- time to start making time for it. :)

And as always, comments and questions are most welcome!

Okay, all that said, now to get some work done... :-))

ps: also check out Mike (Rowehl :))'s post on the topic here.

Categories: ning
Posted by diego on January 20, 2006 at 11:42 AM

happy birthday russ!

Happy Birthday!. One suggestion: give the mid-life crisis thing a few years more, that way you have a healthy set of neuroses to choose from at that point. :-)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on January 20, 2006 at 10:05 AM

today's randomness

First off we lead with critically important news, something with potential to affect everything from the Middle East peace process to how we manufacture high-end microprocessors: Researchers breed fluorescent green pigs. Awesome.

Then an article that's actually interesting about the early days of Sun also over at News.com. I got registered with the Computer Museum here but I keep forgetting to check their schedule. Something to keep in mind.

The Acme Coffee Challenge was not completed as expected, Mike has more details here. It was a good showing though. 75 cups. Definitely something interesting to experience but not something that I'd personally like to repeat anytime soon. :)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on January 12, 2006 at 3:15 PM

the bogus Java-vs-everything argument

javacup.jpg

"Java is done for! Ruby will take over! PHP will rule! Perl wins!" ... and so forth. I have seen discussions on this topic for the last few months, so many that I won't even bother linking to them. If you read news, or, work in the tech sector and are, well, alive in any way, you'll know what I'm talking about.

The extreme argument goes like this: Java is becoming irrelevant, soon to be replaced by scripting languages such as Ruby and PHP.

The more measured argument says that Java is no longer on "the leading edge" of languages and has ceded that position to Ruby and PHP and so forth.

The extreme language is of course ridiculous. Java is not going to be "replaced" by Ruby or PHP anymore that Java "replaced" C++ or C in the mid-90's. Will Ruby, PHP, etc, replace Java for lots of tasks, including rapid web app development, prototyping and such? Sure. Is that one language "replacing" another outright? I don't think so.

In my view, Java has evolved into its current position as the new "systems language". Other languages (yes: Ruby, PHP, etc) are taking precedence in the building of new lightweight web apps for various purposes. It's probably fair to say that the leading edge of development exists in these web 2.0-ish style of apps, which puts Java in the backseat a bit in that category.

In other areas, such as advanced IDEs for the language, Java wipes the floor with pretty much any language, which helps for many types of development.

But so what? Each language and tool has its place. Instead of useless pissing contests, we should be focusing on how to make these various languages and tools interoperate and complement each other better.

Update: Python! Damn, I forgot about Python. Blame the lack of sleep or something. The magic trio these days is definitely Python, Ruby, and PHP. Thanks Joe for the reminder! :) And while I'm updating, what is up with reporters comparing Java, or Ruby, PHP, Python, etc, to AJAX? I don't get that at all. Do they not understand that AJAX is a client-side scripting technique?

Acme coffee challenge update: 12 hours, 24 cups. Not bad.

Categories: soft.dev
Posted by diego on January 9, 2006 at 5:07 AM

acme coffee challenge!

We've begun! 100 cups of coffee in 48 hours. Can it be done? No one really cares, but hey, we're following a honorable tradition of people that play the Banjo with Cobras or Jump into a box full of scorpions. Okay, maybe nothing so radical. Here's Mike's post on the topic.

The truth is that we are working on some new stuff at the office and, well, the coffee will come in handy. :)

PS: we started at 5:30 PM, Sunday Jan 8th.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on January 8, 2006 at 6:04 PM

quote of the day

10:40 Outside, a guy talking into his phone: "Well Steve Jobs is a fucking Jedi Master of this shit compared to these other clowns." from Engadget's coverage of Yahoo's CES Keynote this morning.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 6, 2006 at 3:01 PM

acme coffee challenge... or something like that

acmerocketsled.jpg
I agree with Mike: when trying to imitate a cartoon it makes perfect sense to use the Internet, and more specifically Wikipedia, as a source of rock-solid facts to prove that nothing can possibly go wrong.

Next up: I demonstrate the feasibility of this approach with my newly acquired Acme(TM) Rocketsled. Wish me luck!

PS: I was in fact in awe of Mike's goal for a while, for sheer bravery if not originality. I thought: I may consume copious amounts of coffee, but 100 cups in a day! Ah, pure genius. "I will stay alert to Mike turning into a blur and report accordingly if it happens" I said to myself. Then I realized he planned to drink 100 cups over 48 hours. Treachery! I sweat coffee at that rate. I eat entire coffee plants for breakfast! Bah!

PS2: Yes. I am kidding. I don't eat coffee plants for breakfast.

PS3: Although... the general tone of this post is making me reconsider how much coffee, in fact I am ingesting. Needless to say, it's all Mike's fault.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on January 5, 2006 at 1:14 PM

happy new year!

Hey, better late than never no? :)

I got back a couple of days ago from a 5-day visit to Victoria, BC (Canada). This was more than a visit, in fact it was an actual vacation (gasp!) involving almost no use of computers and barely checking any email (twice in a week!). Quite amazing actually.

I made the decision a few days ago to start blogging again. 2005 was a year were blogging proceeded in fits and starts, and the year just flew by, what with all the moves across continents and such.

So here we are. Have a great 2006 everyone!

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on January 5, 2006 at 1:07 PM

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