Sea of Noise

Thu, 31 Jul 2014



Blosxom is a simple and lightweight, yet surprisingly flexible, blogging tool written in Perl. It uses the local file system to store and organize the blog's contents.

I chose Blosxom for the initial implementation of this blog because it's exactly the program I would have written myself (only nicer). Although I hope to eventually implement a more complex site not tied to the blog model, Blosxom let me get up and running without configuring a database and using just vi to make my entries. And, to give Blosxom its due, it's in fact flexible enough that I can use it to organize my information categorically rather than in a date-based format, so it's possible it will take me much farther than I hoped.

Update: Linux Journal has a good description of Blosxom ("think of it as cat(1) with stylesheets").

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Sat, 10 Dec 2005

OPML Recapitulates Gopher

I mentioned the other day that Amazon has reinvented WAIS. As David Mercer pointed out, and Jim Moore discusses, it seems as though gopher is being reinvented thanks to OPML.

As some king of ancient Israel once said, there's nothing new under the sun.

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Tue, 06 Dec 2005

This Is the Best We Can Do?

How depressing. Of the fifteen finalists in the 2005 Weblog Awards: Best Blog Design category, exactly one validates using the W3 validation service.

Look, I realize I'm complaining about this on a boring black and white site. But, then, I never claimed this blog was pretty and didn't expect it to win any awards. (Hey, I'll get around to "designing" it someday... but don't hold your breath. My home page looks pretty much the same as it did in 1994.) And, yeah, those of us who type our blog entries in vi and stuff are bound to make the occasional typo and have an error or two until we notice. But 93% of the "best" blog designs don't validate?! Were the people who nominated them smoking crack or what?

So, mad props to Jeremy Hedley for creating a blog that's not only pretty on the outside, but also where it counts.

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Mon, 28 Nov 2005

Simple Sharing & Open Search

Let's see, Microsoft is creating a new protocol (SSE) by extending an old one (RSS)...

...and they're releasing it under a Creative Commons license.

I didn't slip into an alternate universe in my sleep last night or something, did I?

Meanwhile, in other news, Amazon has reinvented WAIS.

Well, it's about time someone did, I guess.

I'm feeling a bit like the Red Queen today; but in a good way.

[via Claire Giordano & Jon Udell, respectively]

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Sun, 27 Nov 2005

New AT&T = New Coke?

AT&T and SBC have merged. And they're all excited about it. Ah, young love...

But, see, love makes you do crazy things. Like take one of your most valuable assets and fuck it up. Exhibit A: the new AT&T logo. I rest my case.

Designweenie put it best: "This new mark is all style and no thinking."

Or, in the more-prosaic but equally-accurate words of Russell Beattie: "It sucks."

AT&T, SBC, listen up: it's not too late. Before you order all the new business cards and stuff, take just a moment to sober up. Then tell everyone, "Hey, we were two crazy kids in love. We lost our heads." And go back to the "Death Star" logo.

'Cuz, that old logo rocked my world.

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Sat, 09 Jul 2005

Ontology is Overrated?

Clay Shirky gave an informative and entertaining talk called "Ontology is Overrated" at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in March. Hear it online at IT Conversations (along with interesting audio of other ETech talks and more) or read an edited version (with the referenced graphs and such) combining the material from this and a panel session entitled "Folksonomy, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mess".

You can see there's a tag "to_read". A professional cataloguer would look at this tag in horror -- "This is context-dependent and temporary." Well, so was the category "East Germany."

The talk may be misnamed, depending on what "ontology" means to you. (No pun intended!) Shirky argues that "many of the ways we're attempting to apply categorization to the electronic world are actually a bad fit, because we've adopted habits of mind that are left over from earlier strategies" and predicts the success of "organic" classification schemes, such as folksonomies.

(Speaking of ETech, incidentally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that there's a talk by Rael Dornfest, who wrote the software this blog runs on.)

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Fri, 08 Jul 2005

Listen to Your Favorite Blogs with Talkr

My profile has about 300 blogs. Trust me, there are at least that many more hiding in the bookmark files I haven't dumped in yet. I just can't keep up.

A tool that might help solve that problem is Talkr, which uses text-to-speech software to convert any blog into a podcast. Try it out with Sea of Noise and see what you think.

(Hmm... To be investigated... Will Talkr use info in a style sheet to vary the voices used in the conversion?)

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Sat, 02 Jul 2005

Reboot 7.0

Get your audio of the talks at Reboot 7.0 and answer the question, What if Eddie Izzard gave a talk about technology? (The answer: he'd sound a lot like Ben Hammersley on Etiquette, and the Singularity.) Also Cory Doctorow, Tor Noerretranders, and other fun people.

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Wed, 29 Jun 2005

LiveJournal Adds Tags

LiveJournal also recently added support for tags.

This is a Good Idea. I've been using for the past couple of weeks, having already moved some 1500 items out of old bookmarks files and links pages and tagged them. Overall, I have to say that tags, qua metainfo, are as messy as I feated; but a folksonomy is also at least as useful and powerful as I'd hoped. At least for the "bookmark" problem domain, it's a big advance.

I've gone through and tagged all my LiveJournal entries. It wasn't terribly painful (though it might have been if I used LiveJournal as my primary blog). The most annoying part was that tags aren't supported in LiveJournal's S1 style system, which leverages HTML, and I had had to switch to the S2 system, which uses its own syntax. (Luckily, I hadn't invested much time in customizing my layout anyway.)

Even if LiveJournal had a halfway-decent search function, tags would be a nice advance. Given that LiveJournal has no decent way to search entries, I suspect that it will be a godsend.

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Tue, 28 Jun 2005

LiveJournal Adds OpenID Support

LiveJournal recently added support for the OpenID distributed identity system.

OpenID is a system for asserting and authenticating identities via a URL, either at a third-party service such as LiveJournal or one the user controls directly. As the OpenID site puts it: "Anybody can run their own site using OpenID, and anybody can be an OpenID server, and they all work with each other without having to register with or pay anybody to 'get started'."

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Tue, 07 Jun 2005

What's in a Tag?

Tom Coates has been thinking about the way people use tags and what it all means:

Matt Webb and I did a fair amount of work around tagging with a project called Phonetags that I never get time to properly write up. As we were working on it, we came to realise that each of us had a radically different understanding of what a tag was. Matt's concept was quite close to the way tagging is used in -- with an individual the only person who could tag their stuff and with an understanding that the act of tagging was kind of an act of filing. My understanding was heavily influenced by Flickr's approach -- which I think is radically different -- you can tag other people's photos for a start, and you're clearly challenged to tag up a photo with any words that make sense to you. It's less of a filing model than an annotative one.

He suggests a way to test whether people are shifting toward using one approach over the other by examining changes in the way links are tagged over time. Interesting idea. Take a look.

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Mon, 06 Jun 2005


Every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input.

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Mon, 30 May 2005


There's no question about it, TiddlyWiki is a damn cool idea: download a file with HTML, CSS, and Javascript code and you're in business with a fun little wiki on your personal machine!

The one danger, I suspect, is that it's so easy to get up and running with it that you won't realize you might have been better off with a different solution until it's too late. On the other hand, it stores the content of the entries in DIV elements, one to a line, so really how hard would it be to convert a TiddlyWiki to a Blosxom-based blog?

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Wed, 25 May 2005

GPS Visualizer

Adam Schneider gets the cool geek of the week award for having created GPS Visualizer.

Got some GPS data you want to plot on a map? GPS Visualizer will do it for you--on street level maps, aerial photos, and more! For the GPS-challenged among us, there's also an option to plot maps from address data.


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Sun, 31 Oct 2004


Serendipity (aka "S9y") is a promising PHP-based open source webblog system. It uses MySQL or PostGreSQL on the backend (and SQLite support seems to be in progress).

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Tue, 21 Sep 2004

Open Source Systems for Libraries

Open Source Software and libraries have always seemed like a natural match to me. It turns out, I'm not alone. [via Jessamyn]

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Thu, 12 Aug 2004

Social Networks Go To Work

MSNBC reports in "Online Social Networks Go To Work" on the increased adoption of social networking tools for business networking, and includes brief interviews with several folks in the industry. A theme in all their responses: we need good filtering. Joi Ito hit the nail on the head:

I think email is broken in a serious way, and SNS is trying to address some of the issues associated with that breakdown. These networks may get it right and really change the way we do business, but we're still at the beginning of the development and evolution curve.

[via Joi Ito]

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While it's too soon to know how useful it will becaome, the developers of Frassle are definitely trying to solve the right problem. As Robin Good puts it, "All in one place: Blog, aggregator, directory, search engine, advisor."

I particularly like Frassle's approach to categorization:

Frassle doesn't bother trying to get groups of people to agree. In frassle, the important relationships are between pairs of people; and even then, we only expect partial agreement. What we may or may not agree about is the meaning of a category.

Determining the extent to which we agree is easy. Because every document on the internet has a URL, we can simply compare lists of URLs. If our lists for a pair of categories look alike, we have similar ideas of what those categories mean.

Frassle is slated to be released under an open source license "this summer". Keep an eye on Shimon Rura's blog for news.

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Mon, 09 Aug 2004


I love Blosxom. It's simple, but easy to customize via templates and extensible via plugins. Today I set up a Blosxom installation from scratch, including several plugins, and wrote an email explaining the basics of how to use it--and it took all of an hour. (There was probably a phone call in there somewhere, too.)

At the same time, Simon Cozens' blog software, Bryar, also looks interesting and I just might have to give it a try. Its design philosophy is similar to Blosxom's (he started blogging with an early version of Blosxom before writing Bryar), but emphasizes extensibility more heavily. From a first look, it seems that while folks who use UNIX or Linux from a shell prompt will like either, Perl hackers just might prefer Bryar.

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Bloggers Vs. Journalists

Joi Ito has some observations about bloggers and journalists that are, on the whole, spot on.

Bloggers are a diverse group, defined not so much by their motivations and modus operandi as by their use of a common set of tools and conventions. Comparing many of us to news reporters is comparing apples and oranges. At the same time, some bloggers do perform the same function as news reporters. While few bloggers get paid, and it's therefore not surprising that there are only a handful doing significant original reporting, bloggers already excel at some kinds of investigative reporting. And one area where bloggers consistently outperform traditional journalists is in citing their sources and pointing readers to the source material for further investigation. Journalists could certainly learn from bloggers in this area.

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