Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weird email

I just received a very weird email from somebody I don't know, sent to about 10 people, among which I know about 3 of them, asking urgently, with lots of capital letters, that he needs the email address from some other person I never heard before. This is what makes this strange:
  • The double randomness: a person I don't know asking for another person that I don't know
  • The fact that I know some of the people on the recipient list: and it's relevant. The person is asking for the contact of a researcher and the people that I know on the recipient list are all researchers
  • A web search can answer his question: why is he asking randomly if he could have found the answer by himself
  • The person that asked identified himself as a researcher from Iran. Maybe they don't have very reliable web access there with all the government trying to hide their internal problems...
Am I going to help? I don't think so. I wished I had the courage to do it, but unfortunately the web is too "dangerous" for you to be nice with a random person. There are too many things that can go wrong.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The weird new Yahoo! home page

I was looking at the interesting concept that Yahoo! is trying out with their home page: an aggregator of favorite pages. You can add new pages and when you hover over them you might get a preview before you actually click on it to navigate out to this page. In a way, it's a personalized portal with the websites you want to have.

I think it's a cool idea in general. Finally somebody big is giving up on being insular and accepting that it's much more beneficial to accept that other sites might have better content than you and try to use that to your benefit. The way Yahoo is trying to benefit with that is two ways:

1) The straight-forward of just being there to show you lots of ads. And it's very annoying! When you hover to get a preview, half of the preview pop-up panel is an ad.
2) The less direct of knowing what people want and being able to work to offer more of what they want. That can be done through providing suggestions of other things they might be interested, or simply a better experience on the preview pane (I'll talk about this below).

I've been quite disappointed with Yahoo lately. Haven't been able to see them moving forward on any of their main services and just adding more ads here and there. But I think this time they have something more interesting than just an ad farm. But it's certainly far from perfect (and final, as it's still just a sneak preview right now):

A) As I mentioned before, the size of the ads sometimes is a little too big and hides important space to get content.
B) They need to code their preview specifically for each website you want to add. Some already work, like gmail and Facebook. or most of Yahoo's properties, such as Flickr. But when it's not there, the results can be puzzling. I tried FriendFeed and it gave me very strange results from an "ediet" feed:

Ask Raphael: Getting a Tighter Butt- 2 days ago
Ask Raphael: Getting a Tighter Butt- 2 days ago
Ask Raphael: Getting a Tighter Butt- 2 days ago
Ask Raphael: Getting a Tighter Butt- 2 days ago
Ask Raphael: Getting a Tighter Butt- 2 days ago
Ask Raphael: Getting a Tighter Butt- 2 days ago
Ask Raphael: Getting a Tighter Butt- 2 days ago
Ask Raphael: Getting a Tighter Butt- 2 days ago
Ask Raphael: Getting a Tighter Butt- 2 days ago
Ask Raphael: Getting a Tighter Butt- 2 days ago

Twitter is also strange, as it seems to integrate with reading other people's feeds, one person at a time, and not the aggregation of the people you follow. At least the default is not looking at ediet, but the Twitter Blog.

C) It is making an assumption that you can fit the experience on a single page with a flat list of websites to look at, one at a time. A lot of what I look at today is through RSS readers and for that experience what saves me time is that the reader software aggregates each piece of the data on the feeds and display them chronologically, which simplifies the number of clicks that I have to do to read what is going on.

In any way, I think it's a good step forward from Yahoo, but it's not the final solution to what I would call a "personalized portal". Make it cleaner, less colorful, with less intrusive ads and allowing a mixed set of experiences and I might even consider using it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

And the plans were set in motion

I've been meaning to send an email in some time, and I guess I finally did it today. All triggered by my sister now having a resident visa to stay in Australia for longer and even maybe work there.

I know I haven't been writing on my blog much. It's just that I haven't had that much to talk about. I'm working on a big project right now that has been pretty exciting (and a lot of work), but nothing that would fit in this blog. Let's just say that eventually it will very likely become much more like a programming language than anything that I really should be working on. But I guess I can't consider myself a "real" software developer until I've becomes dissatisfied with my programming language options and decided to create a new one.

Today it was Bite of Seattle day. Lots of sun, some food, walking around and staying outside. Over the years I think I learned not to have very high expectations about the event, as it's 70% just like any other festival (same vendors, same location), so I actually was able to have fun this year. Just aim low and everything that you get is good. Including an odd discussion with a guy working for Ocean Spray claiming that cranberries were going to have the same fate as bananas. Cranberries also were bred not to produce any seeds so once there is some disease that affects the current cranberry bushes, it's all over. You can't get some seeds and start again in a cleaner environment. I had never thought of that (and had completely forgotten about this "evolution" about the bananas until he mentioned it).

Alright. I think it's time for me to go on with my evening and rest a little.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Me? I'm still around

I need to apologize for my lack of useful posts lately. I'm going through another endless period of being busy thinking too much about things and not doing that many different things. Probably the only interesting that I can post is that last weekend I went to a wedding in Southern California and stopped at Los Angeles to meet with a friend from high school. He moved to the US for college and stayed around.

The interesting thing about meeting him is that he keeps in touch with a lot of our old high school friends, unlike me. In certain ways, it's because they are his last friends when he left Brazil. But probably the main reason is that I'm just not the type of person to keep track of all my friends and figure out what is going on with everybody. I did do some of it for some time, but it's just too much time spent doing something and not thinking about things. All that time was deprioritized.

The highlight of the trip was going to The Getty Center. It's a great museum, both as the location and architecture of the grounds and the collection. The good thing is that we arrived there early enough that it wasn't too hot yet, and the crowds hadn't yet made it too hard to appreciate the exhibits. The bad thing is that I had to leave reasonably early to go to the wedding, so we didn't have much time to actually walk around that much. I probably was only able to see something like 10-20% of everything.

The less interesting thing that I can write is that yesterday we had the second installment of "4th of Pizza", the every-3-year pizza-on-the-grill party. This time the pizza didn't work as well. I made the dough and rolled it out way too early and didn't have space to put it in the fridge. The result is that it was all gluey and deformed when people tried to cook it on the grill. Quite messy! But it was all gone anyway. I've made 4 recipes of pizza dough (what was supposed to be good for 8 large pizzas) for about 20 people and I think it wasn't quite enough. People didn't have the opportunity to try to make dessert pizzas.

Now back to my programming language creation task.

When working at Amazon is shameful

Working for a very large company that you use is sometimes problematic. I've mentioned before that sometimes I have trouble enjoying other websites because of the things I work on. But the biggest problem is when the problem is not what I'm working on, but when where I'm working at looks bad. Today's example is:

It's even sold by Amazon (not a third-party merchant mistake - those happen quite often too)! Anyway, at least it's more fun to find those things than to realize that my current project is evolving into a complete language specification, which is driving me crazy.